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Feeling desperate - poo withholding in 2 year old toddler. Please, please help!!!

(17 Posts)
Kalypso Thu 06-Sep-12 08:15:40

We are on day 3 of no poo. 2 and a half year old DS has always done a poo every day, although the poo withholding thing has been happening on and off since he was about 16 months. We haven't started potty training. He is scared of the toilet/potty and gets very, very upset if we suggest he uses the toilet if he doesn't want to go in his nappy.

Before now, a 'reward' of a couple of chocolate buttons/small sweets offered when he pooed was enough to make him go, but now he is resolutely refusing to go, although the whole thing has been getting increasingly stressful, and has turned into a real battle of wills (I KNOW this is the wrong thing to do, but I am so worried about this, as from what I've read on here, it can lead to chronic problems). I feel like crying.

DS has told us that he 'it makes him sad when the poo comes out' and that he has a poo but he doesn't want it to come out. So I think a poo was painful for him and now he won't go at all. I know he needs to because he is showing all the signs of needing to go. Last night he barely slept because he was wriggling about all over the bed, unable to settle.

We've tried explaining that the poo needs to come out and it's a good thing, I've put 'magic cream' on so it won't hurt....I feel like I've tried everything.

His diet is good - lots of vegetables, fruit, natural yoghurt and protein. He is getting prunes now, which were successful before, but nothing as yet.


WipsGlitter Thu 06-Sep-12 08:21:15

I've been there. We still have ishooos. Might be worth a GP check in case there's and anal fissure. Laculose? Movicol? But I can understand you'd be reluctant to start these now. Prune juice?

I know it's hard but try not to make a big deal of it. I think that's where I went wrong...

2beornot Thu 06-Sep-12 08:24:59

That sounds horrible - I feel for you and your ds. I haven't been through so sorry if this sounds obvious, but does he see you poo? I just wondered if he realises that everybody does poos and not just him?

BikeRunSki Thu 06-Sep-12 08:31:00

I have been there! I will be back with longer answer later when DD is asleep. Don't despair. You are not alone. Last Christmas day was Day 9 of no pop! That was fun....

Kalypso Thu 06-Sep-12 08:38:32

Prune juice is something to try. I know it's important to make sure there's lots of fluid in the diet for this kind of problem. I am going to book a GP appointment today.
WipsGlitter, do you mind if I ask how old is your DS and what problems you have now? Have they improved and if so, how did you tackle them?

I know I probably need to back off but I am so scared that he just won't go at all. I guess he won't go with me pressurising him either, though sad

2beornot, yes, he does see us poo sometimes. We don't really make a big deal of it. He has recently seen his small cousin do a poo on the toilet and she complained she had a 'hurty bottom' afterwards, so he might have heard that and it's made him worry.

Kalypso Thu 06-Sep-12 08:45:27

BikeRunSKi, I am so looking forward to your post. Feeling tearful now! DS has just seen me and he knows there is something wrong as he has just cuddled my legs and said "I'm giving a big hug to make mummy feel better". I feel so bloody awful; it's obvious my own stress is adding to his. I am so anxious about it, because I am worried this is going to be a problem for him long-term unless we sort it out now.

I'm cursing myself because every time this has happened before, we've somehow broken the cycle of poo withholding (via rewards/praise) and he has been fine. So I have carried on making an issue out of it, by praising excessively when he does poos, offering rewards when I know he needs one, etc. It seems it's finally dawned on him that he can NOT go, and no one can make him.

BikeRunSki Thu 06-Sep-12 14:00:13

Kalypso, it is just awful isn't it. In my DS's case I am sure it was all about control. He potty trained like a dream last summer at 2.8-2.9 ish, wees and poos, day and night, all fine, done and dusted in a fortnight. I was expecting DD and I am pretty sure he started witholding when my bump got big enough for him to realise that this baby people kept talking about was actually for real.

Here is my post almost a year ago.

Since that post the witholding ramped up and ramped up and really he'd only poo with a lot of bribery and Lactulose. Christmas was hell - his stubborness combined with loads of Christmas party food crap, meant that Christmas Day was Day 9 of No-Poo. He was doubled up in pain, whining and moaning and had got to the pointy where poo was not going to be coming simply by sitting on the potty and having a push. Boxing Day saw me at 24 hr Boots begging for anything to shift the poo from a 3 yo. On the basis that he is a big lad for his age, pharmacist reluctantly gave me some suppositories for 4+. DH duly administred them and they worked their "magic" with many tears and screams and cramps in about 20 mins. Then, over the course of 3 or 4 days, the rest came slowly, and painfully. It took a swim to shift the last bit. Fortunately we were the only people in the pool and changing room when the last bit came out. I had to pull it out of DS's bum in the changing rooms by hand!

All this time, DS was increasingly tired and grumpy. Me too- it absolutely brought out the worst in me, and I was so frustrated the he just wouldn't go and got into this situation! Compounded by have a 2 month old baby demanding my every moment too!

Since Christmas, he has got better - not perfect and it has been a long, long haul, with many "lost" weekends, where he has been too grumpy, tired or in too much pain to take out, which I found very hard to deal with. I did speak to my HV about him, to tell me just to carry on with what I was doing, and that it is very common. In May I took him to the GP because I thought he needed referring for behaviour/psycho analysis, but GP said he was OK for now, just to go with it.

So we have just gone with it. I make sure that DS eats loads of fruit and veg, and have seemed to have engineered a situation where his favourite food is wholewheat crackers! I also give him loads of water through the day and apple juice for breakfast. He now seems to poo once every three days or so. If he hasn't pooed for this much time, I give him a big dollop of Lactulose in his milk, and if nothing has happened for 5 days, then he gets a dose of liquid senna in his milk. He won't take "poo medicine" so I have to be stealthy. Luckily, both "hide" well in milk.

SO what did we do?

Firstly, an MNer recommended this book which is very good. I upped his fibre intake too, to try and keep things going. After a couple of bouts of constipation, your child's gut will have gone "big and baggy" so it takes longer for him to get the urge to poo until the muscles tone up again. For this reason I kept up daily doses of Lactulose (Pharmacy of GP) to keep everything soft until it came out. About 8 weeks, then every other day doeses for a few more weeks.

We'd read this a lot too - I changed the name and some words to make it easier for DS to relate too. This too.

Potty in front of TV didn't work. It wasn't that he was bored, he just didn;t want to go.

We have had lots more tears and frustration, but have never got back to the horror of last Christmas. Running around, a swim, trampolining or a good tickel seems to get them out too! When DS had Chicken Pox a couple of months ago, he poo-ed every day. I think, because he was too weak and tired to resist it. He is still a bit of a reluctant poo-er, but does goes 2-3 times a week, which seems normal for him. He still gets nazzy when he needs a poo, but maybe only for a hour, not several days. He gets lots of praise - this is what he responds to rather than bribery.

When I took him to the GP I think DS realised that I was really worried about him and got a bit better after that. Occasionally I'll say "On no, do I need to take you back to see Dr So and So...." and that normally gets things going.

Yesterday he went up a group at Nursery and he will be 4 tommorow. He was watching Cbeebies before bed and went for a poo by himself and tried to wipe his bottom too. I think there's a bit of growing up going on there too! I do hope it lasts....

So, lots of time, lots of praise, lots of fibre, lots of water, lots of patience. Good luck !

PostBellumBugsy Thu 06-Sep-12 14:08:47

Don't get too worried & definitely don't let on to your little one that it bothers you. Loads of toddlers do this. My DS (now nearly 13) used to be able to hold on to his poo for 6 days at a time. I'm sure you'll be really pleased to hear that he grew out of it and has no lasting issues.

I cured him by giving him lactulose (stirred into fromage frais) and encorporating ground flax seeds (very high fibre) into his food. So I'd stir a spoonful into his bolognaise, or into his breakfast cereal etc. Also upped the vegetables as he wasn't keen on fruit. Make sure they have lots to drink too.

I also found that long baths would help, as he tended to relax & then would get completely taken by surprise as the poo would almost pop out. Swimming was another activity that nearly always resulted in a poo immediately afterwards.

Also, don't get too alarmed if he needs to poo in his nappy for a bit longer. Again, I promise you he won't do this forever.

Kalypso Fri 07-Sep-12 21:59:40

Sorry for the delay - had a lot on in the last couple of days. Thank you so much for the replies; it's very reassuring others have been through this! PostBellumBugsy, I'm so glad your DS doesn't have any lasting issues. It must have been a real worry at the time. DS loves baths, so I might have to incorporate more - currently, he only has a couple of baths a week (with wipe downs every day to keep him clean)

BikeRunSki, I really appreciate the time you took to write such a long reply. Day 9 of no poo with a 2 month old baby on Christmas - my god, you poor thing, that must have been bloody hellish! God knows how you dealt with the stress of it!

You've given some great advice. I read Poo Goes to Pooland to DS, and he seemed to enjoy it. I've had success after my last post. I realised I had to take ALL the emotion out of the process. Despite watching DS lie down on the floor or sitting down to try and keep the poo in, I said nothing about it. This would be the point where normally my DH or I would be bribing him with all sorts of things, suggesting where he does it, what toy he holds while he does it, etc. I gave him a couple of prunes, which worked a treat when we had this problem before. He was horribly grumpy, asking for food and crying lots. I didn't really engage, but just carried on with what I was doing (before I'd have said "Okay, you can have some food when you've done your poo" but this time I pretended I hadn't heard him) and when he had a drink of water, he started coughing on it and the poo came out at that point! He immediately stopped crying, smiled and told me he'd done a poo, I smiled and gave him a cuddle but didn't make an enormous fuss.

Later that day, it was clear he needed to go again (getting rid of the backlog, so to speak!), and it was SO hard not to react to him squirming about on the floor trying to keep it in. After about an hour, I suddenly realised he'd gone and then found him in his room, lying on his changing mat with his legs in the air, saying "I've done a poo, I want a fresh nappy please!" I couldn't believe it! Rather than go over the top, I just told him that's great and now that he's more comfortable it'll be a lot nicer for him to run around in the playground.

Today he was holding it in pretty much all day. Again I said nothing about it, but I did do some role-playing with his toys, who were all doing poos and saying how much better it felt afterwards! I didn't mention DS at all in this, however. By this evening, there was still nothing, so we went to his room. Normally he likes to go while holding on to his baby gate and before I'd often tell him to hold on to the railings while I read him a book. This time I mentioned NOTHING about poo, but started reading a book on the other side of the railings. He came over and did it while I read! Again, I made no big deal of it - I showed I was impressed(!) but didn't go overboard with praise. He asked for 2 chocolate buttons, which I did give him, but not making a big deal about how they were rewards for the poo (which was what I'd have said before).

I'm going to keep on with the prunes - they work like a dream!

I think I'm going to keep coming back to this thread as I somehow think our 'poo battle' is not over! I am going to put potty training on complete hold for the moment, and maybe think about trying again in a few months. I'd much rather a 'regular' and comfortable toddler in nappies than a stressed, miserable one in pants. Dreading crossing that bridge through!

Imlostwithoutahope Fri 07-Sep-12 23:37:54

I had massive issues with my dd when I was potty training her. She was potty trained for wees at 2.5 yrs but would not poo without a nappy on. That meant she got constipated which hurt and started a vicious circle. In the end I relaxed after getting so stressed and worried about it and when she needed a poo just put a nappy back on. When she got to almost three I attempted poo potty training which again didn't work, so we got some poo stories and the doctor gave us moviol and lactilose which worked. Within a few days she was pooing on the toilet and we've never had any problems since.

It seems easy now looking back but at the time was a constant source of conversation and worry which i Think dd picked up on too.

Southfacing Fri 07-Sep-12 23:50:02

Am v v sympathetic; your situation sounds v difficult. But the image of you doing role plays with pooing toys had me in stitches. The things we do...!

My children haven't had this problem, though ds didn't like pooing on the potty for ages after he was out of day nappies. He'd wait until the night and do a surreptitious poo in his nappy. We'd go in last thing and smell it and have to change him. It took two of us to do it because he'd be so cross at being woken up.

Good luck.

parched Tue 13-Nov-12 14:04:46

Just wanted to say thanks to the posters here. I've been going through the same thing for months and got to the point last night where I screamed "JUST DO A POO!" at my toddler. Of course, I felt awful and apologised to him later but have been very emotional all day, thinking this is never going to end. I'm sure this is a control thing with him, so am going to try the backing off and technique and see how we get on. Thanks.

bodenbiscuit Tue 13-Nov-12 14:09:29

ooooh I sympathise! I have a 3 year old dd who refuses to poo. Her record is about 2 weeks with no poo. Movacol doesn't work. The only thing that makes her go is a suppository which I have great fun trying to put in with her kicking and screaming all the while!

It is quite simply a nightmare. The GP said she would grow out of it. 18 months later she still hasn't. And next year she is supposed to begin school!

noblegiraffe Tue 13-Nov-12 20:21:16

If it's any consolation, my 3 year old has grown out of it. He withheld from the age of 6 months when we started weaning. We managed it with lactulose twice daily and suppositories if he hadn't been for 3 days so he never went longer than that without a poo (record before that was 11 days). We slowly stopped the lactulose (it never made him go, but I think it kept what was still inside soft so it wasn't too bad) when he was about 2 and only gave it if he hadn't gone for a couple of days and then used a suppository.
There was a regression around potty training and we had to use suppositories quite a lot to get him going on the potty, then he got the idea. Now he goes regularly, but if he hasnt been in a couple of days we can just put him on the toilet and tell him he needs to do a poo and he will.

Kalypso Thu 15-Nov-12 13:14:40

Ooh, just spotted that this thread has come back. How are you getting on, Parched?
I am delighted to report that things are good - so far - on the pooing front grin. The idea of baby 'Poo' as a harmless, kindly character that wants to come out (as opposed to something unavoidable and unpleasant that happens to his body) seems to have really struck a chord DS.

DS is still getting small rewards such as two chocolate buttons for poos (when he and I remember) and he's got into a fairly consistent routine of telling me each day when "a poo is waiting at my bottom", at which point we go upstairs, he holds onto the baby gate railings and I read a book while he 'performs'. We seem to have got into a whole routine of what Poo says when he is out: "THANK YOU for letting me out, now I can see my mummy and daddy!" (in a high squeaky voice), "Thank you for sending my baby poo out so he can come for a cuddle in Pooland" (a gentle, soothing 'Mummy' voice), and "Wow, what a great boy you are to send our poo out and make him so happy" (big, gruff 'daddy' voice). It's quite farcical, but I obviously don't let on my amusement at the whole thing. DS also takes great pride in saying "I was the only boy in the whole world who could send that poo to Pooland". Honestly, the things we do!

He's prone to constipation so after a couple of minor setbacks, I've had to make sure he gets a daily prune dose. Any mention of toilet training and wearing pants seems to psychologically bung him up again, so I'm definitely holding off on that until he's three and then we'll see. It's sometimes difficult when I see other children his age and younger who are toilet trained, but then I have to remind myself how grateful I am that he is currently no longer withholding.

I hope others on this thread are seeing some progress too. The withholding and subsequent discomfort in your DC is so, so bloody stressful and upsetting, isn't it?

parched Tue 27-Nov-12 22:35:59

I think we're making a bit of progress. Since I posted I've totally ignored the withholding - which is soooo hard when DS is writhing around and whimpering "Mummy, cuddle". Although he's still holding in, the large poos are coming roughly 3 days apart instead of 5. We still have the cycle of a few days of small ones (5 "raisins" and a "plum" today), which is extremely frustrating, but he's started to tell me after he's the done the poo (which he NEVER did before). Best of all, it's generally a much happier household.

This behaviour has been ongoing for nearly 6 months now, so think it's going to take a long time to sort it out. DS is 3 in January and I had in my head that I wanted to potty train him over Christmas, but am now terrified we'll reverse the (tiny bit of) progress we've made with poo. I think I'm going to leave it until Easter now and hope that by continuing with the backing off approach he'll gradually grow out of it. Fingers crossed!

Kalypso - please can you e-mail the PDF of Poo goes to Pooland? I can't seem to download it from the link. I'll send my e-mail address to your inbox.

Kalypso Wed 28-Nov-12 09:38:39

Hi there Parched,

Sounds like you are making good progress smile That's great he is telling you when he's done it. One thing that has really helped soften the poos recently is cutting up pear, and leaving the skin on. It's working as well as the prunes.

Totally agree over delaying potty training. I also had in mind to start over Christmas (DS' birthday is in February, so same age as yours), but I'm pretty sure this would put us right back at square one.

As we don't have a printer, I didn't actually download Poo goes to Pooland, so I just read it to DS straight from the computer. Sorry! It seems you have to be a member/pay to download it. However, I think you can copy the pictures and then write in your own text in a Word document - I don't think it would take too long. To be honest, once I'd read the story, I just talked to him about it every so often and as I said before, I do voices for Poo and his mummy and daddy.

Just to say, I did notice that DS picked up on when I started going on about Poo goes to Pooland too much: he sensed WHY I kept going on about it, and once he realised that there was again external pressure from me to 'perform', he started withholding again. So now, I only talk about it occasionally and not always when he needs a poo, so he knows the story does not always come directly before a bowel movement and thus become negative by association. Saying that, I think poos are becoming a less negative experience for him, particularly as he is increasingly focusing on the treat that comes afterwards! (I switch it around every so often, so sometimes it's a couple of chocolate buttons, sometimes an 'Oatibite', sometimes a couple of little fruit sweets etc)

Anyway, I really hope things continue to go well with your DS. Maybe we can have a support thread for potty training poo withholders! Can you tell I am dreading it?!

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