All About Poop

Bathroom or Battlefield?

Hold on -- toddlerhood is packed with a few more poop surprises, some of them positive. As children become more aware of their body, they will become more attuned to the fact that they have to go.

A kid who used to dump in his diaper in the middle of playing blocks without missing a beat may start hiding in the corner when he needs to go; another may let you know she's pooped and ask for a quick change. This desire for privacy and a fresh diaper are the first signs that he or she is ready for potty training, so the two of you might want to head for the store and pick out a potty together.

But when it comes to potty training, your child may approach poop differently than pee. Many children master controlling number one faster than number two. You can help your child tackle this part of pottying by looking for BM cues, such as grunting or becoming red-faced, and leading her to the potty so she can do her business there. Eventually, she'll get the idea.

Another big change is when pooping goes from a bodily function to an emotional battlefield. When my older daughter, Bellamy, was 2 1/2, we noticed that she would go days without pooping and then walk around grimacing in pain.

A pediatric gastrointestinal specialist explained that it is very common for toddlers to withhold their poop. "It can be part of a battle for control," says Deirdre Donaldson, PhD, director of pediatric psychiatric services at the May Institute in Norwood, Massachusetts. "Some kids pick their battles with eating, and some with toileting," Donaldson says.

The problem is, once your child holds it in for a while, he sets off a snowball effect. "The colon absorbs water from the stool, so the longer your child refrains from going, the bigger and harder the stool becomes," Dr. Pittman explains. Then your child may be afraid to go for fear it will be painful.

Put a stop to this cycle by adding fiber to your child's diet. "A regular bathroom schedule also helps," Donaldson says. "Have your child sit on the potty at the same time every day. Eventually, she'll understand what's supposed to happen next. And thanks to some good advice and lots of fiber, the poop wars are finally coming to an end in my family. There's just one downside: What on earth will my husband and I talk about now?

Marisa Cohen, a mother of two, is a writer in New York City.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, January 2005.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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