Stimulant laxatives, such as bisacodyl (found in Ducolax), castor oil, phenolphthalein (Modane), and senna leaf extract, work by irritating the intestinal wall, thus stimulating peristalsis. Stimulant laxatives are harsh and can cause cramping. If you use these medications at all, do so sparingly. Bulk-forming laxatives are preferable to stimulant types. No laxative should be used on a regular basis, as dependency can develop. Do not give your child any medication without discussing it with your doctor.
Lubricants, such as glycerin and mineral oil, coat the stool and help it slip more easily through the rectum. However, prolonged use of mineral oil can cause inflammation of the liver, spleen, and abdominal lymph nodes, and interfere with the body's absorption of vitamins A and D. Also, a lubricant can be dangerous if it accidentally goes down the windpipe and enters the lungs.
Because dehydration can lead to constipation, increase the amount of fluid in your child's diet. Have spring water, herbal teas, juices, and soups readily available, and encourage your child to take them often.
Increase the amount of fiber in your child's diet. Simply eating a piece of fruit, such as banana, apple, orange, or prune, may help resolve constipation. The whole fruit provides the most fiber. Serve your child a piece of fruit one-half to one hour before a meal or about one hour after a meal. A prune soaked overnight in a glass of water contains extra moisture and is easier to digest. For a toddler, a teaspoon of syrup from a soaked or cooked prune may be easier to take, and will help resolve constipation. Vegetables and whole grains are also rich sources of fiber.
Serving warm liquids or hot cereal such as oatmeal every morning acts gently to stimulate the intestinal tract, in addition to providing fiber.
Foods high in magnesium, such as dark green, leafy vegetables, are very helpful for the constipated child (the trick may be getting your child to eat them often).
For overnight relief of constipation, mix 1/2 cup of prune juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of spring water. Have your child drink this before bedtime. This mixture is too strong for babies, however, and may cause diarrhea in a tiny body.
Lactobacillus acidophilus or bifidus helps to establish favorable intestinal flora, which is very helpful in relieving constipation. For a child with chronic or recurrent constipation, lactobacilli are strongly indicated. Give your child one dose daily, as directed on the product label.
If your child's stool has an exceptionally foul odor, consider giving him chlorophyll supplements. Chlorophyll is high in trace minerals, especially magnesium, and has natural antibacterial properties. Follow the dosage directions on the product label.