You’ve finally done it. You have got your little one to start using the potty! Hooray! The excitement you feel is like no other. No more diapers? Heck yea!
Until… it happens. The dreaded potty training poop anxiety. It happens to the best of us, maybe even to almost all of us, and yet, it can be extremely frustrating.
Especially when you are on the brink of being diaper-free and just can’t figure out why your potty training toddler is holding their poop.
In all honesty, potty training poop anxiety is quite common. The biggest issue is that it can often become a vicious circle.
Your potty training toddler starts holding poop, and they then become constipated. Constipated pooping hurts, and your toddler doesn’t like the experience. Thus, they fight the urge to poop on the potty- and in turn, it hurts more.
You may be able to somehow relieve the potty training poop anxiety and get your little one onto the toilet, only for them to have another painful poop, and thus the cycle continues.
What is a potty training mama to do? You are so close to being diaper-free!
I know first hand that this poop anxiety can be extremely hard to deal with so I wanted to take a few minutes to talk with you about why it happens and what you can do to prevent it. So you can finally ring that potty trained bell and kiss those diapers goodbye!
*This post may contain affiliate links which I would receive a small commission should you make a purchase.
Why is my toddler holding their poop?
While a potty training toddler holding poop is a common occurrence, that doesn’t help you when you are in the middle of it, and unsure how to help.
There are a few reasons your toddler may have suddenly become overcome with potty training poop anxiety.
1. Maybe they are not ready
I know, I know. It isn’t exactly what you wanted to hear. But, trying to potty train a toddler who just isn’t ready yet can cause some anxiety (for you both!). If your toddler is holding their poop, and is also having issues making it to the potty to pee, you may have to ask yourself if they are truly ready for this milestone. If not, take a step back for a month or two and revisit when your toddler may be more ready.
2. You may have started too soon
Similar to not being ready at the moment, you may have also started potty training too soon. If you start potty training before your toddler is truly ready, it can absolutely lead to your toddler holding their poop while potty training.
Your toddler may be at the age now where they should be more than ready, but if you have been trying for quite some time, there is a chance that you started too soon.
You can fix this by taking a step back and alleviating the pressure (pun intended). Give your toddler some time to adjust and try again in a couple of months when everyone has had some time to relax.
3. They may have had a painful poop
If your potty training toddler is holding poop, one of the most common culprits is that they have had a painful poop in the past. Having a painful poop can cause potty training poop anxiety in even the most easygoing toddler. If it hurts to poop, they don’t want to do it. They will then hold in the urge to poop, causing that vicious constipation cycle we talked about earlier.
4. They had a poop accident
Has your potty training toddler had an accident recently? Sometimes having a poop accident can cause potty training poop anxiety.
You may have reacted a bit harsher than you meant to, or shamed your child without meaning to. These reactions sometimes come automatically and though, you mean no harm, they can cause your child to regress a bit.
What are the signs of poop anxiety?
How do you know if your toddler holding poop while potty training is truly a sign of poop anxiety? Here are some of the most common signs:
- Your potty training toddler asks for a diaper when they need to poop
- They hide in a corner to poop
- Your toddler cries in pain when pooping
- They begin crying when asked to sit on the potty
- They run away from you when you tell them to go potty
How to potty train when your toddler has poop anxiety
Once you have determined that your toddler has poop anxiety, you may be curious about how to best potty train them. Here are a few of my favorite, and most effective tips:
1. Make it fun
You can help your toddler overcome poop anxiety by making pooping on the potty fun! Give your child an activity while sitting on the potty so that they are able to relax and not think about pooping.
Your toddler will also be more likely to sit on the potty longer if they associate this fun activity with sitting on the potty. There are several activities you can try:
- Let your toddler read a book or do some art.
- Purchase a fun toy that your toddler can only use while sitting on the potty.
- Play a movie on your phone, ipad, or laptop that they can watch while pooping.
- Sit them backwards on the potty and give dry erase markers for drawing
- Stay in the bathroom with your toddler and do something fun such as a song or finger play.
2. Set a timer
Help your toddler sit on the potty longer by setting a timer. Let your toddler know they can get up when the timer goes off.
This can help them to know they don’t have to stay forever, and can also calm them down while watching the timer move along. This technique also keeps you from being the “bad guy” the visual timer tells them when they can get up- not you!
3. Give a laxative as recommended by doctor
If constipation truly is the culprit, try talking to your pediatrician and seeing if a laxative could help soften the issue. If pooping is easier- your toddler may be more likely to poop on the potty and alleviate that potty training poop anxiety. Make sure to talk to your pediatrician before starting any treatment, even if it is over-the-counter.
4. Increase the fiber and “P” foods
Certain foods can help to soften your toddler’s stool and alleviate your toddler holding their poop. One of the most popular places to turn are “P” foods. These are fruits and vegetables that just all happen to start with “P” including:
These are the best foods to naturally soften your toddler’s stool and make it easier to go.
5. Read books about poop
Books are great for just about anything, and books about potty training are a fantastic way to ease potty training poop anxiety in your toddler. Choosing books that speak about potty training poop anxiety can be especially helpful. If your toddler can see that what they are feeling is normal, they can begin to relax.
Here are a couple books that I recommend:
Ryan is scared to use the potty. He’s afraid to have a poop because he’s afraid it’s going to hurt. When Ryan’s parents take him to visit Dr. Gold, she engages his imagination with the story of Bill the Coyote’s messy house. She also shows him what happens inside the body, and explains how different foods make using the potty easy or hard.
Dash’s Belly Ache is a simple, gentle story about Dash, a dog who doesn’t want to poop. His experience in the story will help reassure your child, lessen their anxiety, and help them overcome their fear of pooping. Dash’s story is relatable for toddlers and young children who are having a hard time with potty training, constipation, or withholding.
6. Keep your toddler bottomless at home
Letting your toddler run around without bottoms while at home can help to alleviate potty training poop anxiety, and also make it easier to hop on the potty when it is time to go.
7. Offer rewards
Offering rewards can be a great way to lessen your toddler’s potty training poop anxiety. Set up a sticker chart and work towards a bigger reward, or offer small instant and tangible rewards like gummies, m&m’s, suckers, or tiny marshmallows.
Keeping your toddler hydrated can help stop your potty training toddler from holding poop. Lots of water can help keep your toddler regular, and lessen the chance of constipation. If it is easy to go, your toddler will be more likely to go.
9. Get them moving/exercising
Much like hydrating, and adding “P” foods, keeping your toddler active can help keep bowel movements regular. When your toddler has regular bowel movements and isn’t becoming constipated, they are less likely to experience potty training poop anxiety.
10. Give them a break
When all else fails, it may be time to offer your toddler a break. This doesn’t mean you or your toddler have failed at potty training, it simply means you both may do better after a little break.
Giving your toddler a break from potty training, can actually help with potty training poop anxiety by taking away the pressure and anxiety surrounding it.
You can try again in a few weeks, or a couple of months.
11. Rule out a medical condition
If you have tried all of the above and are still finding your potty training toddler holding poop, you may need to chat with your toddler’s pediatrician to rule out a medical condition that is causing the anxiety. It’s best to let your doctor make these kinds of diagnoses as they can prescribe the proper medication and do the appropriate tests. If you find your toddler’s potty training anxiety to last beyond three months it may be time to consult your pediatrician.
Appropriately responding to your potty training toddler’s poop anxiety can make all the difference. It can be tempting to lose your temper, threaten, or unintentionally shame your toddler for their refusal to use the potty. None of these are helpful and can actually make. the situation worse.
Instead of responding in these ways, keep trying the suggestions above, and of course, give your pediatrician a call if the problems persist. By responding in this way you can stop the potty training poop anxiety that is stopping your toddler from using the potty, and finally be diaper-free.