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7 Helpful Tips for Parents Dealing with Toddlers with Holding in Their Poop

You often experience emotions of resentment and anxiety when your kid starts refusing to go to the bathroom and holding the bowel movements. This could be due to the kid’s stubbornness not to poop in the toilet, a condition termed clinically as encopresis which leads to parent-child rivalry. Incontinence may result from fecal backing up in the intestines of children that might cause them abdominal pain and even urinary tract infections if fecal matter is held for too long.

Even if it seems awkward to talk about this subject with your child, you should, as it is necessary for the child’s development, hygiene, and toilet habits. These seven pointers can assist parents in overcoming this difficult task:

  1. Remain Calm and Patient:
  2. It’s natural to feel exasperated when your toddler is actively holding in their poop, but displaying anger or frustration can make the situation worse. Take deep breaths and approach the issue calmly. Force, ultimatums, and negativity often backfire. Instead, be patient and understanding. Creating a judgment-free environment will make your toddler feel safer opening up.

  3. Stick to a Schedule:
  4. Establishing a predictable potty training can help immensely with encopresis struggles. Take your toddler to sit on the toilet or potty chair about 20-30 minutes after each meal. Make it part of your regular daily schedule, not just something done when they indicate bathroom needs. Consistency and repetition train their body and mind to poop at expected times.

  5. Encourage a Squatty Potty Position:
  6. The squatting position helps relax the puborectalis muscle and straightens the anorectal angle, allowing for easier bowel movements. Use a toddler toilet seat that enables a squatting posture or a squatty potty footstool under little feet to mimic this natural position. You can even put toddlers in a squatting pose while they sit in a regular potty.

  7. Increase Fiber and Fluids:
  8. Ensuring your toddler gets enough daily fiber and stays hydrated makes pooping a breeze! Offer high-fiber foods at meals like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Make a point of giving water, milk, and diluted juices between meals. These provide the fluid their digestive system needs to process solids and pass stool.

  9. Offer Rewards, Not Punishments:
  10. Using a reward system can motivate toddlers to try pooping when nature calls. Offer fun stickers, dance parties, bubbles, or other enticing rewards EVERY TIME they make an effort to poop. Even just verbal praise helps. Punishments, shaming, and anger often worsen refusal behaviors, eroding self-confidence. Always respond supportively when progress happens.

  11. Massage the Abdomen:
  12. Try gently massaging your toddler’s belly in a clockwise circular motion. This encourages motility in the colon and can relax stubborn tummy muscles clenched to hold in poop. Doing “bicycle legs” can achieve a similar effect by pumping the legs up and down. Plus, the giggles these techniques elicit help lighten the mood!

  13. Seek Medical Advice When Needed:
  14. If natural remedies and behavior modification fail to resolve chronic holding by a certain age, consult your pediatrician or GI specialist. They can evaluate whether an underlying physical condition exists, provide medicinal support if appropriate, and offer supplemental strategies. Seek medical advice promptly if your toddler complains of severe pain from backed-up stool.

Why Toddlers Hold In Their Poop:

Before diving further into helpful strategies, it’s useful to understand WHY toddlers develop this unpleasant tendency to refuse bowel movements. Knowing the root causes enables you to address the problem thoughtfully.

Most commonly, toddlers start postponing pooping because they want to assert independence. Between ages 2 and 4, kids begin differentiating themselves as unique individuals separate from mom and dad. They test boundaries to explore autonomy. Resisting pooping gives them a sense of control.

Toddlers also have short attention spans and get easily distracted by bodily cues. When they feel the urge to poop, they ignore it to keep playing. Some regress from using potties back to diapers to avoid interrupting fun activities.

In some cases, toddlers associate previous episodes of painful or hard constipation with pooping itself. Traumatized by the memory, they try to avoid repeat discomfort by holding it in.

Physical conditions like irritation from diaper rash or anal fissures contribute to other instances. Kids associate pooping with pain these conditions cause and clamp down to avoid that sensation. Urinary tract infections or gastrointestinal issues can also make elimination uncomfortable.

And occasionally, significant life changes or stressors like starting daycare, family moves, new siblings, etc. can manifest in potty refusal. Difficult transitions upset their feeling of security.

Pinpointing the driver behind your particular toddler’s bathroom avoidance helps inform your response. Below are more specific tips based on the common causal factors:

For Independence Seekers:

  • Offer choices around pottying, like which bathroom to use, which potty seat, which reward after, what music to play during, etc. Giving options allows control.
  • Have them participate by assisting with clean-up, like throwing away diapers or putting soiled clothes in hampers. Toddlers love “big kid” responsibilities.
  • Try reverse psychology by suggesting they might not be ready to poop on potties quite yet since they’re clearly still “babyish.” Their desire to act mature may motivate pooping attempts.

For Busy Bees Who Ignore Signals:

  • Prevent accidents with scheduled breaks every 60-90 minutes for potty practice times. Please don’t wait for them to indicate needs.
  • Set phone alarms reminding you both to stop for potty checks. The cue helps distracted toddlers tune back into their bodies.
  • Notice facial expressions, squirming, or vocal utterances that suggest suppressed signals and promptly direct them to potties. Acting on subtle body language prevents delayed response.

For Traumatized Poopers:

  • Talk through what specifically made past pooping hurtful – too large stools, painful cracks, etc. Providing clarity often eases anxiety.
  • Adjust diet to ensure very soft stool consistency that won’t re-traumatize delicate tissues. Well-hydrated loose poop resolves cleanly.
  • Apply protective ointments with each diaper change to support the healing of aggravated skin so pooping gets comfortable again.

For Physically Uncomfortable Poopers:

  • Seek medical insight (as advised above) to identify and address root conditions causing elimination pain like UTI, fissure, gastrointestinal distress, etc.
  • Offer extra TLC, empathy, and comfort measures like warm baths, heating pads, massages, lollipops, etc., when they do poop to offset distress.
  • Always remain highly attentive to pain complaints and monitor accidents closely since a backed-up stool can quickly become an emergency.

For Transitionally Stressed Potty Refusers:

  • Reassure toddlers through any major life changes that your love and their daily routines remain the same even amidst house moves, new kids at home, enrollment in daycare, etc.
  • Surround them with beloved objects that inspire security – special stuffed animals, familiar books, blankets, etc. Continuity boosts confidence.
  • Shower stressed toddlers with extra one-on-one quality time reading, playing, and cuddling. Undivided positive attention fills their cup.

While holding in poop starts as normal toddler testing of independence, it can progress to harmful backed-up stool if not resolved. Physically and emotionally supporting your toddler through this messy phase with patience and compassion ensures healthy potty habits take root in the long term. Stay positive!

Encopresis can be physically and emotionally difficult for toddlers. As parents, staying calm, being consistent, and understanding make all the difference in overcoming this common challenge. Employing the helpful tips above can get your toddler’s bowels moving comfortably again on a predictable basis. Remember— maintaining positivity and patience prevents bigger problems down the road. With your support, the poop strike eventually passes!

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