Caring for a child with an ostomy

Even though it’s often a lifesaving procedure, it’s still difficult to watch your little one undergo ostomy surgery.

Even though it’s often a lifesaving procedure, it’s still difficult to watch your little one undergo ostomy surgery. But the hardest part for many parents is feeling fearful or anxious about their child’s needs after surgery. Few questions that parents are searching for answers:

Caring for a child with an ostomy

Can I hold or hug my child after an ostomy?

Unless your child’s physician says otherwise due to specific medical concerns, absolutely! Your child can be held, hugged and may even play with friends and family, just as he or she did prior to surgery. The only restrictions may be contact sports, such as football or wrestling, as the impact from these activities may damage the stoma. Your healthcare professional can provide you with any restrictions.

Will I hurt my child if I touch the stoma?

The stoma has no nerve endings, so your child should not feel pain when you touch the stoma, or when she or he passes stool or urine.
Right after surgery, your child's belly may be tender, but this should lessen each day as the stoma heals. Once healed, your child can play as desired—and even crawl on his or her tummy—unless nurses and doctors advise against it.

When should I empty my child’s pouch?

Typically, the pouch is emptied when it is one-third full. This will prevent heaviness, pulling away from the skin and leaks. It is also more difficult to empty the pouch when it is too full.

Wiping the end of the pouch clean helps avoid odors and clothing stains. You can avoid skin irritation by always making sure the tail closure is not pressing into your child’s body.

For many parents, it is easiest to empty the pouch into a diaper every three to four hours, or as needed. Older children who are beginning to be toilet trained should be taught to sit on the toilet, with their bottoms back as far as they can sit, and to empty the pouch directly into the toilet. Placing toilet paper in the toilet before the pouch is emptied may help prevent splashing.

Can I bathe or shower my child without the pouching system on?

Bathing will not hurt the stoma. Many parents choose to bathe their children with the pouch on, since there is no way to know when stool or urine will pass from the stoma. They then change the pouch after the bath.

When bathing your child, choose a mild, oil- and moisturizer-free soap that will not interfere with how adhesives will stick to your child's skin. Make certain that the skin is rinsed with water and completely dry before applying a new pouching system.

How should I dress my child?

  • Be sure that belts and waistbands do not press firmly against the stoma, especially if it is located at or near the child's waistline.
  • Many parents of infants and toddlers find it helpful to use one-piece undershirts, outfits and overalls to help keep curious little hands from pulling off ostomy pouches.
  • Older girls and teenagers may wish to choose one-piece bathing suits that have a pattern design to help conceal the stoma.
  • Boys may feel more comfortable wearing boxer-type bathing trunks.
    If you have other questions or concerns, it is always best to call your child’s ostomy nurse, doctor, or other healthcare provider.

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