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ParentsJune 21, 2018

Is it normal?: My toddler won’t poo!

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Is it Normal is the Spinoff Parents advice column. Today we’re looking at poo and we have expert help from toilet training expert Laura Morley.

Is it Normal? is The Spinoff Parents’ advice column, a place for parents to ask experts the questions they Google at 2am. Start here if you’ve never read the column before.

We’re about no-judgement, good, solid advice from experts. Real advice (in my humble view) should be non-judgemental, take-it-or-leave-it, actually useful and able to be put into practice (none of this give your kids caviar to help them be adventurous with food bullshit). It should be from someone with experience, maybe even qualifications if that’s appropriate; it should be from someone without an agenda, from someone who genuinely cares about children and parents.

Our columns have so far covered:

This week’s question:

Our 21 month old is holding in his poo and will only go every four or five days, even with a daily softener. When he does go it’s all very dramatic and overall contributes to a very grumpy baby 99% of the time. He’s not constipated but we think it might be leftover trauma from when he was constipated about a year ago. Is this normal and what the hell can we do?

Our expert to answer this questions is Laura Morley. Laura is the author of Potty Talk, teacher and parenting coach at Looloo-Toilet Training Solutions, based in Auckland. When she is not hanging out with her three kids and her horse Oscar, you will find her talking wees and poos with parents and educators throughout NZ and Australia. Her post for The Spinoff Parents “How to get your child to poo on the toilet” was published in November.


This is a great question. Some kids are scared to poo especially when they think it is going to be painful. It is more common when kids are toilet training. 

I would recommend that you take your child to the doctor and ask them to make sure that your child does not have any impacted poo in their body, which could cause further complications.

Abdominal massage, a high fibre diet, giving them four cups of water per day (if possible) and lots of exercise are all natural ways to help your child’s body be in the optimum position to poo each day.

Around 20 minutes after a main meal encourage your child to relax and sit in a squatting position. Let your child know that when they have done a poo in their nappy that you are going to celebrate with them by doing something with them that they love to do.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing like a trip to the zoo nor should it be something like bribing them with chocolate. I mean something that they really value and will enjoy, to help give them a new association that pooing in a nappy has happy rather than negative consequences. If you repeat this over time they will start to form new habits where they feel more relaxed pooing each day instead of waiting for a big poo every five days.


Thanks Laura! If you’ve been through anything similar, feel free to give some (judgement-free) advice in the Facebook comments. Email me at with “Is it normal?” in the subject line if you have a question for one of our experts.

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