Above all else, this is probably the problem I hear about the most often. A child will be fully potty trained - except they won't poop in the potty. Mastering pooping on the potty can seem to take much longer simply because there are so many fewer opportunities to practice. For the average child, they will probably only have one poop for every five to ten pees. That's a lot less! So don't get discouraged if the poop portion seems to take a lot more extra time.
Children often are resistant to pooping on the potty for one of several reasons:
Pain or discomfort due to constipation
Memory of a previous painful or uncomfortable bowel movement
Fear or anxiety
General stubbornness from not wanting to step outside their comfort zone
Not wanting to stop their activities long enough to poop on the potty
Lack of privacy (think bottom covered with a diaper/underwear versus bottom exposed while on the potty)
If your little one seems genuinely afraid of pooping on the potty, it is most likely a fear of the change in routine (pooping without diapers) or fear of the unknown ("What happens when my poop goes in the potty?") that's holding them back, as opposed to a fear of the potty itself. When your child poops in their diaper, or even underwear, it comes out and stays UP AGAINST their body which brings your child comfort. When they poop on the potty or toilet, it comes out and AWAY from their body which is a totally different, even frightening sensation. It has been described as feeling like a part of their body falling out. Creepy right?! It is important to be supportive while still setting clear expectations to help them over this hurdle.
It is important to be supportive while still setting clear expectations to help them over this hurdle.
Aside from being supportive and encouraging, here are some other helpful tips:
Avoid any negative connotations with pooping, even from an early age. Don't refer to poop as being stinky, dirty, messy, gross, etc. Instead, verbally praise your child for pooping, even when they are still in diapers.
Empty poop from diapers or Pull-Ups into the toilet with your child and flush it away together so they start to see that nothing scary happens and they can make the connection that poop belongs in the potty.
Check out the free app, The Poo Goes to Pooland, with your child. It sounds ridiculous but kids love it!
Offer a small floor potty as opposed to the regular toilet at first. It is less intimidating and puts your child into a more natural position to pass their poop more easily. Bonus points for letting them choose their own potty! If they choose it themselves, they will be more likely to want to try using it. The Super Pooper Plus Potty by The First Years Brand is a great choice!
To prevent poop accidents, whenever you suspect your child is about to poop, remove their bottoms and show them their potty. Say, "I can see your body is telling you to go poop. When you're ready, your potty is right here." If they are bottomless, they are more likely to put their poop in the potty as opposed to just going on the floor.
If your child normally hides when pooping, it means privacy is important to them. Place their potty in the spot where they tend to hide and poop.
If your child ever withholds their poop for three days or more, be prepared to prevent constipation before they experience a painful bowel movement (which can set progress back even further). Follow me on Instagram and check out my highlight on Poop Tips for free info on treating constipation.
Find a new, fun distraction to keep your child sitting on the potty long enough to release their poop. Pooping takes patience, which most toddlers don't have. Choose a new activity that they only get access to during poop time to motivate them to sit.
Don't stress! Your child can pick up on your mood and will sense any uneasiness and doubt. Be sure you keep thinking positive. If your child picks up a worried vibe from you, that only further validates their anxiety.
Eliminate all diapers and Pull-Ups. By using both diapers and underwear, it could be sending your little one mixed messages. "You don't want me to poop in the diaper, but you still give me one?" Count down the days to no more diapers on the calendar together and then say goodbye for good. Switch to cloth diapers or training pants for overnight if needed. Taking away all diapers makes it clear that all pee and poop only go in the potty now.
Offer rewards for pooping! Even if your child is farther along in their potty training journey and rewards aren't being offered for other potty success, bring back a reward for pooping. Check out my other blog post on rewards for more information and ideas.
If you still find yourself stuck, feel free to reach out for a personalized consultation. Good luck and happy pottying!