Q&A: pooping to avoid napping

Happy New Year!

Heather writes:

"I am not sure if this is a problem others have run into or not, but my
10 month old daughter has been pooping a lot lately either 20-30
minutes in her naps or right after I put her down she wakes up and
poops, thereby ending the nap. This is a typical day all of a
sudden: 20 mins into a nap I hear her babbling away in her crib, not
crying and wait and wait thinking she’ll fall asleep, because she
*must* be tired, right? Well, 45 minutes go by and I finally decide to
go check on her and the smell of poop hits me the second I walk into
the room.  I couldn’t sleep with poop in my pants either, so I feel bad
and change her diaper.  By this point, she is in no frame of mind to go
back to sleep so we go downstairs and play until she seems tired enough
to try again.  We go through the whole routine, I nurse her to sleep,
plop her into the crib, close the door gently behind me and I hear,
"bah? bah! mamamama!" and it starts all over.  I check 10 mins later
and she pooped again!  This has been going on consistently for three
days now.  Is she doing this on purpose?  Could she possibly have
control over her bowels and be avoiding naps? I should mention she has
a very solid routine and normally takes two 1 hr 20min long naps on the
2-3-4 schedule that you sometimes talk about.  Oh, and she usually
poops *after* she naps or when she wakes up in the morning.  So, this
is totally out of character for her, but becoming a new routine that I
feel I can count on, unfortunately."

I feel bad laughing, but that was my first reaction, because I’m a 12-year-old boy sometimes.

I think the pooping has more to do with the nursing than with the napping. Many many many babies poop after they nurse, and it sounds like something about her digestive pattern has changed to make her poop shortly after nursing. (Why do the baby books not tell you that your kid’s poop patterns often change right after a growth or digestive spurt? Both of my kids were like clockwork, with a new pooping pattern after the 3-week, 6-week, 3-month, and 6-month growth spurts. It’s totally normal, but I get a surprising number of emails from people who are concerned when their kids go from 6 times a day to once a day, or something like that, and you’d think one of the big-name doctors would have thought to put that down.)

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if part of the big 8-9-month sleep regression had something to do with digestion, or if the increased movement around this age changed pooping patterns, or something like that.

Anyway, the point is that I think the trick is going to be to figure out how to get her to poop either before she nurses down, get her to nurse and poop and then fall asleep, or some other possibility.

You’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place, because the whole point of nursing her down is that it always works like a charm, and why mess with something that works so well? But if she only goes down but doesn’t stay down, then your beautiful system isn’t working so well anyway.

In your shoes, I’d do pretty much whatever I had to to figure out how not to stop the nursing to sleep (having had a child who would not nurse down for naps and one who did, I really think nursing down makes everything so much easier for everyone because it’s pretty much a guarantee). I wonder if you could mess around with the solids you’re feeding her to see if you could get her to eat some poop-inducers at non-nap times to see if that would leave her without anything to poop out during naps. Raisins, pureed prunes, and squash were big poop-producers in my apartment. (Also, if I drank coffee–even decaf–and then nursed, both my boys would poop. Go figure.)

That’s all I can think of, other than trying to get her to stay awake until she poops and then get her down, which makes me feel exhausted even thinking about the logistics. Of. (Some bad grammar for the new year. Did I mention I have some sort of illness that has left me with no voice today? It must be affecting the sentence-writing part of my brain.) OTOH, if you’ve been trying to get out of nursing to sleep for the nap, this is the perfect time to do that.

Any comment help?