Fiona L McMahon, PT, DPT
Hey everyone! We are resuming our conversation about potty issues with kiddos. In our last blog, we discussed how issues with pooping can occur with kiddos and how often times it is easy to overlook long standing constipation in kiddos with fecal and urinary accidents. We learned that although it can seem like someone is doing something wrong, potty issues are no one’s fault. Even though poo problems are no ones fault, they are problems that families can work on together to be solved.
In this blog, we are going to discuss right here and right now what you can do today to help your child poop easier. Some of the changes are astonishingly simple while some may require a bit more work and change from the whole family. Keep in mind in order for anyone’s bowel to change ( not just kids), you must be consistent, and these changes may take a very long time to occur. Be patient, you and your child will get there. Let’s go over ways to get back on the right track now.
STEPS to help with bowel issues:
Step 1: Allow your kiddo enough time to poop
Ever have to catch an early morning flight and noticed that you skip pooping that day, or even worse, you get a little bound up in the following week? Getting up early and rushing in the morning can constipate anyone and the thing is that’s what most kids are having to do. Many children have between half an hour to an hour to scarf down their food, dress, and brush their teeth before rolling out to school, leaving very little time to sit on the toilet and have an effective bowel movement. Kids then often find themselves at school with public bathrooms or single bathrooms within the classroom that don’t lock, making it hard to be comfortable enough to have a bowel movement. Then they usually must rush to extracurriculars and complete homework before bed. There simply is not enough time to poop.
Allowing your child 10-15 minutes to sit on the toilet 10-20 minutes after they eat can allow them to use what’s called the gastrocolic reflex. Basically what that means is when you eat, the body makes room for the new food by moving everything down further in the digestive canal. Therefore, after meals is the time when we are most likely to have a poop.
Allowing more time in the morning is the most easily modifiable part of your routine to start with when trying to improve your kiddos pooping habits. Get up about 30 minutes earlier to allow your child time to eat and to sit on the toilet. Follow with sitting on the toilet after lunch and after dinner.
Step 2: Fit the toilet to you child; don’t fit your child to the toilet
Studies show that toilet posture is imperative to good poops. My colleague, Sarah Paplanus, DPT, explains in detail the importance of having your knees above your hips while pooping in her blog on the squatty potty. Step stools will help your child get their knees above their hips, just remember to make sure that they keep their legs somewhat separated. Also, for the little littles, a child size toilet seat will help make sitting on the toilet more comfortable for kiddos with little tushes.
Also, check out this video on potty posture, with fellow peds therapist, Victoria LaManna PT, DPT, CLT
Step 3: Improve Diet
Most adults are aware that diet is important, but diet is equally as important with children. Making sure your child is getting enough fruits and veggies (approximately 5 servings daily), skipping sugary and refined foods like white bread, pastries, candy, and chips, and getting enough water (about half their weight in ounces) is so important to keep their stool soft and moving.
Step 3: Recognize Progress and Hard Work
Bowel issues are hard work for all involved. Make a sticker chart to track how often your child is compliant at sitting on the toilet, eating well, and having bowel movements. Make a goal for how many stickers your child will earn and celebrate when they achieve their goal. It is a long process so make sure to recognize even the smallest of victories.
Step 4: Get Help from Professionals
There is help out there. Make sure you go to a knowledgeable doctor and physical therapist to ensure your child gets the best chance at improving their bowel issues as quickly as possible. Do not accept any medical professional telling you it is normal for children to have accidents past potty training age, (age 5), or that it is your fault as a parent, or it is the child’s fault. It’s not. A knowledgeable doctor will run appropriate tests to rule out dietary allergies that could be contributing as well as starting your child on medicine or supplements to help improve bowel movements.
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a mainstay of care for kids with bowel issues, Skilled pediatric physical therapists will help your child re-learn how to use their pelvic muscles to better hold in waste as well as eliminate it when appropriate. We will teach you how to use techniques to help stool move more effectively, and we can perform hands on work to reduce pain and discomfort associated with bowel dysfunction. In addition to our clinical skills, we will help you to find doctors to help compliment the treatment your child is receiving in PT. If your child is suffering from bowel problems, don’t waste another day, call our front desk to make an appointment today!