Q&A: poop problems

Today we have two vastly different poop problems, neither of which I have any magic for.

Kim writes:

"My 2 1/2 year old is just about potty trained...the only time she wears a diaper is occasionaly to  poop in which case she requests a diaper.  She has pooped on the potty but is leary of it for that purpose.  The problem we have run into is that now she gets the urge to go but stops herself.  She doesn't really want to put a diaper on nor sit down on her potty.  So now she is constipated and afraid of going because she knows it's going to hurt...sigh.  It's awful.  We did a little google research and came up with a name for this "condition", functional fecal retention.  As it is now she has not pooped in 5 days and she says her belly and her bum hurt.  Again, it's awful.  So what do i do...the poor thing is afraid to poop!  I know I have to get things to be... umm easier to exit.  But is that going to solve it?  Help...!"

I get this question every once in awhile and really don't know how to solve it. It happened to a preschool friend of ours, and eventually his doctor put him on a stool softener so it would never hurt when he pooped. It still took him the better part of 6 months to get back into the habit of pooping without holding back.

I think the first step is to give her more fiber and cut out the binding things in her diet (rice, bananas, apple, Veggie Booty, and dairy) to make it easier for her to poop. If that helps, then you're home-free and just need to maintain no pressure on her to poop where she doesn't want to until she's ready to. If it doesn't help, then you're goign to ahve to turn this over to your pediatrician and see if s/he can refer you to a poop specialist who really knows what to do about this problem.

Elise writes:

"My son is four and a half months old, and he has been sleeping through the night (7pm to 5:54/6am) for a month.  He usually has one bowel movement a day, and these used to typically happen in the mid morning. But for the last four nights, he has awakened crying at 4am with a dirty diaper.  His poop is normal, but it obviously bothers him too much to go back to sleep.  After we changed him, he struggles with going back to sleep.  Do you have any suggestions to get him to poop during the day?"

This is going to sound completely and utterly insane, but my one suggestion is for you to drink a cup of coffee (regular or decaf) and then nurse him half an hour later. (Assuming you're nursing.) For some reason, some babies seem to react to the coffee in their mothers' systems the same way most adult men react to drinking a cup of coffee. If it works for your son, then you've pretty much figured out how to time his poop.

Overall, though, many kids change pooping patterns when they hit a growth spurt. (Each of mine changed pooping patterns entirely when they hit the 3 week, 6 week, 3 month, and 6 month growth spurts. It was very strange.) It's possible that your son is going through some kind of growth spurt right now and will go back to what he was doing before in a few days. I certainly hope so, because waking up to change a diaper when your baby would otherwise (let you) sleep through is downright unconscionable.

I hope the coffee works.