How often should my child have a bowel movement? — It depends on how old he or she is:

  • In the first week of life, most babies have 4 or more bowel movements each day. They are soft or liquid.
  • In the first 3 months, some babies have 2 or more bowel movements each day. Others have just 1 each week.
  • By age 2, most kids have at least 1 bowel movement each day. They are soft but solid.
  • Every child is different. Some have bowel movements after each meal. Others have bowel movements every other day.

How will I know if my child is constipated? — Your child might:

  • Have fewer bowel movements than normal
  • Have bowel movements that are hard or bigger than normal
  • Feel pain when having a bowel movement
  • Arch his or her back and cry (if still a baby)
  • Avoid going to the bathroom, do a “dance,” or hide when he or she feels a bowel movement coming. This often happens when potty training and when starting school.
  • Leak small amounts of bowel movement into the underwear (if he or she is toilet trained)

What if my child gets constipated? — In most children with mild or brief constipation, the problem usually gets better with some simple changes. Have your child:

  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, cereal, and other foods with fibre
  • Drink some prune juice, apple juice, or pear juice
  • Drink at least 32 ounces of water and drinks that aren’t milk each day (for children older than 2 years)
  • Avoid milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream
  • Sit on the toilet for 5 or 10 minutes after meals, if he or she is toilet trained. Offer rewards just for sitting there.
  • Stop potty training for a while, if you are working on it

When should I take my child to the doctor or nurse? — You should have your child seen if:

  • He or she is younger than 4 months old
  • He or she gets constipated often
  • You have been trying the steps listed above for 24 hours, but your child has still not had a bowel movement
  • There is blood in the bowel movement or on the diaper or underwear
  • Your child is in serious pain

Click to view stoolchart pdf