Potty Training: Problems With Bowel Movements

By Shara JJ Cooper
It can be hard to coax your toddler onto the toilet.
It can be hard to coax your toddler onto the toilet.

Toilet training a toddler can be exhausting, and many types of problems can arise. You may be hoping your tot will start defecating on the toilet as soon as possible so you don't have to clean soiled diapers. For some children, this can take months longer than learning to urinate on the toilet. Determine what the cause is, so you can overcome it and be 100 percent diaper-free.


In the majority of cases, when a child has bowel movement issues, it's due to retention. Many toddlers don't like how it feels to use the toilet when they defecate. It's unnatural after several years of using a diaper. The feces fall into the air and seem lost, or it takes too long. Boys, in particular, often do not like sitting still and waiting. They'd rather be on the go, which usually makes them have to go.


Once a child starts retaining his feces, for any reason, constipation begins to occur. This exacerbates the problem. The child feels pain and distress while defecating and doesn't want to go. If this continues, he may need to see a doctor and take laxatives. By this point, the problem has been created and it's hard to overcome. Parents have to be diligent to prevent recurring constipation so he can overcome his fears.


Children that don't want to defecate can be given a diet that is high in fiber and fluids. Consuming plenty of fruit, vegetables and water is the key to getting things moving. Prune juice or prune puree can also help a child that is constipated or has a history of constipation. This will stimulate defecation. Watch the child vigilantly over the next hour. Put her on the toilet whenever you see signs that she needs to go, such as squatting or grunting, or every 15 minutes. Sing a potty training song or rhyme to remind her of her job and create a cue. Praise her when she goes on the toilet.

Other Considerations

Not all children hold their bowel movements when toilet training. Some children run to the toilet every five minutes and try to defecate, others may be dealing with a bout of diarrhea. If your child is frequently using the toilet, consider it part of the toilet training experience and ride it out. He'll soon tire of being on the toilet and will settle into a routine. If he has diarrhea, do the best you can. Stay near the toilet and put him on it frequently. If you have just started toilet training, you may want to use diapers until he feels better. Keep him hydrated and call a doctor if the diarrhea continues for more than a week. Diarrhea can be caused by a food sensitivity, parasites or bacteria. If the diarrhea is severe, causes pain or is bloody, see a doctor right away.

About the Author

Shara JJ Cooper graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2000, and has worked professionally ever since. She has a passion for community journalism, but likes to mix it up by writing for a variety of publications. Cooper is the owner/editor of the Boundary Sentinel, a web-based newspaper.