Family Health Guide

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Constipation: Causes

Constipation generally occurs when the colon absorbs too much water from waste, or the muscles don’t contract effectively, preventing the stool from passing as quickly as it normally would. Constipation begets more constipation; the longer the poop remains there, the more difficult it becomes to pass without pain, creating a vicious cycle.

Constipation seems to run in families, so if you or your partner struggled with it, your child might be more likely to as well. Certain foods can also sometimes cause your child to get backed up.

Some other common constipation culprits include:

In babies

  • Switching your breastfed baby to formula
  • Milk-based formulas
  • The introduction solids (rice cereal, a traditional first food, can be binding)
  • A lack of fluids: when a baby is not drinking enough, his colon steals water from the waste material and gives it to the body.

In older kids

  • Changes in routine or stressful events
  • As a reaction to potty training
  • A cow’s milk allergy