Our Struggle with Poop Withholding
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Emma started holding in her poop in September of 2017. After a rough six months, we have it under control! I can empathize if you’re going through poop withholding, too.
It all started when Emma got a fever and got a bit constipated. The experience of having to push out that hard poop made her not want to do it again! So she held in her poops, causing more constipation, messes, and pain. She would cross her legs and squeeze her little butt cheeks together to keep it in. If I tried to get her to sit on the potty or carry her there, she would scream at me! And after about a week, there would be so much built up that little bits would leak out and make messes. Does this sound familiar to you?
We tried everything…
I tried leaving her to sit on the potty in front of the TV, sometimes for an hour at a time. Or I would get her set up with her Fire Kids tablet and headphones in her bathroom. We reduced dairy, increased fiber, did timed potty breaks, rewards, sticker charts… None of it got her moving. One night I even cried to my husband that I felt like such a bad mom that my kid wouldn’t even do something as natural as going number two!
We weren’t alone!
I was lucky enough to find a friend who had been through something similar with her own children. And I found a few websites, especially this one, that were great resources. It was nice to know that other families were going through poop withholding and that we weren’t alone.
To the doctor’s office!
We finally went to the pediatrician in December, who was amazing! He even had printouts ready to go, since poop withholding and constipation are actually pretty common. The usual recommendations are making sure the kid is eating their fruits and veggies, giving them time to go at the same time every day, and making sure that they’re comfortable and secure on the potty with a potty seat and stool. But for Emma’s specific case, he recommended using Miralax, first in a higher dose to clear her out, then in a lower dose to get her used to having soft, comfortable poops (that she couldn’t hold in!).
The clear-out phase was traumatic for all of us! After months of not pooping consistently, having to go so much and so often was upsetting for Emma. Then it took a month of adjustments to get the dose right. I had to keep going lower and lower, and for that whole month she was having leaks in her undies multiple times a day.
We had potty trained in January 2017 (almost a year before the doctor’s appointment), but with all the messes I put Emma back in Pull-ups full time. After a week or so I noticed she was going pee in the Pull-ups again! I felt like such a failure as a mom – all the work we had done potty training was for nothing!
Thankfully, on December 31st, Emma told me she had to go poopy, then did a big, solid poop. There were no leaks or accidents that day! Hallelujah! The next two weeks were a bit bumpy but there was clear progress, and by February she was pooping about once a day, having no accidents, and back to undies full time.
The end was in sight!
After a month of regularity, it was time to taper off the Miralax. It’s important not to do it too quickly, so they don’t get constipated and start the whole cycle over again! We did it over a full month, taking away a quarter of her dose each week.
Now, Emma is pooping once a day (usually right before bedtime), letting me know clearly when she has to go, and is not having accidents! It seems that poop withholding is behind us. She still expects a Swedish fish for every poop though!
Some feelings about laxatives…
It felt weird for me to put my three-year-old on laxatives. I read some scary things on the Internet, like “Miralax is one molecule away from formaldehyde!!!! Don’t poison your children!!!!!” However, I also read some scary things about kids who had to have surgery to have intestinal blockages removed. And I trust my pediatrician’s wisdom and experience. Emma didn’t have any other side effects, and as a relatively short-term solution Miralax did exactly what it was supposed to. Her body didn’t become dependent on it, either.
If your child is experiencing poop withholding, please go see to your pediatrician. He or she can recommend a treatment that is just right for your child. And don’t be like me and wait longer than necessary because you’re afraid of being judged – if I would have taken Emma to the doctor when all this first started, it would have been over in half the time!
Is your child having number two problems, too? Let me know in the comments!
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