Laxatives for Constipation

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Quick Guide19 Constipation Myths and Facts

19 Constipation Myths and Facts

What natural laxatives are safe for infants, toddlers, and children?

If an infant is younger than four months old and seems constipated, contact the child's pediatrician. For older children, home remedies including dietary modifications may help relieve constipation. If a child has been constipated for a short time, changing the diet may be the only treatment needed. It is common for infants to become constipated when they transition to solid foods, and often adding fiber to the diet can ease constipation.

The following natural treatments may be used for infants older than four months of age, or for children with constipation:

  • Dark corn syrup (Karo syrup) contains complex sugar proteins that keep water in the bowel movement. One teaspoon per four ounces of formula or expressed breast milk until the infant has a bowel movement.
  • Prune or apple juice works best to treat constipation in children. Four ounces/day for children 4 months to 1 year of age.
  • High-fiber foods. If your infant is eating solid foods, barley cereal may be used. Other high-fiber fruits and vegetables (or purés), including apricots, sweet potatoes, pears, prunes, peaches, plums, beans, peas, broccoli, or spinach can be fed to the child.
  • Your doctor may recommend increased fiber in the child's diet, through supplementation.
  • In infants with acute or recurrent constipation, glycerin suppositories or rectal stimulation with a lubricated rectal thermometer may be used to move hard stools. These methods should not be used often because they may cause irritation or tolerance. Infants older than 6 months with recurring constipation despite dietary changes may be treated with osmotic laxatives, such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) without electrolytes (polyethylene glycol 3350,, for example, Miralax), lactulose, or sorbitol. Do not use stimulant laxatives (for example, senna, bisacodyl), mineral oil, and enemas in infants because they may have unwanted side effects.

Parents or caregivers should contact the physician immediately if the child has severe abdominal pain, swollen or bloated abdomen, rectal pain, or bleeding. If there are any concerns about the child's bowel habits or questions about diet, parents or caregivers should talk to their child's pediatrician.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2016

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