How to Stop Your Toddler from Holding Poop: Tips and Tricks

It can be concerning for parents when their toddler starts holding poop. Stool withholding is a common issue that affects many toddlers, and it can result in constipation, discomfort, and even pain. Fortunately, there are strategies that parents can use to help their child overcome this issue.

One of the first steps is to understand why your child is holding poop. Sometimes, children may withhold stool due to fear or anxiety about using the bathroom. Other times, it may be due to physical discomfort or pain. By identifying the underlying cause, parents can better address the issue and help their child overcome it. In this article, we will explore some effective strategies for dealing with stool withholding in toddlers.

Understanding the Problem

Dealing with a toddler who holds their poop can be a frustrating and challenging experience for parents. It is important to understand the causes behind stool withholding to effectively address the problem.


There are several reasons why a toddler may hold their poop. One of the most common causes is constipation. Passing hard stools can be painful for children, and they may begin to associate pooping with discomfort. This can lead to a cycle of withholding, which only exacerbates the problem.

Another common cause of stool withholding is fear. Toddlers may be afraid of the sensation of passing stool, especially if they have had a bad experience in the past. Anxiety can also play a role in stool withholding, as some children may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable using the bathroom in public.

Medical Conditions

In some cases, stool withholding may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. For example, children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colonic inertia may have difficulty passing stool. Hypothyroidism and celiac disease can also cause constipation. If your child is experiencing stomach pain, abdominal distension, or other symptoms in addition to stool withholding, it is important to consult with a doctor to rule out any underlying medical issues.

It is also worth noting that urinary tract infections (UTIs) can sometimes cause stool withholding in young children. If your child is experiencing pain or discomfort while voiding, be sure to consult with a doctor to rule out a UTI.

Overall, understanding the causes behind stool withholding is an important step in addressing the problem. By identifying the root cause, parents can develop effective strategies to help their child overcome this challenging behavior.

Some strategies that may be helpful include increasing fluids and fiber in your child’s diet, using laxatives or stool softeners as recommended by a doctor, and creating a comfortable and familiar environment for your child to use the bathroom. With patience and persistence, most children can learn to pass stool without fear or discomfort.

Strategies for Encouraging Bowel Movements

Encouraging bowel movements in toddlers can be a challenge, especially when they are holding their poop. Here are some effective strategies that can help your child overcome their fear of pooping:


Establishing a regular routine can help regulate your toddler’s bowel movements. Encourage your child to sit on the toilet at the same time every day, preferably after meals. This will help their body get into a routine and make it easier to have regular bowel movements.

Potty Training

If your toddler is already potty trained, make sure they understand that pooping in the potty is just as important as peeing. Teach them to recognize the feeling of needing to poop and encourage them to use the potty when they feel it.

Potty Seat

Using a comfortable and child-friendly potty seat can make a big difference in encouraging bowel movements. Let your child pick out their own potty seat and make it a fun and exciting experience.

Positive Reinforcement

Reward your child for successfully pooping on the potty. Use stickers, small toys, or treats as positive reinforcement. Celebrate their success and make it a big deal to encourage them to continue pooping on the potty.

Sitting on the Toilet

Encourage your child to sit on the toilet for a few minutes every day, even if they don’t feel the need to poop. This will help them get used to the feeling of sitting on the toilet and make it easier for them to poop when they need to.

Step Stool

Using a step stool can help your child feel more comfortable and secure on the toilet. This can be especially helpful for children who are afraid of falling in.

Meal Times

Make sure your child is getting enough fiber in their diet to promote healthy bowel movements. Encourage them to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also, make sure they are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.


If your child is still having trouble pooping, talk to your pediatrician about using supplements such as fiber gummies or stool softeners. These can help make bowel movements easier and less painful.

Incorporating these strategies into your toddler’s routine can help encourage regular bowel movements and overcome their fear of pooping. Remember to be patient and consistent, and always celebrate your child’s successes.

Medical Treatment Options

If your child is experiencing stool withholding, there are several medical treatment options available. Here are some of the most common ones:


Laxatives can help soften the stool and make it easier for your child to pass. There are several types of laxatives available, including osmotic, stimulant, and lubricant laxatives. However, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor before giving them any laxatives, as some laxatives may not be safe for children.

Pediatric Gastroenterologist

If your child’s stool withholding is severe or persistent, your doctor may refer you to a pediatric gastroenterologist. These doctors specialize in digestive disorders and can help diagnose and treat your child’s condition. They may recommend additional tests, such as anorectal manometry or a biopsy, to determine the underlying cause of your child’s stool withholding.

Stool Softeners

Stool softeners work by drawing water into the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. They are often used in combination with laxatives to help prevent constipation. However, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor before giving them any stool softeners, as some stool softeners may not be safe for children.

Fiber Supplements

Fiber supplements can help regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. They work by adding bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass. However, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor before giving them any fiber supplements, as some supplements may not be safe for children.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

If your child is experiencing stool withholding due to pelvic floor dysfunction, your doctor may recommend pelvic floor therapy. This type of therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles in the pelvic floor, which can help improve bowel movements. It may involve exercises, biofeedback, or electrical stimulation.

It is important to note that in some cases, stool withholding may be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, such as Hirschsprung disease or an anal fissure. Therefore, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor if you suspect that there may be an underlying medical issue.

Preventing Future Incidents

Preventing future incidents of stool withholding in toddlers involves a combination of physical and mental strategies. Here are some sub-sections that can help you in preventing future incidents.


Encourage your toddler to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to keep their stools soft and easy to pass. Avoid giving them sugary drinks, which can cause constipation.

Fiber Intake

A diet high in fiber can help prevent constipation and stool withholding. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your toddler’s diet. If necessary, talk to your pediatrician about fiber supplements.

Toilet Anxiety

If your toddler is anxious about using the toilet, try to make the experience as comfortable and positive as possible. Use a potty chair or a child-sized toilet seat, and offer praise and encouragement for using the toilet successfully.


Make sure your toddler is wearing comfortable, well-fitting underwear. Avoid tight-fitting clothes or underwear that can cause discomfort and make it harder for them to use the toilet.

Other Considerations

  • If your toddler is still wearing diapers, encourage them to use the toilet regularly and gradually transition to underwear.
  • Avoid punishment for accidents or incidents of stool withholding, as this can increase anxiety and make the problem worse.
  • Celebrate successes and consider using a sticker chart to track progress.
  • If your toddler has a health condition that contributes to stool withholding, work with your pediatrician to develop a treatment plan.
  • If your toddler is experiencing gassiness, bedwetting, urine leakage, or other related issues, talk to your pediatrician to rule out any underlying health problems.

By following these strategies, you can help prevent future incidents of stool withholding in your toddler and promote healthy bowel habits.

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