A Few Things I Learned About Toddler Poop

It’s been a long couple of months for us health wise. Em has been sick on and off since December. Earaches, asthma and constipation have had Toby Joe and I at a loss for what to do next. It’s been a great big guessing game. We’re guessing more now than we were when he was first born, something I didn’t think was possible.

I wrote about Em’s constipation a while ago. We received a great number of suggestions and we’ve tried many of them. It’s really about elimination so it takes a lot of time and can produce a great deal of mistakes along the way.

I’m a little uncomfortable writing about this solely because it’s about someone other than me. The older Em gets, the more and more I feel that discussing his personal information is just plain unfair. But I also feel that bringing such things to light can help another mother and father in need. I was also really shocked to discover just how common constipation is for toddlers. 

So, here goes nothing. (But if I freak out and take this post down in a few hours, you’ll know why.) One thing is for sure, this is the last you’ll likely read about it on here. 

Bananas and Apples

Bananas and apples are very fibrous. I know. Everyone knows that! What I did not know, however, was how they work. Apparently, they take double the amount of water for someone to digest. (Something having to do with using two water molecules for their every one. I dunno. I was on about two hours of sleep whenever my doctor explained it to me. Plus, my son was screaming on the top of his lungs at the time.) So, if your kid is like mine and loves apples and bananas, make sure that they’re drinking a LOT of water. And up until recently my son didn’t drink very much water, so we had to cut bananas and apples from his diet.


Too much milk causes constipation. The hard part is trying to figure what “too much” means for each kid. I was told that 15 – 17 ounces of milk is OK but 20 and more is too much. But that difference seems so small! Nevertheless, cutting down on the milk has been very hard for us because Em loves his milk. 


Wheat (and wheat allergies) can lead to constipation and, in our case, that’s probably been the culprit. We’ve been feeding Em whole grains and whole wheat and both are extremely fibrous. So, the whole wheat bread I’ve been diligently baking for him might be a little too fibrous for his tummy, which is pretty ironic. When it comes to Em’s digestive system, it probably would have been better all along had we been feeding him the nutrition-less white bread you often find in stores. 

The thing is, I always thought wheat allergy meant loose poop. Have I been wrong with that assumption? I have no problem whatsoever with wheat, so this is all very new to me. (Any insight here would be very helpful.)


Antibiotics cause diarrhea. Most everyone knows this, but oh my goodness

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria, but they don’t know the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff. So, they end up killing both. The balance gets thrown off and loose stools are a result. Another result? Smell-less poop! (Which is kind of awful, because scent has always been my cue!)

Suppositories and Laxatives

A few days before Em was diagnosed with asthma, he’d been more constipated than ever before. While we were at the doctor having his chest and ears looked at, we discussed constipation as well. She suggested that we start on Miralax but not until after he was finished with the antibiotics. She suggested in the meantime that we use a glycerin suppository to loosen things up. 

The next morning, I gave Em a suppository. Nothing happened.

That night, still nothing. But he was growing increasingly more uncomfortable and let us know by arching his back and screaming. On top of all this, both ears were bursting and he was having trouble breathing. At 9 PM, I called the doctor. 

I got in touch with another doctor this time and she gave me a different set of directions. She suggested that I start him on Miralax immediately even though he had just begun the antibiotics. Her biggest concern was that if we don’t get the constipation issue worked out (and the screaming and pain under control) he’d develop a roadblock when it comes to potty training (which we’ve begun but not militantly so). 

I gave him Miralax on top of the phantom suppository.

The following morning everything changed. Let’s just say that I ran four loads of laundry, mopped the floor twice. He had three baths, and the carpet in his bedroom had to be scrubbed and disinfected. German fetish jokes were exchanged between Toby Joe and myself (why we pick on Germany when it comes to poop fetishes, I haven’t the slightest clue).


My kids loves veggies, so we’re lucky here. He will consume an adult-sized portion of broccoli. He loves spinach, peas, carrots, and green beans. We upped these items drastically as of late in hopes of making things easier on him (and us). We’re also offering him more scrambled eggs and a lot more fruits (with the exception of apples and bananas.) I am very much looking forward to berry season which is right around the corner.

Looking Back

I was elbow-deep in poop last week. In fact, just yesterday when I picked Em up from school, he was wearing all new clothes. I was handed not one, but two bags of clothing, which meant he went through the clothes I sent him to school in, his backup pair and was sent home wearing another boy’s backup outfit.

I’m still not sure that we have things figured out yet especially since the antibiotics have pretty much thrown all results out the window. I imagine that there will be some more guessing before we really get it worked out. All I know is that watching your child scream while he or she is trying to use the bathroom is no fun. 

Please feel free to discuss poop, lack of poop, or whatever tickles your fancy.


  1. This post, to me, is just one of the many wonderful things about blogging. I know this sounds funny, but I am dead serious.

    One of my good friends has a daughter who has had all sorts of poop related issues. It has been horrible for her. I have tried to be a good friend, but I am far away and I have no children of my own. But because of posts like this – and from other people who have had the same problem – my friend has not felt so alone. She has been able to read about other mom’s situations and not feel so isolated. Awesome. Blogging is awesome.

    And, as a person who wants children someday in the future, I feel like thanks to people like you and other blogs I am going to be a little bit more prepared. And as someone who is prone to feeling lonely and depressed, I will know that others are out there – even if they are out there in cyperspace somewhere. That makes me happy.

    So even though I don’t have any suggestions or stories about toddler poop, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your stories about toddler poop….

    (And for Murray, of course).


  2. about the potential wheat allergy…if you really think this might be the culprit try a gluten free diet for a couple of weeks.
    also do some reading about Celiac Disease –
    http://www.celiac.com would be my suggestion on where to start. Celiac is usually diagnosed as a tot or a young adult (I was dxd when I was 22). GF diets are not hard to get used to..and with the MomItDown-ing think you could make the adjustment well. But a wheat allergy does not alway suggest Celiac but there is no harm in knowing more! Good luck!


  3. Wheat Allergies somehow became trendy over the past few years. I think it has to do with a justification of the Atkins diet or something.

    A lot of people like to claim they have them; most don’t. If you have a wheat allergy, you’ll exhibit things like itchy skin, asthma, etc — it just triggers an allergic reaction, some very severe, others not.

    But if you do the digging, you’ll find out that someone is considerably more likely to be allergic to peanuts than to wheat.

    In terms of Celiac Disease, it’s a specific disorder that is triggered by wheat gluten. It’s not an allergy, but something like an intolerance/autoimmune thing. It’s also newly trendy, especially in NYC. I’ve met so many girls who have Celiac and live in Park Slope/Carrol Gardens, it has become a joke.

    I can’t remember which factor, but the chances of having Celiac disease are something like 5-10x less likely than to have a matured allergy to peanuts. And everyone is so scared of peanut allergies, right? In reality It affects only 1/300 adults. It is more prevalent in children , but they grow out of it — and they’re not ‘super allergic’ like the adults who can die from contact/ingestion.

    I don’t mean to sound mean – just factual. I truly hope that Emory is 100% healthy – and I wanted to illustrate that the numbers suggest this is most likely the case. And while you should get your child tested for everything, you shouldn’t worry about the trendy new disease.

    That being said, my friend Sarah was diagnosed with Crohns Disease last year, which is pretty rare. I shouldn’t manifest itself in children… but if he’s having reactions to certain foods at a later age it may be a good idea to keep that in the back of the mind for the future.


  4. I actually don’t think he’s allergic to wheat at all. I just think he has a hard time digesting whole wheat and high fiber. I should probably rephrase this post to say as much. As it’s written, it does suggest that I think he has a wheat allergy.

    I don’t.

    I also don’t think dairy is a culprit as much as many, many folks wish to suggest. All I know is that when we tried soy, he was the gassiest, most unhappy baby ever. (Plus, we are concerned about soy milk and its possible link to endocrine problems.)

    I think we just need a happy medium. He was eating way too much wheat (the whole stuff) and not enough liquids or greens. Plus, he was eating a lot of apples. (Kid actually chews them up whole.)

    But taking away Em’s milk is up there with taking a gun from an NRA member.


  5. You know I’ve been there. I’ve been there with the extra clothes at preschool and the massive loads of laundry and mopping the floors…more times than I care to remember. They aren’t the toddler years, they’re the “poop” years. But things do get better as they get older. I think some little kids have a harder time maturing their digestive systems than others.

    It shocked me too how little we know about this bodily function we are all intimately involved with…but with all the books and websites for moms, it is shocking how little practical info is out there about kids. (This has brought a few ideas related to other things we’ve been talking about…I’ll email you directly in a minute.)

    You’re on the right track, you’re working hard to educate yourself and incorporate the things you learn. Parenting is all about trial and error. When you get through this, you’ll have to deal with discipline and behavior. That’s another doozy right around the corner that takes a lot of patience, trial and error.


  6. Is he lactose intolerant? I know this seems really obvious, but I was talking to my mom about this earlier (because of my friends daughter) and she mentioned that my brother had lots of digestive issues when he was a toddler. My mom (who is a dietician) tried everything and then the pediatrician suggested he might be lactose intolerant. He went on special milk (without lactose) and he his digestive issues went away. Well, that is, unless he drinks regular milk. Then they come back – and even though he is now 24 and STILL lactose intolerant he will drink regular milk if he is all out of the special stuff. Because the kid likes milk (I think he also likes the attention he gets…).

    A friend of ours went undiagnosed with a lactose intolerance for most of his life. Doctors were so concerned they gave him a colonoscopy at the age of 19. They finally figured out it was just a simple lactose intolerance. Poor dude.

    Good luck with Em. Kid is too cute to have an upset stomach all the time!


  7. Poor Em. It’s amazing how fast digestive issues become topic #1 when you have kids: we have a 6 week old with recurrent constipation, and i just spent the afternoon doing all manner of things to get him moving again. pausing now for a few deep breaths and a strong tranquilizer (kidding! unfortunately.) before starting to clean up the aftermath.

    i’m sure you already know this, but since you didn’t mention it — are you giving him probiotics of some kind? The antibiotics are going to kill all the digestive flora and make the problem even worse. some yogurt, or those tasty little probiotic drinks, will help.

    good luck. i can only imagine what’s coming — it must be so much worse when he can *tell* you it hurts.


  8. You are not alone! I remember the first time my baby had “solids” at 6 months. We fed him rice cereal and then bananas. Why do they tell parents to do this? It caused two days of SCREAMING when he pooped. Truly awful.

    The literature online said that *technically* he wasn’t constipated. Not constipated, my butt. As soon as he switched to oatmeal and pears the screams went away.


  9. I’ll just throw in that we’ve just experienced the same thing on antibiotics – very loose stools and no smell. Very frustrating to have your little one running around poopy and not know because there is no stink.


  10. Lack of smell? So frustrating! Even more so because the ladies at his school didn’t realize it (twice) and, well, let’s just say that he was screaming in pain last night for other reasons. (You should not leave a toddler sitting in his own poop for too long. That’s all I’ll say.)

    How do we make it out unscathed?


  11. Diaper cream called “Triple Paste” work the BEST for this type of problem.


  12. Ah yes, the good old poop issues.

    Our son had major pooping issues when he was going through his chemo. One time, he went 10 days without pooping, and that’s with heavy doses of laxatives, etc.

    Not fun. Not fun at all.


  13. Oh, it’s awesome to have celiac disease labeled “trendy.” I do hope that Jonathan avoids telling anyone with the disease how trendy they are, to their face. He might get slapped.

    CD affects 1% of the population, which is why it seems to be common all of the sudden. It IS common. It’s also a pain in the butt to manage, pun intended.

    Anway: worth testing for, probably not the issue here.


  14. My strongest suggestion would be probiotics. You can get drops for kids (Bio-Gaia) or give him yogurt. Lochren had awful constipation when I stopped nursing him and lemme tell ya, I was a pro with the suppositories, there was no other way to help him.
    Once I started him on the drops things turned ‘normal.’ His formula poops actually looked just like breast milk poops. Once he was old enough for yogurt I gave him at least one serving per day and I’ve not needed any suppositories for him since.
    My kids were both very sensitive to soy, too. Theya grew out of it at about 2 years, I haven’t tried it with Lochren yet.
    Good luck, hon.


  15. I would really suggest looking into the possibility of celiac disease. It can manifest itself in toddlers. And it is not trendy at all. Those of us who have it have probably suffered for many years before being diagnosed. I was diagnosed with it when I was 26. As a kid I was always constipated. Always. I always had issues.

    There were whole periods of time when my stomach could only handle potato chips and ice cream. I was tested for everything else but everything was always fine. I dropped to 85 pounds in college but somehow managed to gain it back by eating the chips and ice cream.

    Celiac disease is NOT a wheat allergy. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the intestines when a person ingests grains with gluten-that includes wheat, rye, barley and most brands of oats. The result can be malnourishment because the intestines become damaged and therefore unable to absorb nutrients from food. I was always tired as a kid and a young adult, never able to keep up with kids my age and always felt fuzzy-brained. I am 29 and have osteopenia from my body being unable to absorb calcium and nutrients for so many years. In fact, the doctors who treated me for the osteopenia thought that I was anorexic as a teenager–that’s how badly the malnourishment from celiac manifested itself. It’s no joke.

    Yes, some people follow the gluten free diet because they think it will help them lose weight. But those of us who are celiac follow it out of necessity.

    If you decide to try the gluten free diet with Emory you’ll need to do it right. Gluten can hide in so many ingredients. I would suggest visiting some websites and learning about it before you try a gluten free diet.

    Best of luck to you and your family.


  16. I had NO idea that it caused constipation! Thanks everyone, for all the information!


  17. If you’re interested in learning about celiac, this is the definitive book (by a guy who is at Columbia — his treatment center there is great):



  18. I know this might not add much to the conversation, but I just wanted to share. Adeline has been constipated lately, and it has actually HELPED with the potty training. When she’s constipated she goes into a squatting position to try and go anyway, and sometimes there’s just no room in her diapers for those…rocks. So she will ask to sit on the potty and she’ll stay there for quite awhile until she has some success. I feel so badly for her while she’s sitting there, because she’s in pain, but it makes her so proud when she’s done.


  19. Sorry, had to correct this:

    “I can’t remember which factor, but the chances of having Celiac disease are something like 5-10x less likely than to have a matured allergy to peanuts.”

    This is incorrect. Celiac is approximately -twice- as common as peanut allergies are, actually.

    I will now stop being annoyed that someone is being wrong on the internet. :-)


  20. So glad to hear that Emory is on his way to feeling better. (A wheat intolerance–I would never have guessed!) Ellie struggled with this when we first started solids and thankfully it’s long behind us now. It was no fun.

    This afternoon we’re on our way to getting our second opinion about tubes in her ears (six ear infections in eight months, last three of which have been double). You’ll have to keep us posted on Em’s ears as well!


  21. I know this has been a couple of weeks but as a mom who’s daughter is 33 months old and has been “holding” her poop for at least 9 months I both feel for you and am a little jealous. Riley isn’t constipated, that I can fix she’s scared because of one hard, difficult and painful BM. I repeat ONE. We can’t even attempt potty training because everytime she feels like a BM is coming she runs away from us for “privacy” and crosses her legs, and holds onto her bookshelf, the dining room table ,the wall whatever she’s near to help hold her poop. She has gotten so good at it that sometimes we don’t even realize thats why she’s disappeared. After a couple of days without a BM she begins to “leak” and then the terrible rash begins. So not only do we have random tummyaches but we also have a terrible rash just at her anus that hurts her so bad she refuses to let me clean what residue leaks out(I’m so sorry for TMI but its so difficult to handle and I know that others have to be dealing w/this too). Her little butt starts to hurt so much (from the pressure and rash I assume)that she can’t sit on it anymore so she’ll sit on her legs and lean to the side, forget going anywhere because she screams bloody murder if we try to put her in the carseat since there’s no way for her to be comfortable in it. We used Miralax prescribed by her doctor for much longer than I’d care to admit until I found out that it had not been approved for children under 16 and I really started researching it and have decided I’ll never use it again. I have not tried suppositories because with her issues with her butt now I’m afraid I’ll never be able to get near her again and I have heard from several doctors that it is very humiliating for some children and causes even more “holding” which I feel is the category that Riley would fit into. Riley cannot stand meat and loves veggies and fruit and grains so you would think she would be the most regular child but she had lots of tummy issues as an infant and I sometimes wonder if this stems from the gas pain and constipation she suffered then. I found Fiber Chews by PediaLax and that didn’t fool her one bit. Which I admit they tasted nothing like the other fruit chews in the store. She tried 2 and the second one she spit into my hand and I later found the first one on the kitchen counter, at least she let me see she didn’t eat it. I’ve ordered something called Fiberrific that is supposed to be all natural and completely water soluble, tasteless and can be added to anything at all food or drink. Its been 3 weeks and I haven’t received it so I’m hoping it comes any day and is the answer to our prayers. If we just keep her BMs soft enough that she can’t hold it then I think we can overcome her fear but its just getting her to have enough regular poops to realize they don’t hurt. She claims to know that they haven’t hurt since that one time but I know she’s too scared and I just keep getting more frustrated. That’s the main reason for this post I’m at my wits end she’s missed 2 birthday parties, too many play dates to count and 2 weeks ago we were at my father’s to help plant the garden,something she’s been waiting to do for ages and has been so excited about, and she spent the entire afternoon inside with me reading to her because she needed to poop and couldn’t keep running in and out so she finally just stayed in. I can’t stand seeing her in pain any longer and I feel like she’s missing out on so much already that I want to try everything possible to take care of this poop fear to end this. If your child is scared to poop there’s no way you can even consider beginning potty training. I thought maybe she wasn’t pooping because she didn’t like how it felt in her diaper but trying to sit her on the potty chair and then the insert on the toilet only made her scream and cry more. I’ve resorted to holding her in my lap and restraining her from crossing her legs while rubbing her lower abdomen when I’ve caught her in time but I can’t do that to her either. I don’t want to cause damage to her psyche, but I also don’t want her to damage her “elimination parts” either. I’m so sorry for the long post but I’m desperate for any ideas to help my little boo. She’s so smart and funny and people already think she’s 4yrs old because of her vocabulary and communication skills and I’m afraid that this will cause her some embarassing comments because people will think she should be farther along than she is just because they think she’s older.


  22. hi shannon g, did you find out any solution for your daughter’s problem. My 21 month old son is going through same thing now. He is scared to poop after one hard poop. No matter how loose the poop is he just holds it in. I thing it has to be so runny that he can’t hold it. Do you have any suggestions? I know this is kind of old post but if anyone has any idea or suggestions i will really appreciate it. I am so desperate for some solution to this problem.


  23. follow up as to what my son is going through..My son is getting better with his poop issues. The most important thing that has helped is Faith in god. I decided to read one of our religious book in one week and that has helped alot. Besides that i used laxatives (castor oil) couple of times. As for natural laxatives i have used flaxseed oil, aloevera juice and prunes. The key is to make them go everyday so the poop doesn’t become hard. Thank God and thanks everyone.


  24. My 2 1/2 year old son has been going thru this same for about 7 months now. I consider myself a patient person, but I am at my breaking point. I don’t know what else to do. He has been on Miralax for months and I also give him Mineral Oil. The Miralax softens it, and the Mineral Oil is supposed to make it go. After taking these, his bowels are pretty runny so I know it can’t hurt anymore. The longest he’s ever gone is 7 days without pooping, which I know is too long…I just don’t know what to do. It seemed to be getting alots better, then one day it was like we were back at square one. I’ve taken him to the docotor twice, and she just tells me it’s a fear he’ll have to get over. Being constipated affects his appetite and mood. He’s a different child when he finally goes. He is potty trained and once he gets to the point that he can’t hold it anymore, he does push it out with no problem. He even let me give him a suppository with no problem, and he still didn’t go! I have a friend whose daughter went thru the same thing. It took a YEAR to finally get worked out. She just keeps telling me, just keep doing what your doing. I would love any suggestions, I feel helpless and also frustrated!


  25. Have you heard of the GAPS diet by Dr. Natasha Campell-McBride? It sounds like your family might benefit intestinally from it. I am just reading her book now and it’s great!!


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