Dana Prince on April 20th, 2009

If your child is constipated and seems to be afraid to have or refuses to have a bowel movement and it’s a fight on a regular basis, you’re not alone. A lot of parents of toddlers and young children deal with what seems like chronic constipation. It’s not easy to overcome but is important for the health and wellness of your child, their digestive system, and to ease the frustrating disruption this is bringing to your family.

It’s awful to see your child in pain and it can become excruciating when your child hasn’t had a bowel movement in a week and is absolutely miserable.

Have you seen the child’s doctor about it?

It’s important to figure out if there’s a medical reason for the problem. Quite often there is not but it’s important to deal with that possibility first.

If your doctor rules medical problems or bowel disease out, chances are that your child has started to retain their bowel movements because they associate the experience with pain.

The problem here, is that the longer they hold it, the more that the stool loses its moisture which makes the bowel movements even harder to pass. What can you do about it?

I am not a medical doctor but here’s what I did:

  1. Increase fiber in the child’s diet substantially
  2. Temporarily removed binding foods from the diet
  3. Give the child a safe laxative regularly to prevent the child from ‘holding’ the bowel movement
  4. Slowly ease off the laxative after the child’s fear seems to diminish
  5. Continue to monitor the progress

Binding Foods to Avoid

bananas, cheese

Fiber Foods

blueberries, flax seeds, prunes, prune juice, All-Bran cereal snacks and bars, Raisin bran cereal, fruits and vegetables in general

Laxative Supplements for Kids

Laxatives can be dangerous because they can become habit forming, causing the bowel to lose tone over time. If you can use a laxative-like product that doesn’t cause the colon to contract, this is much safer.  My choice is Lansoyl, which is available without a prescription.

This looks and tastes like red Jell-O but has 78% mineral oil. Mineral oil lubricates everything so that it makes it impossible for the child to retain it.  The issue here is that there may be leakages with oily substances for your child after they’ve been on this for a few days.

Once your child gets to that point and is (hopefully) no longer afraid to go because they’ve been going regularly for several days, you should start to ease off the Lansoyl and watch their progress. The process took about two weeks in total for me after months of bowel movement battles with my little boy. Follow the package directions for dosage. We gave a full recommended dose until he started going and then gave him a half a dose twice a day for just over a week. After a few days he was having at least one bowel movement a day.


Some people have trouble finding Lansoyl. Straight mineral oil may be an option (talk to your pharmacist or pediatrician). Phillips Milk of Magnesia may be helpful as well for short term constipation but it may not be safe to use for a lengthy period of time (ask your doctor). There may be other supplements suggested to use for your child but the keys are:

  • Making sure there isn’t a medical reason for the problem
  • Making it difficult for them to hold it
  • Making it easy for them to go
  • Talk positively about being able to go every day and not have to have pain because holding it makes it hurt more
  • Ease off the laxative as soon as they’re having regular movements comfortably
  • Monitor their progress going forward so you don’t have any backsliding (which can happen!)

It can be a difficult road but many who follow this procedure find that in a very short amount of time, constipation is no longer a factor in their child’s life.

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3 Responses to “Help! My Child is Afraid to Have a Bowel Movement”

  1. My grandson has some of the same symptoms
    Has had visit to multiple doctors. were you able to find lansoyl in the US if so where?

  2. hi,
    Sorry to hear that. I know it can be very frustrating. We bought Lansoyl in Canada. I don’t know if it’s available in the US. You might be able to buy it online. Best of luck!

  3. My daughter now 9yrs old has been going thru this since age 8mos old the doctors had no valid answers for this problem. Yes is very frustrating to see her suffer many times a month. She has been on Miralax now availble over the counter, but with that its hard to regulate, she will go to much then when I cut back doeses it seems like in no time she is backed up again..I feel for parents going thru this no matter how long the problem last, good luck to all.

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