Parenting · Uncategorized

Potty Training Your Constipated Toddler

Whenever you start potty training, it can be trying for even the most patient parents, let alone when your toddler is chronically constipated. They don’t want to sit on the potty because they are scared of it and you are chomping at the bit to get them out of diapers.

Argh, I can just feel the tension rising in the air! What do you do???

If you are anything like me, you are researching like mad on the internet for potty training tips. Most articles I’ve come across are “How to potty train your toddler in 3 days” or “How I potty trained my 15 month old”.

Even more “encouraging” yet, you talk to other parents or grandparents, or well-meaning strangers about potty training. Or most likely, you avoid the subject whenever possible but somehow it seems to be a hot topic at gatherings.

All of sudden, everyone is an expert at potty training because they have trained one or two kids. You patiently nod your head yes to all of the “Did you try x, y, z?”. Meanwhile your blood is boiling because you can only spend a few thousand dollars on finding the best sticker chart to motive your child who’s absolutely terrified to have a BM!

Well, bless your heart, Aunt Suzie. I’m glad you have my child all figured out.

Lucky for you, I am not your Aunt Suzie. I’m not going to even try and pretend I know the answers for your kid-because I don’t.

What I do have is the experience of potty training one Autistic child that deals with chronic constipation and withholding poop. Did I do it alone? No. Way. I have and still work with pediatricians, pediatric GI doctors, occupational therapists, and behavioral therapists that work alongside us on this journey.

And my kiddo is rocking underwear like it’s nobody’s business.

This has and currently is a daily regiment to fight GI issues and keep the plumbing moving but we’re still going great. I frankly didn’t think we would get to this point already and I am so proud of my baby and all the work we have done to get there.

Now, enough of the chit-chat. Let’s get to it, you’re busy and don’t have all day to read this, so here it goes.

If you haven’t already, talk to your pediatrician

Be prepared that there may be some trial and error of things that they will suggest to help your constipated child at home first. From there, the next step may be an office visit so the doctor can rule out any issues that they can identify.

If things are still not improving or the doctor can’t see any immediate issue, a referral may be in order to have a pediatric GI doctor take a look. Do not be afraid to request a referral if one isn’t offered, especially if you have this nagging feeling that this is what needed.

Meeting with the GI doctor doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds

I was super nervous about what to expect when I took my child to the children’s hospital. I cannot speak for all situations, but the doctor will only do any examinations, tests, and meds as necessary.

If you do have a child that has sensory issues, anxiety, or any other special need, let the nurses know right away so they can take that into consideration. The staff work with children of all ages and abilities all day every day so they will not hit the panic button!

After meeting with the GI doctor, they may recommend supplements or medications to help your constipated toddler. Let them know that you have been attempting potty training and they may have suggestions to make it as successful as possible.

Make sitting on the potty comfortable for your constipated toddler

Chances are you have a step stool if you are doing potty training already, but make sure it is a comfortable height for them. When your child sits down, their feet shouldn’t be dangling in the air (especially if they have a weaker core to begin with).

Their feet should be grounded on the step stool, their knees a little higher up than when someone is typically sitting. Ever heard of “Squatty Potty” for adults? It’s a similar concept, with the goal being that having a BM is easier to do in this position.

Another position would be to face the potty backwards, so they are facing the tank of the toilet.

I know that contradicts what I just said before about not having dangling feet but you will have to experiment! If you’re okay with them doing it, let them use a dry-erase marker and draw on the cover of the toilet seat.

It’s easy to clean and helps get your kid’s mind off of what needs to happen.

Create a positive potty space

If you have a constipated toddler or they are purposely withholding their poop, you know that it can be very painful when they do actually try to go.

Make the potty another comfortable and enjoyable place for your tot to be just like any other spot in the home. Keep books, toys, games, you get the idea, in the area. The sticker charts, M&M’s, and other rewards can still be used as an incentive.

Stay firm on whatever reward you use for them to go. If you keep upping the rewards it is only going to make the battle that much more difficult because they will literally and figuratively be holding out on you until you cough up something better.

Your potty training toddler will need TIME to go

Don’t let their little tiny butt cheeks barely touch the porcelain before they say “I’m done!”. Especially if they fight constipation and any anxiety surrounding the potty, they need time to sit there before they can start to relax.

You probably already know if they need to poop or not, so tell them they need to sit on the toilet for an x amount of time.

Kids this age have trouble with the concept of time so having something visual is very helpful.

Some examples are:

  • Kitchen timer
  • Music video
  • Kid visual timer
  • Apps for children’s timers

I found the “Children’s Timer” app to be the most helpful. However long you set the timer, it slowly reveals a picture so the child becomes more focused on figuring out the picture and therefore relaxes their muscles.

Get them to LAUGH and get that tummy moving!

Laughter is the best medicine-including as a laxative! If you can get your kid to laugh while sitting on the toilet, it helps relax their digestive system and make going to the potty a more positive experience.

One therapist’s suggestion? Fart whistles.


Join in on the fun with them, you probably need a good laugh too. Or do something else that you know that makes your kid laugh without fail.

Don’t feel like putting on a comedy act? Have them practice deep breathing by doing something like blowing bubbles. We all have heard the benefits of deep breathing, so this is a great time to teach this skill to your potty training toddler to work with their body.

Where are you in potty training your constipated toddler?

This can be so stressful, which is probably added onto the already growing list of issues that you may need to address. But there are different strategies to use to help your child overcome the fear of using the bathroom.

The biggest factor is you! Your child’s perception of overcoming constipation issues will be very much based off of your emotions. No pressure, right?

That’s where us as parents need to help each other, and share what may work for your child. Having a game plan for you can help you keep calm and therefore keep your toddler calmer as well.

I would love to know where you are on this journey, have you tried any of these techniques before? What worked, didn’t work, anything else you would like to add?

Until next time!




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