Constipation is a common problem in children that is often treatable at home.

If your child goes one week with fewer than two poops, or his poop is hard or painful to pass, he may be constipated, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. One common reason for constipation is a behavior called stool (poop) holding.

“Many children have a bad experience with passing a large or hard stool,” says Elizabeth Utterson, MD, a Washington University gastroenterologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “They may try to protect themselves from similar events in the future by delaying pooping.”

Go Time

If your child experiences constipation, you can:

  • be sure she drinks plenty of water and eats lots of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains
  • have him prop his feet on a low stool while pooping
  • set aside times each day devoted to trying to poop

If your child is constipated and also vomits or has a fever or a swollen belly, it’s time to see a physician.

“If changes in diet and behavior don’t improve constipation, we can prescribe a medication to help,” says Robert Spewak, MD, a Washington University Clinical Associate at Southwest Pediatrics. “If those don’t help, we usually refer children to a pediatric gastroenterologist.”

To learn more about constipation in children, download a St. Louis Children’s Hospital brochure at