Potty training – Help my toddler wants a nappy to poo in!

Help!!! My toddler only wants to poo in a nappy!

This is a crisis many parents face when potty training their toddler. It becomes increasingly stressful when play schools require a toddler to be potty trained before being allowed to enter the school system. This places a deadline on a milestone that requires patience and tolerance and does not respond well to timelines!

Understanding the problem – Why is my child resisting making a poo on the toilet when he/she willingly makes a wee on the toilet?

  • The sensory sensation is freaky! – your toddler may be used to feeling his/her panty/underpants/nappy under his bottom when making a poo and the sudden strange sense of feeling airy down there may be something his sensory system has to get used to!
  • It’s too smelly! – your little one may have a low threshold for smells and the smell of toileting may send him into sensory overload!
  • It takes too long – why sit on the boring toilet when you can do it on the move! For an active toddler, sitting and waiting for a bowel movement can be frustrating! He may be used to having his bowel movement while moving or standing so having to sit still may be an unwanted change!
  • That’s my poo! – some children find the very idea of flushing a piece of himself away anxiety provoking!
  • It’s too sore – a painful experience from a previous bowel movement that may have been hard and sore to pass or even a splash of water on his bottom may have caused a negative memory around toileting and this may be something he needs to process before feeling brave enough to give it another go.

Try and get to the bottom of why your child is having a hard time transitioning to making his poo on the potty or toilet. Talk a lot about it, draw pictures about the whole experience with him and play it out with action figures, dolls and teddies and in this way try get to the bottom of the problem!!! Excuse the pun!

What can I try to support my child?

Patience…patience…patience!!! Try your best not to get irritated or visibly frustrated with your toddler. This will only hamper the process. If your toddler is having this difficulty and seems to be a sensory sensitive child (i.e. dislikes loud noises, gags easily on strange food textures, gets easily car sick, is fearful of heights, doesn’t respond well to changes in routine etc.), he may be a child who needs time to adjust to changes. He may thus need a more gradual approach to this big milestone. If he is asking you for a nappy to make his poo then try these steps to break down the transition to the toilet more tolerable:
1. Insist that he stand in the toilet when making his poo. So give him his nappy and then tell him that the rule is we have to make our poo in the bathroom. Don’t force him to sit on the potty or toilet but let him do his business in the correct room. So no more hiding behind the lounge curtains!

2. Once he is no longer resisting you on this new rule (give it a few days or even 2 weeks if needs be – remember patience is the golden key to success!) then make the new rule that he has to sit on the potty or the toilet while he makes his poo. He can still keep his nappy securely on. During this step and step 2, involve him in the clean up – open his nappy and drop his parcel into the toilet, making a big fuss of saying goodbye and flushing it down the loo. If he is sensitive to the smells, then let him help you choose and buy a toilet freshener which can help. If he is scared of the loud flushing noise, ask him “must I flush the toilet or must you?” then count 1,2,3 and flush it. The closed choice will offer him some control over this action and will thereby help him tolerate the loud noise.

3. Again wait until he is comfortable in the routine of step 2 before changing to step 3. In this step, do not fasten the nappy as tightly and securely. Leave it looser and hopefully as he makes a heavy poo it may even fall off a bit! But it will also allow some air in between the nappy and his bottom, giving him the chance to get used to this weird new sensation.

4. Break the tape off the nappy and say that it’s broken so you can’t fasten it, make sure it’s sitting loosely and that there is now a definate gap between his nappy and his bum!

5. Hopefully by now you can try persuade him to try without his nappy! Remember the basics of potty training – let him watch and see you, other family members and friends going to the toilet. Ensure that he is getting enough fluids and fiber as well as exercise to promote healthy bowel movements. Make time 10-30 minutes after food to spend some time encouraging toilet time – keep some special toys that can only be played with when sitting on the toilet to motivate busy and active toddlers to stay put for a while. Use sticker charts and rewards systems to motivate progress.

Lastly, don’t be in too much of a rush to get him out of nappies – he will make the transition to underpants more smoothly and with fewer lasting effects if he can do this at his own pace. You can, however, encourage him along the way. If he is not able to communicate his toileting needs to you by the time he is 3 years old (i.e. tell you when he needs to or has made a wee or a poo, even if he’s not quite ready to use a potty or the toilet) there may be an underlying reason. This reason may be physical, in which case a visit to your Paediatrician may give you some answers. If the underlying cause is emotional or sensory, a consultation with a Psychologist or a sensory trained Occupational Therapist may help you understand and help your little adventurer through this area of difficulty.

Good luck on your potty duty!

Lourdes xoxo

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