It is important to ensure that your child drinks plenty of fluids (appropriate to their age). 

It can be helpful to log their fluid intake on an app, or use a sticker chart.

Check that when your child comes home from kindy, preschool or school that they have drunk the water in their water bottle that was packed in the morning.

Children should be encouraged to drink from their water bottle rather than, or in addition to, the water bubblers. This is because children drinking from the bubblers will tend not to drink long enough to drink a sufficient quantity of water.    

Diet

Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of fibre. Encouraging your child to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of constipation. There are some excellent web sites that provide ideas on preparing fruit and vegetable for children and families so that everyone can gain the health benefits from eating the recommended quantities of fruits and vegetable every day.    

Eating a variety of foods also helps to improve the gut microbiome ensuring that the bowel has a good range of friendly, helpful bacteria. 

Children with persistent constipation or diarrhoea require a medical assessment. Food allergies and sensitivities can aggravate bowel conditions, and these should be diagnosed and treated by a health care professional.

Some children may benefit from trying an elimination diet to see if food intolerances may be responsible for their symptoms. It is essential that strict dietary restrictions are supervised by a doctor or dietician with expertise in this area to ensure that the child is receiving good nutrition and not cutting out foods unnecessarily. It is also important to use a diet and bowel diary before and during the elimination test to gain a better understanding of the impact of dietary changes on your child. 

Children with food sensitivities or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may benefit from a FODMAPS diet under the close supervision of a dietician or medical specialist. FODMAPS is an acronym that stands for

Fermentable 

Oligosaccharides (e.g. fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides) 

Disaccharides (e.g. lactose) 

Monosaccharides (e.g. excess fructose)

And 

Polyols (e.g. Sorbitol, Manitol, Xylitol and Isomalt) 

The FODMAPs diet is not lifelong as foods are reintroduced to work out how much can be tolerated in the diet later. The dietician or medical specialist can assist in the advising the best way to reintroduce FODMAPS foods back into your child’s diet. There is conflicting information about the FODMAPS diet on the internet, so please seek professional support if you are considering trialling this with your child. 

Physical activity

Our bowels work best when we are physically active, and slow down when we move less. Encouraging children to play sport or be physically active can help their bowels as well as have other health benefits. 

Laxatives

Laxatives are not addictive and will not result in a “lazy bowel”. 

If a health care professional recommends that your child take laxatives be aware that this will often be for an extended period. It is important for your child to keep taking the laxatives, especially if the bowel or rectum have been overdistended.

It takes many months and sometimes a year or more to allow for the bowel and rectum to recover tone again. If the bowels become stretched again during this period, the recovery time will be increased. Persisting with the laxatives as advised by your health care professional is essential even of the child is better. 

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Kylie – parent of a child that wets the bed 

Kylie rang our service as she was concerned about her five-year-old daughter, Mia, who was wetting the bed. Kylie had tried limiting Mia’s drinks in the late afternoon and evening and was also getting up at night to wake Mia and take her to the toilet.

Our advisor explained that it may take children until they around 5 ½ years old before they gain bladder control during sleep. Kylie was advised to encourage Mia to drink well throughout the day and was cautioned against cutting out drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Kylie was discouraged from waking Mia at night to take her to the toilet. Kylie was provided with information on obtaining a referral from Mia’s doctor to a bedwetting clinic if Mia continues to wet the bed past 5 ½ years of age.

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Anastasiya’s story

“As a mum of two young children, I have experienced the joys of two pregnancies and postpartum recoveries. I was shocked after the birth of my first child to discover that my pelvic floor muscles had become weak. I sought advice from Bladder and Bowel Health Australia and learnt the importance of exercising these muscles. This knowledge helped, and because I was better informed second time around, I have now fully restored the dignity of my body and truly enjoyed the changes - and my motherhood. Thank you, Bladder and Bowel Health Australia, for informing young families about bladder and bowel health issues.” 

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Doreen – carer of her husband who has dementia 

Doreen was becoming exhausted caring for her husband Tom, who has dementia. Tom was not always making it to the toilet on time and needed his trousers to be changed several times a day. Every day Doreen was also washing bedlinen and the four towels that Tom was laying on at night as he was soaking through his pull-up pants. 

Tom was receiving a high-level Home Care Package, and Doreen was able to arrange with their provider for some of Tom’s package to be allocated to funding continence assessment and management.  

Our advisor went to Tom’s home and conducted a thorough continence assessment. A continence management plan was developed with input from Doreen, and appropriate incontinence aids and linen protection were organised. Doreen is relieved that Tom’s incontinence has reduced, and her washing load has lessened. Doreen is now confident that she can continue caring for Tom in their home. 

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Gary – experiencing leakage after his recent prostate surgery 

Gary met with one of our Bladder and Bowel Health advisors, as he was concerned about his urine leakage that was persisting after his radical prostatectomy five weeks earlier.   

Gary discussed his concerns with the advisor and was reassured that he was making good progress towards regaining bladder control. This reinforced the information he had received from his urologist. Gary was encouraged to switch to a smaller incontinence pad rather than continuing to wear the pull- up incontinence pants he had worn since his surgery. The advisor arranged some smaller pads for him to trial and provided details on where he could buy them close to his home. 

Gary was encouraged to drink plenty of fluid (particularly water) and to increase his fruit and vegetable intake to avoid constipation. Gary was uncertain if his pelvic floor muscles were working properly and he was referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Gary left the clinic in a brighter frame of mind, confident that he was improving and had clear strategies to further support his recovery.