Abnormal Bowel Movements in Toddlers

There is no real “normal” bowel movement when it comes to toddlers. This is because what your child drinks, eats and how physically active he is varies from day to day and greatly affects what type of bowel movement he has. However, abnormal bowel movements that are painful or uncomfortable for your child to pass need to be monitored and treated accordingly.


Your toddler’s bowel movements are abnormal if more than four days pass between them. Other symptoms include stool that is hard, watery, foul-smelling, greasy in texture or bloody. Abnormal bowel movements are often difficult to pass and create extreme discomfort or cause your child to strain while using the restroom. In some circumstances, watery feces leaks into your toddler’s underwear, even if he is already toilet trained.


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Abnormal bowel movements sometimes develop as your toddler learns how to potty train. Occasionally a child will hold in her stool because she is anxious or scared to use the toilet, resulting in constipation or digestive problems. Drinking too much juice or frequently eating foods that are low in fiber, such as cheese and peanut butter, lead to abnormal bowel movements.


Give your child fiber-rich foods, such as:

  • whole wheat bread
  • prunes
  • broccoli
  • peas
  • to help restore regular bowel movements

Give him fluids like apple juice, an oral rehydration solution, water or prune juice if his stool is hard or difficult to pass. Call your doctor for medical treatment if your child’s bowel movements do not return to normal within four days, worsen or become extremely painful.


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FamilyDoctor.org recommends keeping track of your toddler’s abnormal bowel movements by writing down any symptoms and a description of the stool. If your toddler is in daycare or preschool, ask the provider to keep track and look for any patterns as well. This will help you identify any triggers or allow your doctor to better understand what could be causing the abnormal bowel movements.