Updated: Nov 21, 2021
This blog post is the second in our Poop series. If you haven’t yet read Part I, go back and take a look because I firmly believe that FOOD is the foundation for health poops. Without a healthy diet, your child may struggle with bowel movements as well as various other components to a healthy, happy toddler life. And Lord only knows, we all need a healthy and happy toddler!
Today, we are going to dive into the many questions we have at the beginning of potty training about poop including those shockingly elusive signals, what to do when we miss it, when will it happen, and is it over yet! We also share a bit about why children always seem to want to touch their own waste and how to clean up afterwards. Ultimately, my goal for you is to have a few successful poos on the loo!
1. INCOMING!!! Signals for Poop
About a month ago, my mom noticed that my son was retreating to a corner to poop in his diaper. She mentioned that this might be a sign that he was ready to potty train. I began looking into it more and I realized that sure enough, this was a sign! I began to read Jamie Glowacki’s “Oh Crap!” potty training book and was OBSESSED… I read it two times and listened to the audiobook. I thought for sure at that time that pee would be challenging but that I would KNOW my son’s poop cues. I mean, for weeks, he had been hiding to poo and turning as red as a beet in prime beet season (that’s a thing, right?!?!). But alas, I was wrong… once we started to potty train, we really struggled to find his signal.
I have a theory that for the really young ones especially (my son was 17 months when we started potty training), they don’t really have an actual signal because they are so used to just going in their diapers. You might see a signal WHILE they are peeing or pooping, but I don’t think they always know they have to go beforehand. Remember that we are taking our children from clueless to I pooped to I am pooping to I have to poop. I am wondering if neurologically, this same thing is true. In that, they start off thinking “Oh! I can SEE that I just pooped!” to “Oh, I can FEEL that I am pooping,” to “Oh wow! I THINK I HAVE TO poop.” Once they begin to develop more of an understanding and awareness of what Incoming poop feels like (or outgoing!), then they may give more of a clear signal.
For my son, it took us quite a while to realize it, but his signal was to rush to me and say “MOMMEEEEE!!!” while desperately climbing all over me. We realized that this was because he was afraid at first.
For many others, the signal might be standing on tippy toes or squatting or holding their butts. I know that these signals can be difficult to spot, so WATCH, WATCH, WATCH! At one point, I was so desperate to figure this out that I seriously toyed with setting up cameras in our living room in the hopes that I could catch him on camera before he made a poop and then rewatch the footage to discover his signal! Talk about future blackmail! I say all of this to you as a reminder to just be patient. Even if your child does not yet have a signal, she will! Consider even teaching her a gesture in sign language, or in your own silly way so that she can let you know once she develops awareness! But stay patient and try to stay sane!
2. We Missed It!
For this category, I originally entitled it “I Missed It!” because this is very much how I felt the first time my son pooped in his pants. I felt soooo bad because I missed whatever signal he must have been giving me. As you have read from earlier, however, my son’s signal was literally “MOMMEEEEEE!!!” and how in the world can we resist a toddler running toward us, arms outstretched, calling our name as if we are the entire Paw Patrol team, wrapped up in one yummy mommy hug?!?! But the more we have gotten into potty training, the more I have realized the importance of SHARING in the joys as well as the missed cues of this new phase of development. While we as the parents, certainly may have missed something, our child also forgot to let us know. We want to make sure to train our little potty stars to take ownership over all of their successes as well as their weaknesses. This will ultimately be a strategy you will want to employ as you teach them countless other skills so that eventually, they will become independent. Note that I also did not put the onus purely on my son either. At this stage in potty training, WE are a team. He may be driving, but we are right there, at the ready to help in every way! HE will get there eventually, but for now, I am sticking with “We.”
So, what happens when that poop is missed? It is DEVASTATING… About a week ago, I was outside with my son and he just ran up to me saying “MOMMEEEEEE!” I immediately picked him up and said “You must have to poop. Let’s hurry up and get to the potty chair. Hold it, baby, hold it!” We sat and sat and sat on that potty chair. I grunted, I encouraged, I pushed his little knees toward his chest to help. Nothing was happening. We seriously did this for a good 5 minutes until…. I suddenly began to realize that the scent I thought was an INCOMING POO was entirely too strong… there had to be poo near his little loo… I finally thought to look in the bottom of his pants and there, snug as a bug, were a few large, clumpy, pieces of excrement, cooling off around his ankles… Boy did I feel bad… We MISSED it… But here were my takeaways:
Those poops can happen FAST. Remind your child that poopies go in the potty. A catchy little tune or poem can be helpful to remind your child. Here is a little tune I like to sing for my son:
When your tummy’s feeling funny, you go squatty on the potty.
When your tummy’s feeling funny, you go squatty on the potty.
You rush and then you sit and then you push, push, push!
And you make your poops today! YAY! You make your poops today!
Still make your child help you to clean up their accidents, but do not let them flush this one. They only get to flush fully successful poops (most children LOVE to help dump and flush their poop, it’s kind of adorable).
Make note of what time of day this happened and what your child ate beforehand. Many children develop a natural time of day for bowel movements and if so, then you are LUCKY… You will know when to look out for it.
Also note whether they peed immediately beforehand or even after. Some children will also have pee along with their poop. It is definitely good to know what order they do things in!
3. WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN????
When in the world will this poop happen?!?!?! It seems that many children are morning poopers, but I have also heard and read that once you start potty training, all bets are off! I had bragged before (never a good idea…) to some other moms that my son had never pooped in his swim diaper or in a bath. Well…. Once we started potty training, that ship had sailed. He was having this bath and was so cute and so quiet and all of a sudden, he was desperate to climb out and as I looked down into what were now murky depths of toddler water, I found little poops floating and sinking and sticking EVERYWHERE in that tub…
So, when will your child poop? When they are ready… They probably will go down to 1 – 2 poops a day which is really nice actually. Their poops will also look COMPLETELY different than they once did in their diapers! And if you suspect that they may have a poop on the way, I would sit them on the potty for a good bit while you read to them. We had a few incidents at the beginning where my son would sit on the potty and as soon as he got up, that was when he pooped.
Also make note of what kind of a poop star your child is. My son actually has to focus to make his poops. Other children like to read books or even watch potty training videos on tablets. Go with whatever works for your child and remember this for a later date. It will definitely help you out!
4. Is It Over Yet?
This is one of the most frustrating things about poop. I never know if he is REALLY done… Each time my son poops, I just encourage him to push one more time! And you know what, we often get another little morsel after that last push. We sometimes even get a pee after that last little push. We don’t do rewards, but my son has gotten into the habit of clapping whenever he has finished on the potty. This has been super helpful and ridiculously adorable (like, when it is 3:30 am and I just woke him up to pee and in his ultra-drowsy, tipsy toddler way, he claps for himself, off-center once he finishes his little pee). Once he claps, I know that he really is done! Work with your child to develop a verbal or non-verbal cue that he is finished on the potty. This will be beneficial for you and your own sanity, but will also aid in that whole independence thing we are working toward!
5. WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING IT?!?!?
Oh my word… WHY do they want to touch their own poop? I may or may not have even caught my toddler trying to eat a piece of dog poop in the backyard at one point… It is FASCINATING to these kiddos. Don’t get upset that they want to touch their poop, simply remind them that we do not touch poop. Develop a tradition of carrying the potty together so that they can do something kinesthetic after their little deposit. Ask them to help you flush the poop down the toilet and join in on their wonder as they stand mesmerized watching their little creation swirl into the unknown. Remember to have them close the lid, place the potty chair back, and then wash their hands. We want them to be able to do all of this by themselves eventually!
6. Clean Up
Once your child has pooped, I recommend wiping them yourself (especially for the young ones). I do have my son “dab” after a pee but poop can be much more challenging. Once you have been doing this successfully for a few weeks, then I would teach them how to wipe. We began wiping with actual baby wipes at first but we will probably be switching to toilet paper soon. See above for having them flush the poop. Once you have flushed, then you as the parent will need to wipe down the potty chair. Definitely use baby wipes instead of Clorox wipes or anything harsh. We want to maintain that soft and healthy skin for as long as possible.
I hope you have enjoyed our 6 steps to poop in the pot! Remember that the most important thing is that potty training is a huge developmental shift towards independence. We want to foster a healthy relationship with the bathroom, their body, and with us as their parents. Continue to offer gentle and appropriate praise, keep steady watch, and take notes!
Please let me know your thoughts on pooping on the pot, or any really bizarre signals you have seen! I am absolutely fascinated by it all!