Holding Bowel Movements

Updated on August 19, 2006
M.S. asks from Boynton Beach, FL
11 answers

I have a 2 year old who initially started potty training at around 20 months. At first she used the potty with no trouble and actually did pea a couple of times. A month later she seemed to be constipated and nothing worked for her. I ended up giving her a glycerin suppository and ever since then she has been too scared to have a bowel movement. She will only have bowel movements in the potty but I have to sit with her for about 10 minutes and rub her legs and tell her "its ok to do poopie". Once she does it she tells it bye bye and flushes the toilet. Despite all of this she will try to hold onto her bowel movement as longs as she can. Her pediatrician prescribed a powder laxative that I give to her each morning but it is now going on 4 months and still the same holding patter. Any advice anyone has is greatly appreciated.

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So What Happened?

First I want to thank everyone for the great advice. This was my first time posting any questions so I was pleasantly surprised to have so many responses. We are making progress, I continue to sit with her and when she does have a bowel movement we celebrate. I am going to try to read to her and distract her while on the potty and see how that goes. Again, thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond.

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answers from Miami on

M., may I suggest that you look at what you are feeding her and how much fluid she is getting. Are you giving her vitamins? Iron supplements can cause constipation and so can an allergy to dairy products. You might try calcium fortified Soy Milk. Also, oatmeal, fruits and veges will give her the fiber she needs to help keep her digestive system healthy. Instead of offering her just juice or milk, offer her water. There is a great article on this page about constipation and how to train the bowels, as well as tips on helping her with her fear of pooping.


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answers from Miami on

I had a similar problem with my 4 year old, and I found a great article written by a pediatrician that helped immensely. I will find it and copy and paste it and post it when I get home from work!(it was in contemporary pediatrics-you can google in and find it...)
OK, I think I can summarize rather than paste the article. First of all, have you tried putting her back in a diaper for BM's? Is she afraid of sitting on the potty? Even if she doesn't tell you she is afraid it seems like she needs to be reconditioned to have a normal bm without holding. My son developed a fear of going on the toilet(after a hard poop) and was to the point where he held his bm for as long as he could and then pooped his pants. This happened a couple of times in his preschool and was potentially a big problem.
What I did first was to start giving him mineral oil (1/2 tbls mixed in a little OJ) It has no taste and he took it very easily. If you give her this 1 or 2 times a day her bm's will become very slippery and easy to push out (and it makes it hard for her to hold them also) I put him in a diaper only when I could see that he had to 'go'.(he would scream when I put him on the toilet) I would try to get him to stand in the bathroom and he would go in the diaper and dump it in the toilet and flush it. After a few days I got him to sit on the toilet with the diaper and go. After he was comfortable with that, we made a 'magic diaper'. I cut a hole in the bottom of the diaper and put it on him when he was ready to go. He then sat on the toilet and his bm magically passed through the diaper and into the potty.(and I bribed him with a promise of a purchase of a dvd!)We did this 2 times and he was back to normal. I continued to keep giving him the mineral oil to ensure that he didn't have amother relapse because of a painful bm. Not sure if this will work for your daughter or not...Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I'm having issues with my 2 yr old daughter as well! Nothing seesm to work so I'm just backing off and waiting a while. I'm curious, where does your daughter go to day care?



answers from Orlando on


i am having the same problem w/ my son, he would get so constipated that we would have to either give him a suppository or a baby enema to help him go,but we found a simple solution that works well for us- we use Karo Syrup - i give my son 2 teaspoons of "medicine" and it does help make his poop slippery so that it doesnt hurt him. The thing i liek about it it is natural and not a specific medicine and there is no chance of a possible overdose since it just passes thru your body. I did ask our doc if this was ok and she did approve of it.

Best of luck to you



answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter did that because her BM's were painful. I cut back her milk/dairy intake and increased her juices and it helped soften her BM's. She is also not an every day pooper, she really only needs to go 3 or 4 times a week. Basically if she still has a painful BM, I sit with her, reassure her, encourage her to "push it out" and she will do it as long as I am with her. When they start getting painful thats when I change her diet.. it's hard because she LOVES milk. Karo syrup also works great. I never did the laxatives they gave me because I didn't want her to grow up thinking she has to take a laxative to poop. I just kept her diet as rich in fiber as I could and limited dairy.



answers from Orlando on

Hi M.,
I have a friend with a 2yr old that was having the same problem. She would hold it so long and then it would hurt her to have a bowel movement, so of course next time she would be afraid to go again. Her mom tried "Fiber Sure" in her juice and the problem resolved itself. Now she wouldn't be without the product, as her daughter didn't like fruit, and that was also part of the problem. Give it a try. Hope it works for you and your daughter. Let me know.



answers from Boca Raton on

My son had the same problem until he was about 10 years old. You're doing what was recommended to me. The best thing to do is continue sitting in the bathroom with child and while sitting in the potty have her read a book. This keeps her mind away from the actual bowel movement and catch her by surprise. It works!! Just be patient and give it time. She is still very young.



answers from Miami on

As a mother of a soon be 4 year old that started having problems when he was 10 months old and had been hospitalized for it. From my experience you can only be very patient. It has just been recently that with him just being potty trained that we are not having problems. Continue to use the powder that will help soften the stool so that it comes out easily. Watch for signs that she is trying and try to urge her onto the toilet but don't push that will only make her more resistant to going on the potty. If you have anymore questions about this you can e-mail me directly at ____@____.com

Good luck

SAHM of 3 boys



answers from Tampa on

Hi M., I gave my daughter Milk of Magnesia occasionally so she couldn't avoid going, then I would sit with her and a stack of books. Now I just read one when she needs it and let her sit and read the rest as long as she likes. I gave her the books to help her relax and divert her focus. It worked.



answers from Ocala on

Boy do I know what you are talking about! I have two children, both had bowel trouble. But my second son had it the worst. His pediatrician sent him to Shands and he was diagnosed with functional constipation. Well, with this his bowel movement due to size and hardness obviously made it very painful and scary for him to go. So they put him on Mirilax (milk of magnesia works just as well) and told me that we had to make his bowel movements as soft as possible (but not watery)so that he could re-learn that it is not painful to go #2. We had to remove that fear. Well, that took more than a year, but it worked. Now I keep the milk of magnesia and if I notice he goes one day off of his normal bowel movements or they are starting to get really hard, I go ahead and give him some of that until he goes. Just give it time- remember, some of the smallest things are so dramatic for our little ones and can take time to overcome. So just make sure the bowel is soft so that it does not hurt her at all and it will all come together. Plus, if it is soft then she will have a harder time holding it and will have to go more often. Hope this helps.



answers from Naples on

I am going through the same issue with my almost 3 year old for a year. We even went to the gastroentologist to make sure everything was working properly. We started giving stickers for everytime she would poop in her diaper, after five times she was rewarded with a present. We then stepped it up to the potty, but we are still getting resistance. She has been on the powder laxative for almost six months and we also give her mineral oil to keep her from being able to hold her poo in but she is gotten very good at controlling her bowels. I was told about some over the counter medicine that will make the muscles in her heinie spasm giviing her the feeling that she has to go but I can't remember what it is called. Anyway - I am sure this wasn't much help but I hope it helps to know you are not alone and that it is taking us a long time as well. If you find a miracle....please let me know.

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