Sunday, October 05, 2008

So maybe I'm not crazy

Me here. Still talking about poop. Thinking about poop. Poop is my life.

You know, I've been searching the far reaches of the Internet for about two months now trying to figure out how to get my son to poop. Here are some of the things I've learned:

1. He's not pooping because he is afraid to poop (we know he has no physical problems).
2. High doses of Miralax or other laxatives may make it impossible to hold the poop in, but it will not cure him of his withholding problem, which means he may have to be on laxatives for a long time (read: years).
3. This is not something that is cured easily.

However, the most fascinating (and weirdly comforting) thing I have read now in two places is that parents that are dealing with this issue find it to be excruciatingly difficult. Difficult enough that they need to seek marital counseling. Difficult enough that the daily routine of their lives (what they do, where they go, what they talk about) is profoundly changed. I will list two quotes that I found noteworthy:

"Most people (including most pediatricians) cannot understand how difficult it is to get through each day in a household where there is a child withholding poop. For two years, my son did a straight-legged, backing-into- the-wall, screaming dance as he tried to hold it in. He could not eat, play or rest comfortably. Besides my son, I have a developmentally-delayed daughter and most of what she went through did not compare to the strain of trying to help my son." - mother reviewing the book It Hurts When I Poop! on

Then there was this one:

[Constipation] is cause of great anxiety, distress and pain for children and their families, but seems to be downplayed by professionals. I see visible relief when families find somebody who is taking their concerns seriously. Constipation devastates the lives of children and their families.

For example, one of my patients is a boy who has a serious heart defect that needs open-heart surgery. He came to our clinic because of constipation, which responded to treatment very quickly. At his next appointment his mother was delighted and said that treating the constipation had changed their lives beyond their wildest dreams. She mentioned that the commonest topic that was discussed at the parents support group for children with heart problems was in fact constipation. They are dealing with their children's heart problems just fine; it's the constipation that drives them crazy. - Anthony Cohn, Constipation, Withholding and Your Child

OK, so I'm not saying that it would be better if my child had a heart problem, but I do find solace (in some weird twisted way) that what we are going through isn't a small thing. It's a BIG problem. And it has nothing to do with potty training. As I have learned from reading many, many articles on stool withholding and encopresis, children who withhold are already toilet trained. It's not about getting him to poop on the potty. It's about getting him to poop period.

And if you saw my son tonight screaming to be left alone, twisting his legs, erecting his body, standing on tip toe, trying as hard as he could NOT to let the poop leave his body every 15 minutes all. day. long (I kid you not) you would see what it looks like for a child to be in terrible fear and pain over something that is not really painful at all. But these children live in fear every day. It's a phobia. And it's horrible.

So goes Day 5 with no poop.


Blogger Kyla said...

You aren't crazy! It is hard!

5 days. I'm so sorry.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Mary-LUE said...

I'm glad you are finding some comfort in the experiences of others... and it makes perfect sense to me, that you would find comfort in the validation of just how difficult all of this is.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Feener said...

yes 5 days is normal here for my sass, she is 4 and still has problems, she holds it forever. i already commented but i can't help to comment again b/c it really does take a lot out of the family. she holds it in and that actually causes her to not pee and hold that in, to the point where she pees her pants. it is such a horrible cycle. i finally stopped the miralax b/c she was on it for too long. i did proboitics which helped. i just try to get fruit in her, but every day is a battle. the hardest days are about 3 days in when she is fightning going and her whole personality is off

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

Lately this is my biggest fear for my 6-month-old, who will not poop unassisted. Even though he's breast fed, and apparently not constipated, and more than sufficiently hydrated. I know this is peanuts compared to what you're dealing with, but he's been on Miralax already for weeks - without it, he's gone 11 days with no poop, and I'm afraid of seeing how much longer he would go. I was afraid of "withholding" before I knew the word for it. I know that this will get better for you and your son, but I know that day can't come soon enough.
Before I had a baby, I'd heard countless comments about what happens afterward: All new parents do is talk about babies and baby poop. Now I know the truth -- it isn't that we want to talk, think, or hear about the babies' poop. It's just the only way to figure out what the hell is wrong with them!

2:58 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Feener: I know what you mean about their personality being off. It's like you have a completely different child once they get the poop out! Have you tried Natural Calm for Kids? That is a magnesium supplement that is supposed to be very safe and is quite effective in softening stools. I tried it a couple months ago and it worked well but we found that the dosage he needed to get his stools liquidy also caused him some vomiting (we were giving 4X the dosage) but I will probably still try to use a smaller dose in combination with Miralax or other things like prune juice in hopes that i will be able to rely less on the miralax.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Leslie, I am so sorry you are dealing with this as well. I wouldn't wish this on anyone! I have heard that stool withholding can start in infancy. I hope that this resolves for your son very soon.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Does anyone who has a child with this problem have any tips for "forcing" them (without forcing them of course) into a squatting or sitting position in order to go? When my son gets the urge to go, he stands up and holds it in, but if he is forced into a sitting or squatting position he will let out major poops because he CAN'T hold it in. Like today, he was sitting in his booster chair at the table eating lunch and he started crying to get down (he can't get out of the chair by himself). He was screaming to get down because he had to poop and he wanted to run off to hide and withhold. I didn't let him down and a medium sized one came out. He was still trying to hold it in but it was harder to do it. Anyways, it was just lucky but I'm thinking that one of the keys for us is to get him into the physical position where he can't hold it. Easier said than done!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Feener said...

i have not tried the magn. thing.

my daughter DID start in infancy, she pooped once a week from the day she was born. she went 10 days once, i brought her to a specialist and he said if she is breastfeed (which she was) that it was not uncommon. she did not have HARD poops, her poops were fine, she just went once a week.

as for squatting. i haven't tried this but i am going to as i think of it. laying them down (make it a game) and bicycle their legs ??? this is what they told me to do with her when young, might help now as well - right ??

we need a website dedicated to this problem. i just had my younger ones bday at MY GYM, and my older one pissed herself right there in the middle of the circle. she does this b/c she doens't want to poop ???

3:39 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Feener: Yeah, we totally do need a website. Being able to exchange ideas with other parents going through this would be invaluable. If only I had the time I would do it.

That sucks about the peeing thing. I have heard that many children with pooping problems also have peeing problems. As if one weren't bad enough. Hang in there. here is my email address if you ever want to chat offline - mommy605(at)hotmail(dot)com

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

I know exactly what you're going thru. I had the same problem with my 3 year old. She peed in the potty before she turned 3 but the poop was always a problem. If she had a diaper on, she would go but if she didn't, she would hold it in for hours. Potty training was hell. She would cry and there were times I would cry with her b/c I tried everything also. Miralax, Children's laxative, prune juice and even suppositories. it was horrible.

The only thing that worked was that her 5 year old cousin was here with us for 2 weeks (this past July) and showed my daughter there was nothing to be afraid of. Before she went back home, she was totally potty trained.

Give lots of water and fiber.. Keep on with the miralax too.. That worked for my daughter.

Good luck to you.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anthony Cohn said...


I know where you are coming from- I wrote the book. It breaks my heart to read what you are going through because usually this is straight-forward to treat. Shame you can't come to see me in England.
The basic thing is to get the poo coming out easily- regardless of what goes in- ignore the medicine bottle-look at the nappy. Whatever dose you need is the one to give.
He should be able to go easily and comortably. Try not to be scared of the laxatives. I think the commonest reason or treatment failure is misplaced laxative phobia.

The favoured laxative in England is called Movicol - likely to have a different name in the states. Obviously avoid enemas or suppositories.

Once he is going easily and comfortably he will be a changed child and you a changed mother.

ERIC in the UK has a 'self help' page- this could be useful.

good luck

Anthony Cohn

2:25 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Hello Mr. Cohn,

I am so honored to get a comment from you! Thank you SO much for your wonderful book. It is the only one that I found that really discussed withholding/constipation in a way that sounded like what we were going through.

I, too, wish I were in England to come see you! On the bright side, we have had great progress over the last week which I will post on soon in an update.

Best to you,

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Cristina


Keep strong and keep it up.


2:29 AM  
Anonymous Anthony Cohn said...

Brilliant News

Hope it continues

Don't let your foot off the gas

Best Wishes


2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a short period of time when my daughter went through this. I did a ton of reading. For whatever reason one of the things I read really stood out -- it said that some kids are LITERALLY scared that when they poop it's a part of their body falling off.

I can totally see how a 3 year old might think that. I don't think I'd poop either!

Which doesn't make it any easier for YOU, but I thought I'd share.

Oh, and did you rig the Word Verification for this post? COLOGIC? As in, replace one letter and you have COLONIC?!? Funny stuff.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally I found a site with people who are going through what I am. My daughter now 5 started holding at 3, when her potty training started. After many months mineral oil and stool softener she began to go on her own, no problems! But she started kindergatern this year, and her half sister moved in with us and our lives have been turned upside down. And she has started holding again. We have been giving her laxtives, and she loves fruits and vegtables. This time I am going to try a hands off approach, my mom said "tell her is she goes in her pants she will be grounded". So I did tell her and then I backed off. I have no idea if it will work or not, but I sure hope so. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Hi All,

I am starting a Yahoo Group for parents with children dealing with this issue. Please leave a comment with your email address if you want to join the Yahoo Group or email me at mommy605(at)hotmail(dot)com

3:49 PM  
Blogger shilpa said...

do include me in your yahoo group. my one year and eight month old daughter has started witholding stools and even though we have started treating her with homeopathy, it is very stressful for her. i would like to know more about this from other moms.

my email id is

many thanks

1:14 AM  
Blogger Lotta said...

Wow that is rough! My sister in laws son did the same thing. Then when he would poop he would hide it. Stick it in the heating registers! Guess how they figured that out. PU!

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Denise said...

PLEASE do NOT punnish a child for holding! (I'm referring to the comment from a parent that said she would ground her child....) The child really has no control. Anxiety and fear is likely the cause and you will make matters worse. Please get psychological help... it might be difficult to find a doctor in your area that can help. My daughter saw a doctor in Charlotte, NC and she was free from "holding" after just a few sessions. I know how painful and frustrating it is to live with a holder. Please be supportive and compassionate towards your child... whatever they are feeling is very real and you need to be strong for them. Your pediatrician and family and friends will give you lots of advice... wrong advice (however, their intentions are to be helpful). My daughter was on Miralax for 3 years.... lot's of it! It did not harm her... don't be afraid to use it. Eventually, she was old enough (3+ yrs old) for therapy and that was the end of it. Good Luck! Denise

5:39 PM  

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