How Common Is Constipation Among Toddlers in Singapore?

Think you really know poop? Think again. A survey of 1,000 Singaporean parents on their toddlers’ toilet habits – the first of its kind here – by FRISO Singapore found that parents may be overconfident when dealing with toddler constipation. Despite indicating that they were ‘confident or ‘very confident’ in identifying constipation in their toddlers [91%], parents surveyed said they also relied heavily on other caregivers such as grandparents [48%], domestic helpers [23%] and childcare centres [28%] to identify signs of constipation.

The majority of parents said that they were likely to adopt a wait-and-see approach, with over half [53%] choosing to wait ‘a few days’ to ‘a week or more’ before seeking medical attention. Most parents attempted to remedy the situation on their own, such as making changes to the child’s diet [71%], massaging their child’s tummy with medicated oil [51%], or scouring the Internet for tips on how to deal with constipation [40%].

“With constipation clearly being prevalent among toddlers, it is crucial for primary caregivers to learn to recognise the signs of constipation and be able to react accordingly – whether it is to adjust their diet or fluid intake, especially during times when there are changes to their regular routine. If symptoms persist, they should seek their doctor’s advice,” said Dr. Christina Ong, Senior Consultant and Paediatric Gastroenterologist. “If constipation is left untreated, it may lead to hard, dry stools which can be painful to pass. In some cases, toddlers may even avoid using the bathroom to escape discomfort, leading to a more severe, or even a chronic condition.”

Table 1: Responses to question ‘Which of the following would you say are the top three reasons that might cause your child to get constipated?’
Source: FrieslandCampina Singapore

Toddlers experience a set of unique life milestones which may be associated with an increased risk of constipation, including weaning, transitions to kindergarten/school, among others¹. When asked to rank the likely factors for their child’s constipation, parents largely attributed toddler constipation to dietary factors such as ‘not eating enough fibre’ [54%] or ‘not drinking enough water’ [53%] and discounted the impact that environmental factors such as changes to the child’s routine [30%] or stress [8%] could have on their child’s gut health.

Melissa Wong, Head of Marketing at FrieslandCampina Singapore added, “The findings of the Friso #ReallyKnowPoop Constipation Survey demonstrate that parents would benefit significantly from learning about the science and signs of constipation, to successfully identify and manage constipation with confidence and prevent the situation from spiralling. A holistic and early intervention approach is key to managing constipation, and this goes beyond a toddler’s diet to also include environmental and social factors.”


¹ Ho MD, How CH. ‘Chronic constipation in infants and children’. Singapore Medical Journal. 2020; 61(2):63-68.


Images: Envato

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