what to do if your child shows signs of encopresis
Poop issues in toddler and preschool aged children are far more common than you may think. People don’t go blasting on social media that their child pooped in their underwear the same way they would if their child got an A on a report card. While it is nothing to be ashamed about, it can definitely be frustrating and gross to clean up. I’m here today to help you through these poop issues, and more importantly to tell you that you are not alone.
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Constipation is what happens when stool gets backed up and you don’t produce a bowel movement when you need to. Typically, when someone is constipated, it is painful when a bowel movement is finally produced. Children can become constipated for many different reasons; they may hold their bowel movements because they’re too busy playing; it’s possible they passed some stool that was painful and they are then scared to go again.
The longer they hold their poop, the more constipated they become and the cycle goes on and on. As the poop sits there, it becomes hard and rock-like. Constipation is not resolved until the rocks are passed and that can be quite painful.
Encopresis is the result of constipation that’s been going on for a long time. Here’s what happens:
- constipation causes the colon to stretch
- as the colon stretches, the child loses sensations and not only doesn’t feel the urge to go poop, but they forget what it feels like to poop. THEY LITERALLY FORGET HOW TO POOP.
- as they continue to get backed up, looser stool starts to squeeze out past the hardened rocks of constipation
- small skidmarks of poop will start to be present in the child’s underwear
- over time, the small amount will become larger and larger until your child is actually pooping a full amount in their underwear
As this is going on, your child won’t notice. It will seem crazy that your child is pooping their pants and not realizing it.
Cure for Encopresis
*I can tell you what we did, but please consult with your pediatrician before starting anything.
The cure for encopresis is twofold. First, you need to get your child to pass the rocks of hardened constipation. This can be done in several ways: a gentle laxative such as Miralax, a stronger, or ‘stimulative’ laxative such as Ex-lax, or a suppository.
What we did: we took Theo to the Dr. a few days before we had a 12-hour road trip. His pediatrician suggested a method that’s more intense than she normally would because we wanted him to pass the rocks before our trip. We gave him Miralax, + Ex-lax, + a suppository. Yep. All of the above. And the poor kid was so constipated that he still didn’t pass the rocks for several days.
After your child has passed the rocks, things still won’t be back to normal. Their colon will still be stretched out and they won’t feel the urge to poop. It is imperative that you require them to sit on the toilet several times a day and try to poop. They will not feel when they have to poop! It’s also important to keep them hydrated and full of plenty of fiber. We kept Theo on Miralax for several weeks.
Our Experience With Encopresis
When I first started noticing that Theo was having ‘accidents,’ I thought he was holding his poop because he didn’t want his sisters taking his toys. I mean, let’s face it, that definitely happens sometimes. One day, he hadn’t pooped in several days and cried for several hours that his stomach hurt.
I felt so dumb, but I took him to the pediatrician. He probably just had to poop and didn’t want to be that mom who took her kid to the doctor for gas pains! It didn’t occur to me that he was constipated because I know that constipation causes hard poop. The poop I was finding was soft so I assumed that he wasn’t constipated.
Let me tell you… once I found out that he truly had no idea that he was even pooping his pants I felt so awful. I had assumed he was lying to me when I asked him when it was happening. I truly felt like the worst mom! That is exactly why I’m writing this post. If I had only known about any of these things, we could have solved this issue so much sooner.
Encopresis Over Time
A few weeks after Theo had passed his rocks of constipation, he voluntarily went to the bathroom. When he was done he told me “mommy, I know how to poop on the potty now! I forgot but now I know how again!”
It’s now been 3 months since that doctors visit when I learned about encopresis. By now, Theo’s colon has returned to normal and he can feel the urge to poop again. However, the biggest mistake I have made is to assume that the problem is solved and I no longer have to worry about it.
Theo will go several weeks going poop on his own and then will start to regress. I have no idea why it happens. The pediatrician suggested he could have eaten something that made his stool a bit hard and he has an uncomfortable bowel movement. This will cause him to not want to go and he will hold it.
How Parents Can Deal With Encopresis
I firmly believe in not disciplining for potty related issues. There are so many factors that could be at play that your child can’t communicate with you. The best thing you can do is remain positive and encouraging.
We require Theo to try to poop several times a day. Oftentimes he will complain that he doesn’t have to go, and then go as soon as he’s on the toilet. If he hasn’t gone in a few days, I will give him Miralax because I’m so afraid of him becoming constipated again.
Phew! I bet you know more than you need to about poop related things! Check back tomorrow to hear about how we followed the 3-day potty training method and how it worked for us.