Constipation in Toddlers

I just went through probably the two worst weeks of parenthood and my personal life. This post is filled with TMI so if you’re squeamish then abandon ship now but if you’re a mom that is going through the same level of hell that I’m in, then I’m hoping this will help you feel less lonely and maybe even provide some insight. First, a little background. My daughter got constipated when we first introduced cow’s milk at one year old so we started doing toddler formula. She breastfeeds most of the time but has toddler formula when I’m not around. A few weeks ago we got some blood results saying her iron was low, which is normal for babies that are mostly breast fed and were persuaded to give her red meats. Unfortunately she doesn’t eat a whole lot of red meat when I serve it, so I worried and tried iron vitamins. She refused the liquid stuff and I found some great dissolving ones that seemed like candy but they may have constipated her. It was either that or the dairy ice cream she had that week. She does better with frozen yogurt. She had a painful experience making a bowel movement and from then she started withholding out of fear.

When this happened with my son I put olive oil or Karo syrup in his juice and he was fine within a few days. My daughter is pretty stubborn though. She would get the sensation, cry and run into my arms and refuse to go. She is only one and a half, much younger than my son was, which makes explaining things more difficult. No natural remedy worked. There was no amount of prune juice, not even the constipation candy recipe I tried from Mommypotamus that got her to go. It got to the point where five days had passed and I had to use a suppository, which she didn’t like. I made a sick visit appointment with our pediatrician and she said she didn’t want to prescribe anything to take for it, since she was most likely withholding. She told me to try prune juice and use a suppository every day until she got used to going regularly.

I didn’t have the heart to do it every single day so I only used it on days that I could tell she had to go and was withholding. She has never been the go every day type anyway since she is breastfed. Those waxy suppositories didn’t work for her. She somehow pushed them out without doing anything else. The only thing that worked was the pediatric liquid glycerin suppositories. It was awful. She’d scream and cry and then I’d start crying, feeling wretched but knowing that if we didn’t try that she’d end up in the ER with a pediatric enema, which is worse and probably more scarring. We tried many things to encourage her to go on her own. We tried kid’s potty training videos, which I really think are completely unhelpful unless your toddler is older and relates to the characters in the video. Her big brother showed her when he would use the bathroom like a sport and told her how completely normal it was. We cheered when he did it and we even tried making funny faces to show her to push.

During this time I also had two close friends in the hospital so I was emotionally distraught a large portion of the time. I hydrated her as much as possible and removed rice or starchy foods from her diet. I fed her fiber rich foods during those entire two and a half weeks. I used ground Flax seed in yogurt, constipation candy, pureed beans, broths, pears, dark chocolate almond milk apple juice, prune juice, peeled grapes, watermelon, coconut milk, probiotic mango juice, yucca, mangoes with lemon and spice…you name it.  Anyone else would have had diarrhea from all that fiber. I knew she had to be withholding because the last few times I used the suppositories the aftermath in her diapers didn’t look like like anything that would be hard to pass. I did belly massages with oil, warm baths with Chamomile and lavender infused Epsom salt, warm baths with a few drops of peppermint oil,  and a humidifier diffuser with drops of peppermint oil but nothing helped. Reading on parenting forums online didn’t help my spirits either. There were either moms that sounded like parrots repeating Miralax over and over, which I know my pediatrician wouldn’t approve of unless things got drastic, other moms saying Miralax is basically antifreeze (wtf? It’s not) and moms trying to scare you into thinking that suppositories will make them lose bowel functions. They won’t, the myth has been dispelled and really do you think having poop harden inside the intestine is better? Constipation and withholding create this vicious cycle. The kid withholds because it’s painful or also in some cases they enjoy having control over something, there’s buildup, the buildup is harder to push out, constipation results and then you’re back at trying to find ways to get them to go so they can return to normal. It’s like being trapped in that hell Damon was in, in the Vampire Diaries, where he kept having to repeat the same actions over and over.

I finally decided to try Mommy’s Bliss prebiotic constipation drops which I saw some positive reviews for and popsicles. Why did I get popsicles? I remembered whenever my son had a fever we’d be told to give him popsicles because kids will hydrate a lot easier when they’re eating a popsicle but will be absentminded about drinking a whole glass of water or juice. While my daughter likes to eat and drink her food, she is like a little bird about it and doesn’t consume large amounts. Finally after two days having the drops mixed in with her drinks, a daily popsicle, and a glass of tea, (yes tea, she seems to like unsweetened tea and it seems to also help move things along) she went on her own. It actually happened the same day I got heart wrenching work related news. I was shocked and sad about something that happened at work that meant most of my colleagues had lost their jobs and a few hours later my daughter finally had a dirty diaper on her own account. Until you’ve gone through something similar, you may never understood feeling overjoyed at a dirty diaper. We all cheered for her to show her how good it was that she was finally going on her own and I gave her stickers as a reward to encourage her to keep it up. The results in her diaper were somewhat runny, like when she was only breastfeeding and she’s gone two more times since then with similar results so luckily I think we’re getting back on track. Her pediatrician is seeing her this week so we’ll go over everything when we see her.

If you stayed through this entire post, you’re a trooper. If you’re going through something similar I hope my own experience can help. You’re not alone. This is one of those tough parenting things you rarely hear about but unfortunately may have to deal with at some point. Hang in there. What works for someone else may not work for you so try not to smack the next person that says “Prune juice” as if they’ve solved all your problems and you would have never thought to try that. Best of luck!

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