What is functional constipation in children?

Constipation among children varies between 7 and 30 per cent, depending on the country. 40 per cent of children develop symptoms during their first year of life, and the symptoms often persist for a long time. The problems often start when changing from breast milk to formula or with the introduction of solid food. Other frequent onset periods are during toilet training, between two and four years of age, and when the child starts school. Many children with constipation continue to have problems with constipation as teens and adults.

Symptoms and causes of constipation

A child who meets at least two of the following criteria during one month is diagnosed with constipation:

  • Two or fewer bowel movements per week
  • History of excessive stool retention
  • Bowel movements that are hard, dry and difficult to pass
  • Painful or hard bowel movements
  • Large diameter stools
  • Abdominal pain


For toilet-trained children, the diagnosis can also be based on at least one episode of incontinence per week after acquiring toileting skills.

Today researchers believe functional constipation in children may be caused by gut dysmotility and a disturbed microbiota rather than bacterial overgrowth.

Read more about our microbiota