When your kids are in diapers or potty training you have direct knowledge of their bodily functions. Then they come self-sufficient (for the most part) and you’re in the dark. I’m writing this to offer my unsolicited advice on this topic – don’t stay in the dark.

You know when you go on vacation and your eating habits are different, and you don’t “go” like you do at home? Kids get like that too, and if you go away for a while it can become a problem. But unless you ask, they might not tell you until until weeks later when it hurts so much they are crying and can’t sleep.

Welcome to two weeks of my life.

Thankfully we are done (for now) with this issue. I figured it might help a few people if I share what I’ve learned.


  1. If your child is old enough to use the bathroom on their own, but not so old they will die of embarrassment with this line of conversation, make sure you ask your child if they are pooping. My grandmother always used to ask us if our “bowels had moved” when we stayed with her. I was mortified and always said yes, regardless of the truth.
  2. If your child is old enough to die of embarrassment talk to them about what happens if they don’t poop, and encourage them to tell someone if they don’t poop at least every other day.
  3. When you’re traveling, bring along some fiber gummies to help offset the crappy food they will probably be eating.
  4. Water. Lots and lots of water.
  5. Fruits and vegetables, just like you know you should be eating.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Once you know your child is not “regular,” it’s time to jump into action. Talk to your pediatrician and come up with a game plan.Don’t wait. You need to do something to prevent this from becoming a real problem (real = kid in pain who can’t go to sleep). There are several options, and I’m not going to attempt to tell you what options make sense for your child, I’ll just tell you what we did.

For us, a stool softener helped, but not immediately. It took a couple of days before we started to see results. I was expecting something momentous, but that never happened. So it’s slow progress. In other words, don’t stop giving it to them just because you don’t see anything “big” happening.

One thing that made a big difference for us was the glycerin suppository. I was ready for an enema (let’s bring in the big guns and get this over with) but the nurse on the phone at 11pm (God bless her) told me that would be doubling up on the stool softener, so go with the suppository. You’d have thought I was asking to shove a Nerf gun up there given all the fuss, but once I convinced him it was his best option (and bribed him with iPad time) it worked. Each night we went that route it help ease the pain (after I suffered the pain of his complaints) so he could go to sleep.

Holding It

Some moms have a different issue. Their child can poop, but for whatever reason refuses to take care of business. This is a totally separate problem.  This came up recently and the moms had some great advice:

  • Have you tried bribing her? Something relatively immediate (that day) that she would really want. Screen time? New small toy? M&Ms? She poops she gets the reward, same thing tomorrow and the day after. Then maybe a larger reward (we all go to the movies?) for pooping x days in a row.
  • My oldest daughter had that problem for years (1&2). It was truly horrible, so I feel your pain! We tried Miralax daily, prunes, juice, suppositories, bribery, just about everything – nothing seemed to work. Finally, our pediatrician suggested putting a little mineral oil in her drink. Miraculously, that fixed the issue for us. I guess it just made it so she couldn’t hold it. We only had to do it once or twice and then I guess because it didn’t hurt, she got over the angst. Worth asking your pediatrician about.
  • My 2 1/2 year old is currently going through this too! I have been in tears about it. I read a couple books about it and it helped me to understand what was going on. For us right now, daily miralax, juices/water and lots of high fiber fruits is what helps to make it much harder for her to hold it in. But that isn’t news to you. With that she still goes anywhere between every 2-4 days (sometime 2 days in a row when she held it previously for 3 or 4). Everyone I have talked to (including what I have read) says it just takes time, which is not the answer I know we want to hear. But the important things is to keep her stool as soft as possible so her bowels don’t begin to stretch and lengthen. That really is all you can do- that I know of. If you find a great solution please let me know!! Sorry-not much help but wanted you to know you aren’t alone!
  • My daughter did the same thing. She is a teenager now and has no problems. We tried miralax, suppositories, etc…. it helped to give her warm baths, but the only thing that really helped was time, unfortunately.
  • We had to get our son’s still very soft. Then keep it that way with daily fiber and probiotics. After months and months, we’re on the verge of a break through. Our pediatrician just kept telling me to keep trying, keep the poop soft and give it time. It’s heart wrenching and frustrating, hang in there!
  • My son did this as well at that age. The Dr. said that at some point it had hurt him to go so it became psychological. Once they begin holding it, it enlarges the bowels, leading to more pain. The daily miralax helped, but it took several years to get over the psychological effects where he would go regularly. The dr did say that Botox shots were our next step if the miralax didn’t work
  • My oldest had this problem too. She was 2-3 when going through it. I agree, just time.