Beyond PEG
How our 3-year-old overcame severe constipation

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Disclaimer: I'm not qualified to give medical advice and you should speak to a doctor if you are in need of medical assistance.

Our 3-year-old was constipated on and off for more than a year. At times it resulted in a lot of pain and discomfort. It was heartbreaking to witness and made it difficult for our family to function. Here’s how we overcame it.

The Early Days: Challenges with PEG

Our doctor had prescribed Polyethylene glycol (PEG), a commonly used laxative powder that you mix in the child’s drink each day. The brand we used was Restoralax. Our child had been on-and-off PEG for years and the problem was just getting worse. Our doctor explained there was likely a large mass of hard stool inside our kiddo’s body that was causing the blockage. In order to prevent it from getting worse, the laxative would liquefy the new stool that the body was producing so it could go around the large solid mass. The hard mass of stool never got passed and the PEG resulted in multiple liquid bowel movements every day.

The timing was challenging too. We were transitioning from diapers to potty training. Upon delving deeper, my wife discovered concerns regarding the long-term use of PEG, particularly its lack of approval for children under 17.

Our New Approach

Inspired by a book written by a parent facing a similar issue, we decided to pivot our strategy. Here are the key interventions that brought relief:

1. Diet Adjustments

We made the following diet changes.

2. Glycerine suppository

Our child was really reluctant to use a suppository. So we put a lot of effort into explaining why it would help. If I recall correctly, some days we lost the battle and had to forgo the suppository, but we had a few successes too. Ultimately, this helped our child pass some very large, hard stools that caused constipation.

3. Switched from PEG to Magnesium Citrate

We replaced Restoralax (PEG) with magnesium citrate, following dosage recommendations from our newfound guidebook. Please consult a doctor before making such changes. We continued using magnesium citrate for a couple of months, I believe.

4. Potty Confidence

This was one of the most important factors. Our child was terrified of the potty because they associated it with painful poops. That held us back from regular bowel movements. Ultimately, we wanted regular potty time each day. I first started by trying to get our kiddo to sit on the potty for 10 seconds. I would count with my fingers and when we got to ten, we would celebrate (possibly with a reward/treat). We built up from there and eventually it wasn't scary anymore and they started pooping during these sessions. Eventually our would sit on the potty/toilet for about 10 mins each morning looking at search-and-find books, eating frozen fruit, and having a bowel movement. If we didn’t have a bowel movement in the morning, we often would try again in the evening.

The Road Ahead

Our child overcame constipation, got off of PEG for good, and now treats potty time as a fun time. Our doctor said that a child’s bowel can become oversized due to a large stool blockage and it would take time to shrink back to size, so we continued using magnesium citrate for a while after we were cleared but eventually stopped.

A child's battle with constipation can be daunting, but with persistence and a holistic approach, relief is attainable. I hope our journey can offer insight.