Infant Bowel Health, Stress and Sleep

publication date: Nov 22, 2021
author/source: Dr Nisa Aslam

Mother and toddler


Stress can make your stomach feel uneasy, bloated, and uncomfortable. But small children may not be able to tell you what the problem is. Stress can also cause lack of sleep and both can be due to a bowel problem. Could your infant be suffering from constipation? Stress can slow down digestion and cause bloating, discomfort and constipation and poor sleep. If your child develops constipation and cannot sleep at night you are going to suffer stress and lack of sleep too.

Constipation is miserable for young children and those who care for them. But it’s very easy to miss and according to real world research data from Docusol Paediatric, the evidence backed constipation solution from the life sciences healthcare company, Typharm, many parents find it hard to know how to recognise and manage symptoms of constipation. That’s why it’s important to look at your child’s poo. The Bristol Stool Scale is very helpful.

If your child’s poop is smooth and soft and shaped like a sausage and he or she is passing it easily at least four times a week, constipation is unlikely. But if the poop is looks like corn on the cob or a bunch of grapes or your child is passing hard lumps like rabbit droppings and the poop is difficult to pass, he or she is likely to be constipated.

Look out especially for a fear of going to the toilet and crying because passing poo may have become too painful. Your child may cry when trying to poo.

If your little one is stressed or not sleeping well look out for bloating, and angry or irritable mood, poor appetite, and lack of energy.  

DucosolHow to treat constipation

Consult your pharmacist. Describe your child’s symptoms. Your pharmacist will be able to advise if something more serious is a possibility and will refer you to your GP. Over the counter remedies are available but not all are suitable for young children. Docusol Paediatric is one of very few products that can be taken by mouth and is available over the counter at pharmacies for constipation in infants and children from the age of six months.

Docusol Paediatric liquid contains docusate which is a stool softener. It works gently, increasing the amount of water the stool absorbs in the gut, making the stool softer and easier to pass. It is also convenient, easy for the child to take, plus it is sugar free and strawberry flavoured. And it can be mixed with drinks – water, juice, milk. Available from independent pharmacies and Chemist4U. 

Tips on managing stress, sleep, and bowel health 

Try to keep mealtimes happy and relaxed.

Avoid arguments at the dinner table. This creates stress for everyone

Get your child into a good sleep and good toilet routine. It’s time consuming for a busy mum but pays dividends for your child’s bowel health and sleep and stress for the whole family

Watch for symptoms of discomfort, pain, and irritability both at night and during the day

Stay calm. It is important your child does not see pooing or using the toilet as stressful but as a normal part of life. Some young children can be afraid using the toilet at nursery. Ask your health visitor for help if you are worried

Aim to get your child drinking plenty of fluid and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, but avoid unprocessed bran as this can cause blockages

Keep an eye on your child’s bowel movements – both frequency and appearance – using the Bristol Stool Scale.