3 Year Old Doing Bowel Movements in the Tub and in Her Sleep

Updated on July 09, 2008
K.D. asks from Beach Haven, NJ
13 answers

My 3 year old has been potty trained for about 4 months, and only about a month ago has started holding in her stool. She will pee on the potty by herself no problem. Sometimes I see her hiding and I know she is holding in a poop, when I ask her to go on the potty she gets upset, says she doesn't have to go, she'll cry and sit on it and wont go, sometimes she does like one little piece but I know there's more where that came from. She ends up going in her sleep at night or in the bathtub. In the tub I tell her if it starts coming please let me know and we'll go on the potty, she doesn't say anything until its too late. But then she cries and says she's bad. I have offered her rewards to do her bowels, she has done a little piece to get the reward ansd then holds the rest in! She has said that she is scared to go. She says rthat for other stuff when she's trying to get out of it so I don't know. How do I handle this without making it worse? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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answers from Utica on

Being that she is holding in her bowel movement, it probably is getting hard.

I have a good friend that is a RN and she told me that if we eat the "white" (which is virtually tasteless) that it softens the stool. The white from one orange does do the trick.

I would try to get her stool softer and after she eats breakfast, I would set her on the potty for a while. I would give her a toy that she likes to make the time a bite more tolerable and help the time to pass on a more pleasant note.

When she pees or even pooped a little bite try praising her and tell her what a big girl she is. This worked with a niece of mine to the point that she didn't want to flush the toilet so she could show someone else :)

About Me: I'm 60, been married for 38 years and have two grown sons.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I am so sorry you are going through this too, I thought it was just me! My daughter is potty trained for peeing but tries to hold in her bowel movement too. She got so constipated, we had to go see a pediatric GI specialist. The doctor warned us we would be in it for the long haul, as her system needs to be retrained, as well as her mind. She is currently on a capful of Miralax daily in her juice. This keeps her "loose" enough so that pooping doesn't hurt her, although she still does not want to go on her own. What happens is we see her trying to hold it and just bring her in the potty. She is loose enough so that one or two pushes gets it all out, she can no longer hold any or part of it in. The doctor said once she starts to get better, we just gradually wean her off the Miralax but it could be as long as a year before we get to that point. We also use lots of rewards. When she gets to the potty without having gotten any in her panties from holding it, we give her M & M's and a sticker. Once she gets 6 stickers, she gets to go to the toy store and pick out a new toy. If she does get some in her panties, she still gets some M & M's for finishing on the potty, but no sticker. She loves her books, so to keep her distracted while sitting, we read. But by all means, let her do whatever she wants while sitting there to distract her. Sorry for the crazy long response, I hope this helps! We've been batting this now for a long time, so hopefully some of these techniques will help!

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answers from New York on

This happens sometimes. My neice would not do number 2 in the potty until she was 4.5 years old. She just was not comfortable using the potty.

You should make sure that the stool is comfortable for her, that she can sit flat footed on the stool, and that there is an insert and it is comfortable and snug. Dangling legs make them feel less secure, and if the hole is too big it makes them feel less secure. It probably has to do with the way that you have to go, rather than letting go, having to push a bit. The water is probably stimulating that feeling, so I would try letting her splash around for a couple of minutes with warm feet standing up in the tub then put her on the potty. BM's are usually regular, so start keeping track of the timing, maybe with a more secure situation she will go, but it make take some time.



answers from Binghamton on

dear K.,

ive never had that problem personally but when my cousin was younger he used to hide behind a chair or under a table and poop in his pants or pull-ups even though he was potty trained. he had a hard time going and he felt more relaxed squatting, if you may, than sitting on the toilet. it was easier to go. if shes going in the tub the warm water might relax her and shes more relaxed when shes asleep. i would ask her doctor to be sure but maybe you should try getting her a stool softner and maybe that would help. good luck.



answers from Albany on

Our oldest did that, too. Yuk in the tub, of course! But somewhere along the way I'd read how some kids have fear and feel like a part of them is being flushed down the toilet when the bowel movement comes out and then disappears. So, I tried something new and maybe it can help you. I decided to see if she would believe it was basically the same thing every time and explained to her that it helps her to feel good if the bowel movement comes out and that it needs to be with the water (and pee) and she'll see it next time when she has another bowel movement. So each time she went and flushed, I made a point for a while to be in the bathroom so we could wave and say, "See you next time!" Within a few weeks, it was a non-issue and she was done saying, "See you next time." Good luck!



answers from New York on

I don't know if it would work for other kids but my son was motivated when I got excited to hear a plop sound, I would wait expectantly, is it gonna make a plop sound, I hope so... but he was using theregular toilet, not a potty seat, I wanted to skip the extra stepfo a potty seat. My daughter though was afraid something would come out of the toilet and get her so it helps to talk about what they're scared of, but she may not be able to verbalize it.



answers from New York on

Our situation was a little different -it was as I was trying to train my 2 year old boy that he started holding it in to the point that he would become constipated. He would hold it so long that when it finally did come out, it was so hard he would bleed. As a result, he really did not want to ever go. Our solution was to use stool softeners so that he couldn't hold it in and when it did come out it was softer. There is a "natural product" for children called 'Ready Set Go"that I got at the pharmacy. Once he was able to go without pain, he slowly became more regular and was willing to go on the potty. I hope it helps -good luck.



answers from Albany on

How does she know what being bad is? Toddlers are not bad, they are just toddlers. I have never told my children they were being bad therefore they never called themselves that. Behaviors can be bad, better yet, inappropriate, but not young children. Try and change the vocab you use around her & do not refer to her as being bad, and she won't call herself that.

If you loose your patience with her for pooping in the tub do not tell her she is bad, tell that you know she is a good girl and good girls poop in the potty.

Do you still put a pull-up/ or diaper on her at night? Because pull-ups/diapers are for going pee & poop in. If you are using them, then stop.

So I think the problem is psychological and that she learned some poor behaviors somewhere. Try being more positive about it and use your language carefully.

Sit and read her a book while she is sitting. When she starts to hide put her on the potty immediately, no ifs-ands-or-buts!




answers from Jamestown on

I read in one of my developmental psych books that children view bowel movements as a part of themselves. It's like a part of their body (arm, leg, etc. )that is getting flushed down the toilet and it freaks them out.

I don't know how much of that it true but it's a thought. I would take the poo if your child does it in the tub or bed and put it in the toilet. Let her see that's where it's supposed to go. Maybe watching mommy "do it" might help.




answers from New York on

My 3 year old does the exact same thing. She has been trained since November and she used to just fine on the potty for both pee and poop. She pees on the potty , but holds in her poop. Sh is afraid to go poop on the potty. She hides and says I can't I don't want to be a baby. She also refuses to wear a pull up so she is in underwear. When she is holding it in, sometime poop comes out in her underwear. This happens all the time, in public and at home. Her problem too is that she is constipated. She refuses to eat fruit and veggies. My doctor suggested to give her Benefiber twice a day. This helps soften the stool and make it easier to go. The Dr. says that holding in poop is normal when they start to train. She says that they have a memory oh a poop hurting on the potty and that is why they hold it is. She has gotten better over the past few months. Sometimes she poops once a week- and it is huge! The Benefiber helps and I also give her flax oil and probiotics. I hope this gets better for you- I feel your pain.



answers from New York on

My children aren't old enough yet for me to have this issue, however I know of 3 other mothers who have been through something similar, and in al 3 cases the childrens stools were hard, so the kids were afraid to go because going was painful. If you think this maybe the issue, see your pediatrician they have a lovely prescription that will get your childs stools the right consistancy and your problem should go away.. Just a note this can problem can make the kids irratable too- is your daughter more irratable on days this happens? Good luck!



answers from Albany on

She sounds stresssed out. Give more fiber maybe. I used to give my kids "Cracklin Oat bran" cereal as "cookies" that kept things moving without any concern. Dont make a big deal out of it. Really though sounds like a stress control thing going on. Maybe she doesnt understand she is not losing a part of herself.



answers from New York on

I had this problem with 2 of my boys...see if you can get her a non-stimulant laxative...and just give her a little bit. It will help to soften her stool and make her "have" to go...she won't be able to hold it. When they hold it so long it gets hard, then it hurts. So now she may be associating pooping with hurting. Hope this helps...that stage didn't last too long with my boys, so hopefully it is short lived for her!