Thursday, June 16, 2011

In which we have a poo party and everyone is invited...

Alright peeps this post is going to be about poo.  So if you are squeamish, currently eating your dinner or think bowel motions, like money, should never be discussed in polite company you can stop reading now.

All gone… cool.  Now that it's just us, let's talk frankly.

For the past three months Minty has been struggling with a full blown poo phobia.  I haven't written about it here before because firstly, I didn't want to open myself up to all the judgey mcjudgepants readers out there who would assume I had caused this whole issue through epically bad parenting.  I know I've been guilty of casting judgement in the past - if anyone told me their child had been constipated I assumed they probably fed them a diet of cocoa pops and boxed macaroni and cheese.  Secondly I didn't want this space to become cluttered with my negativity and whinging about this issue.  In the end though I decided I wanted to talk about this in case there are other parents out there wading through the interwebs searching for solutions to what has certainly been one of the toughest parenting challenges I've encountered so far.  

It all started when Minty got a bit sick and then after not eating properly for a few days got constipated.  This lead to an anal fissure which in turn lead to a full blown terror of going to the bathroom.  The anal fissure was relatively easy to heal with strict attention to diet (no white refined products such as white bread, white pasta and white rice, limited dairy, lots of fluids, as much fruit and veg as you can pack into a three year old, linseed meal… basically the obvious things you'd do for constipation).  But even after the fissure was gone the terror of the toilet remained.  She would hold a poo for as long as she possibly could, usually only managing to relax enough to pass a motion when she fell asleep and sometimes not for several days.  She would spend the day writhing in discomfort, desperately trying to avoid going and unable to concentrate on or enjoy doing anything else.  While she was on the toilet she would weep and I could feel her little heart beating fast with fear.

I tried everything.  I tried to distract her with songs, stories, blowing bubbles - I was a virtual one-woman broadway show.  I tried reverting to using a potty and moving it to interesting locations around the house and garden.  I tried offering bribes but even the offer of chocolate or cake wasn't enough to overcome the fear.  

It had become all consuming.  Basically poo was all anyone in the family was thinking or talking about.  It even became one of Turi's only words.  He would wander into the bathroom and point in the toilet saying 'poo, poo' or pull open the back of someone's pants, peer inside and announce 'poo' (thankfully he never did this to a stranger!!).  

After taking Minty to see two different GPs the only advice I had been given was to give her laxatives.  I was really reluctant to go down this road.  After all she wasn't actually constipated, the problem was psychological.

Finally a friend put me in contact with a developmental paediatrician who gave me some fantastic advice.  Here are some of the things we tried.  Nothing on the list was an instant 'cure' but after a week or so of working through these things we finally seem to be back to normal.

1. Give your child some cream (it can be anything - we used pawpaw ointment but you could try moisturiser) and let them put it on their own bottom to make themselves feel better before they try to poo.  Letting them do it themselves gives them a sense of control over the situation.
2. Role play with your child's doll/teddy.  Tell them that the doll is having trouble doing a poo and ask them what they would tell the doll to help.  We used a tupperware container as a pretend potty for the doll.  The first time we did this it worked brilliantly but in the end Minty started trying to manipulate the situation saying her doll needed chocolate and TV so she would feel better!  
3. Try to get your child to think about letting go of their poo rather than not holding it in.  We did this by talking about how other people in the street/friends/neighbours were also doing poos at the same time and all the poos were going to go down the sewer and meet up for a poo party.  If you've met Minty more than once chances are we've discussed your bowl motions this week!  As I was wandering past the bathroom today I heard the Mr exclaim to Minty 'I think I see a party hat!'.
4. Laxatives.  I mentioned before that I was really reluctant to go down this route but in the end I was desperate and gave it a whirl.  I used parachoc and only gave Minty 5mls (which is half the recommended dose for a 12month old).  The theory is that it will make it impossible for them to hold on anymore and after a couple of successful poos they will start to realise it isn't such a big deal.  I only ended up having to use laxatives for a few days.  I think it was really more of a placebo affect with Minty seeing as it was such a small dose.
5. The main tip I would give is to try and instil a sense of confidence in your child.  Tell them that it will all be fine and that you know how to fix it.  Possibly easier said than done if you've been dealing with the phobia for a long time.

As a reward for all her hard work and successful poos we made some pink cupcakes today.  I think we were all pretty excited to have something to celebrate.

For the sake of contrast, this is the maudlin face we have typically been seeing these past months...

"I want to poo on the road like a bird."


  1. I love the happy post-poo-problem-and-I have-pink-cupcakes-face ;-)

  2. Thanks for this - my friend forwarded me your post. My daughter has big time poo issues. She is nearly three and has never pooed on the toilet - only in her nappy. When we were really trying to get her to go on the toilet a couple of months back she would hold on so long and constipates herself. I am ready to tackle the poo on the toilet issue again now that she is regular (after using paraffin every few days)... will give your ideas a try!! Suz

  3. Man, that's so hard. Being a Mum everyday is difficult and issues like this can make it more so. If my opinion means anything, I think Minty has a very patient and very caring Mum.

  4. I've just found your blog through Leslie and I'm loving it. I'm glad you did this post too because my almost three year old is the same as Suz's and will not poo in the toilet, so I"m going to give some of these a try too. Thanks!

    Also, love the baths :)