How can I help ease my toddler's constipation?

Q: My 2-year-old often suffers from constipation, which is making potty training difficult. How should I handle this?

A: In toddlers, constipation is almost always related to a low-fiber diet. Talk to your doctor, but begin by adding bulk to your child's diet in the form of fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains; prunes and prune juice can be helpful too. Also increase his intake of fluids, particularly water and diluted fruit juice; limit his intake of milk, which can be constipating; and decrease low-fiber foods such as cheese. If this doesn't work, talk to your doctor about trying a fiber supplement or stool softener.

Constipation is important to get under control because it can lead to stool withholding: If a child has a particularly hard, painful bowel movement, he may become frightened of having another and begin holding in his poop. This cycle can continue for months or even years. If you suspect your child is withholding his stool, discontinue potty training and stop all discussions about bowel movements, as such activity and talk may lead to increased withholding.