Home Parenting Potty Training: What To Do When Your Child Won’t Poo

Potty Training: What To Do When Your Child Won’t Poo

by Jessica Amey

Potty Training is something that we had just tackled when Cherry was the same age as Tiger is now. We’d had a couple of failed attempts and at 3 years, 3 months she was considerably older than a lot of her friends who had mastered it a lot sooner but I like an easy life and wanted to wait until she was completely ready. The whole experience couldn’t have gone any better and after a couple of days she was toilet trained and we only ever had one accident. We used pull-ups at night for a few months but they were always dry so we switched to pants and that was it. Simple.

Second time round though things are very different because we’ve been dealing with an issue that is completely new to us. I was in two minds about whether to write about it on my blog because I don’t usually write about the children in that much detail on here but I reached a decision that going through this has been so unbelievably stressful that if I can help just one other parent going through it to know that they aren’t alone then it’s a good thing.

After being exclusively breastfed for six months, and never having any poo problems, I introduced Tiger to food and all of a sudden he stopped passing bowel movements. It was as if as soon as food hit his intestines they stopped working. I tried prune puree, watered down orange juice, even the sugar in water suggestion but nothing. I went to the doctor who prescribed lactulose but that didn’t work and giving him larger doses was impossible as he just wouldn’t swallow it. I even took him right back off solids and just fed him breastmilk again after reading that it was a natural laxative but it didn’t do a thing. We somehow got through those next six months but it was awful, he would scream every time his body tried to poo and I think it was at this stage he learnt that pooing was a horrible, scary, painful experience and one he didn’t want to happen to him so he started to go against his body’s signs he needed to go and hold it in.

When he turned one we were prescribed paediatric Movicol which helped but the dose the GP suggested wasn’t enough, as his problem was so severe, so the next year was a total nightmare. I just assumed it was constipation and tried everything suggested for it. He was eating brown rice and brown pasta, having dried fruit, watered down orange juice, all the things that were supposed to help but it wasn’t doing anything. The issue might have started as constipation but it then developed into stool withholding, the two go hand in hand and end up forming a cycle that is so hard to break.

They have a bad experience with pooing so they hold it in but the longer they hold it in the more it hurts them when they do go so they associate it with pain and fear then continue to hold it in. The more they do it the stronger their muscles get and the larger their bowel is stretching to hold all the faeces. I kept taking him to the GP and they referred him to the hospital but even the consultant there wasn’t much help, just telling me it was common and to feed him dried fruit, as if I hadn’t tried that!

potty training when your child won't poo

After a two week stint of him not going to the toilet and screaming in pain and fear every few minutes I stumbled across a book called ‘What To Do When Your Child Won’t Poo’, it’s written by a mum who had been through the same thing and it made me feel SO much better, it actually gave me hope that things could be sorted out. I can’t even begin to tell you how stressful it is dealing with a child who stool withholds, to watch them struggling so much with something that is meant to come naturally is heart breaking.

The book had lots of helpful advice, the most important of which being that they can have much higher doses of Movicol. Apparently it takes 6 months for them to forget the trauma that they experienced from being constipated and then a year for their bowel to go back to it’s normal size so there is no quick fix and I absolutely hate the fact he has to rely on medication but it’s not a laxative, just a stool softener so it draws water in to the bowel as oppose to making it contract. This means that it’s classed as ‘safe’ to take long term, even still I can’t accept that it’s normal for him to need it but there is no other option for us. We are now at a stage where he takes enough of the medicine to make it really easy for him to pass stools, if anything we need to reduce it a tiny bit but it’s really difficult because 1.5 sachets isn’t enough but 2 is a bit too much so it’s a case of finding exactly the right dose. If he doesn’t get enough though then things will quickly go downhill again so it’s still pretty stressful.

He’s been on a higher dose for nearly a year now but the older he gets, the closer potty training becomes and I just have no clue how it’s going to go given the withholding issue. I did speak to one of my friends who had exactly the same problem with her little girl and apparently it was potty training that helped the situation, she is completely off Movicol now so I am clinging on to that in hope that it will be the same for him. I guess the act of sitting is a better position to be in and maybe a change will help break the cycle.

I am worried about it though, not just the potty training part but what things will be like for him afterwards. Whether he will always have problems or a fear of going to the toilet, it makes me want to cry for him, it’s such a simple thing for most people but I’m not sure he even knows what to do because he’s only ever known hold it in, his muscles are so good at it that’s it’s become a well engrained habit.

I am ready for a challenge though and we do have some exciting potty training news…. I’m going to be a Huggies® Pull-Ups® Ambassador. I will be making videos and writing about our potty training journey from start to finish. Things haven’t exactly started yet as Tiger is point blank refusing to try but he loves Lightening McQueen so I’m hoping when he sees the pull-ups with him on he might start to come around to the idea. Huggies have developed a 6 Steps To Potty Training Success Guide with Dr Heather Wittenburg, a child pychologist with years of experience in potty training so if you are wanting any help or advice then that is a good place to look.

If you need to buy any Pull-Ups then they are on offer in Asda right now, only £2 a pack so if you are planning to potty train soon then it’s a good time to stock up!


I am going to be sharing my journey alongside all these bloggers so if you want to read about some other experiences then do go and check them out too 🙂

Ghostwriter Mummy / Odd Socks and Lollipops / Hello Archie / Mummy Tries / Chelsea Mamma / My Mills Baby / The L’s Mum / Life Unexpected

Oh and if you are dealing with / have dealt with similar issues around the stool withholding then I would love to hear from you, either any tips you have or just to share how stressful the experience is.

I am receiving payment for my role as a Huggies ambassador but all words and opinions are my own.

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