My three-year-old daughter struggled with constipation just a few times before she started holding in her poop on purpose. This was stressful and concerning to both of us! Thankfully, with the help of our doctor, poop withholding is behind us. Read our story and how we conquered poop withholding! | Fulfill & Thrive
sahm parenting

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!).

Dosage issues…

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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My three-year-old daughter struggled with constipation just a few times before she started holding in her poop on purpose. This was stressful and concerning to both of us! Thankfully, with the help of our doctor, poop withholding is behind us. Read our story and how we conquered poop withholding! | Fulfill & Thrive

6 Comments

  • Karla

    Thank you so much for your openness and comments. My husband and I are so stressed and tired of dealing with this. This was good for me to read and know we are not alone. Our son refuses to go poop in a toilet. He is fully potty trained other than that. Only wants the pull up to poop. Sleeps through the night without pull ups, never needs one until he has the urge to poop. Thank you for some new ideas. Hoping we can make some progress over the summer.

    • Diana

      I know how frustrating that can feel, Karla! Aside from what the post says, I came across a lot in my research that pee-training and poop-training are pretty much two separate things. Some kids can do them at the same time but for others, poop can take longer to figure out. Every day of poop withholding can be stressful, but I promise there will be an end! Good luck to you!

  • Pahola

    Omg thanks for your article. I was scared of giving my daughter miralax but she has been holding her poop on and off for months. Just when I think she is over it she starts holding it in again. I give her tons of fiber and natural constipation remedies but the problem is her. She has incredible power to hold it in. I’ve had to use suppositories when I see her in pain. She cant sit down or sleep. It is a nightmare but I am going to the doctor for sure now. I guess a little miralax won’t be too bad.

    • Diana

      Thanks Pahola! Yes, definitely head to the doctor to get the dose right. It’s a long battle but better to get it taken care of now. Emma’s been off Miralax for almost six months now and she goes number two just like any other kid – there is hope!!

  • Emily Owens

    Thank you so much for your sharing your awful experience of poop withholding. I’m so so happy to have read the exact same situation I’m in right now. I’m writing this from my bed at 2am as 10 minutes before, my 3 year old had woken up screaming, only for me to take her nappy off and see a giant poop sitting halfway! After 1 hour of trying to convince her to push (whilst screaming at the top of her lungs at me) I had to make the awful decision to put a new nappy back on and allow her to go back to sleep. I’m off to the doctor’s in the morning for sure as it breaks my heart every time this happens, which is roughly every 2 days!

    • Diana

      Thanks for commenting, Emily! I’m so sorry this is happening to you too. Emma did the same thing too a few times – I think they finally relax when they’re asleep! Good call on taking her to the doctor. It’s been over six months since we stopped Miralax and Emma is still doing great. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

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