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Should my child have a bowel movement every day?
Q: Our son's bowel movements have slowed down to only going once every two or three days. Is this normal?
A: Tricia, thanks for your question about your child’s bowel movements. It’s common for parents to wonder what’s “normal” for their children’s bowel movements. Many parents think that children need to have a bowel movement every day to be “normal” or “regular”. In fact, there’s a wide range of what’s “normal” for children—from several bowel movements a day to once every 3 three days. You’ll get to know what’s normal for your own child.

Although you didn’t say how old your son is, there are several developmental periods in which children’s bowel patterns commonly change. If you breastfed your newborn, he might have had a bowel movement after practically every feeding. When you started feeding him solid food at 4-6 months of age, he might have started having bowel movements less frequently. Around 12 months of age, when you switched from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk, which is more binding, your son’s bowel movements might have become even less frequent. And if your son is 2-3 years old and is learning to use the toilet independently, he might be holding back his stools if he’s feeling nervous or pressured to use the toilet.

In fact, it’s not how often a child has a bowel movement, but rather it’s the consistency of the bowel movement that matters. If your son has a bowel movement every 2-3 days and it’s soft, he doesn’t have to strain too much, and it’s not painful for him, then his bowel movements are okay. If, on the other hand, his bowel movements are hard and dry like pellets, he has to strain a lot to get them out, he has significant pain in his stomach or in his bottom with bowel movements, and the stool is streaked with blood, then he might be constipated. In that case, contact your child’s pediatrician for advice. Try to prevent constipation by making sure your child’s diet includes plenty of fluids and high-fiber foods such as cereal, fruit, and vegetables. Regular physical activity also helps keep the bowels moving. Don’t give your child laxatives or enemas without consulting the pediatrician.