Help! My son has become frightened of doing a poo

Mum of two, Kate called Feed Play Love’s Helpline with a common problem. Her son, aged 2 years and 9 months had developed a fear of pooing in the toilet.  

This fear did not develop overnight.

As Kate told Helpline Mothercraft nurse, Chris Minogue the issues had started around six months before.

Listen to Helpline on Feed Play Love:

The problem heats up

But now, things were getting serious.

“He has a healthy appetite and eats healthy food, so I know he’s not constipated. The problem is that he holds it in for two to three days at a time and I can’t get him to poo,” says Kate.

“I can’t get him to push it out – he holds his legs together and sweats and cries every two to three days and has been going on for ages.”

The situation was becoming stressful and painful for everyone involved. 

What can I do, Kate asked Chris in despair? 


Read more about toilet training:


Take him back to safety

Chris was quick to answer. 

While Kate’s son’s behaviour was completely normal, it would take a couple of steps to correct.

First, Chris explained, Kate needed to  “take her son back to safety” by completely removing any pressure to poo.  

“For a week or two you need to say to him, when you need to do a poo, let Mummy know and we are going to give you a pull-up to do it, “says Chris.

“After you’ve tried this for a week or two, I want you to not mention the toilet or going to the toilet at all. A week or ten days with no pressure.”

Breaking the cycle of fear

If the pull-up trick doesn’t do the trick, Chris suggested the following:

“Next you need to start taking him to the toilet twice a day. Don’t mention poo or the need to poo at all. Just sit there and read him a book and stay next to him for at least five minutes,” says Chris.

Make sure he is sitting up straight and put a stool under his feet if needed. This will hopefully encourage the poo to fall out by itself and that will break the cycle of fear.”

These actions will reset the mindset which will hopefully in turn gently change the cycle of behaviour.

Sometime after that, trips to the toilet should become stress-free again. 

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