4-year-old asking for diaper to poop

Hi.  Our daughter has been potty-trained for pee since she was about 2 years old.  For the past 2 years, when she has to poop, she asks for a diaper and goes to a private area to take care of this.  She said she would start pooping on the potty when she turned 3, which then changed to 4.  Her fourth birthday passed a couple months ago, and she wasn't able to make the transition.  She gave it an earnest effort over a few weeks but was mostly unsuccessful.  She would cry and become extremely distraught, saying she couldn't do it.  She really wants to go in the potty, but says she can't get her body to cooperate (even reflecting on this calmly when she doesn't have to go).  She is starting to feel some shame around it (hiding her diapers when friends come over).  Any advice on how to help her with this transition?


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I know that this is hard!  Have you tried gradually getting her closer to the potty, but still using the diaper.  E.g., Use diaper but in the bathroom.  Then use diaper next to the toilet. Then use diaper, but sit or squat on the closed toilet, then on the open toilet.  You can even then have her use diaper with a slit in it so that the poop falls through. But I'd only recommend doing this if she's motivated and wants to. Otherwise, I would let her continue to use the diaper, tell her you're ready to help her when she's ready, and wait till she brings it up.  Help her keep it private with friends, but accept that she still wants the diaper. The poop issue can become so hard and children can get constipated from holding the poop and then you've got a bigger problem. Good luck! 

Hi There,

Our daughter did the same thing until she was 3 1/2, at which point she successfully made the switch because there were no options. I won't suggest that you attempt the same strategy because you wouldn't be able to repeat it (It involved international travel and a lie--"there are no diapers in America"). May I ask if you've consulted with her pediatrician yet? You probably have, ad nauseam. Have you tried having her use the diaper over the toilet (versus a corner), working gradually toward either opening the diaper to deposit her feces in the toilet or eventually creating an opening in the bottom of the diaper that would allow the feces to drop through? The warmth of the feces, the familiarity of using a diaper, etc are probably all encouraging your daughter to do her "duty." Perhaps some kind of diaper-training wheels gradual removal approach will work. Okay, here's where I'm really going to go out on a limb, so forgive me in advance if this is overkill and does NOT fit your situation (both may very well be true!): We eventually learned that my daughter struggled with low level anxiety and a mild form of OCD (hidden from us for years). I wish, wish, wish that 15 years ago, I had know about sand tray therapy or other short term treatment tools for kids. I don't think there are any similarities between our situation and yours--pooping in a diaper may be as common as the day is long. Good luck and keep giving your daughter plenty of love...

This happened to us when my son was about 2-3 yo. He also was out of diapers for pee during the day but would wait for a diaper to poop for almost a year he did that. The thing that ended up working was that we stopped talking about it 100% completely when he was around. We had not been talking much directly too him about it before that but would talk amongst ourselves and I think he felt pressured. After we stopped talking about it, then about 2 months later he started pooping in the potty.  

I posted this response before. Warning - graphic, TMI, all that.

I had my son turn around and lie backwards on the toilet, with his head and shoulders resting on my lap as I sat at the edge of a tub. Using a mirror propped between his legs, he was able to see what was happening as he activated different muscle groups. He did figure it all out.

Prior to that he could only use a diaper and needed to be on his hands and knees, what yoga class calls "table top position". He had been using the toilet to pee since he was 16 months old.

He was somewhat chronically constipated, the doc prescribed Miralax. If I had to do it all over again, I would use Traditional Medicinals Smooth Move tea instead.

Best wishes.

We went through the same thing with our daughter exactly. It was quite a process and after several different approaches to help her start using the toilet, it finally happened at 4 and a half. Not sure if anything we did helped or if she was just ready, but she did get to have an ice cream party with 3 friends to celebrate and I think that helped some with the motivation :)

After talking to other parents, it seems this is not too uncommon. Because she had many questions about where poop goes, I did find a video of a book read aloud that she was interested in and watched several times. It is on you tube and called “all about poop-children’s online storybook”. 

She also benefitted from a stool softener as she tends toward constipation making pooping harder. This and using a stool for her feet and sitting on the toilet after meals (ultimately to go in the pull-up immediately once she put it on). 

Luckily once she did it once, she was able to every day and never again used a pull-up.

Best of luck!

My daughter happily peed in the toilet, but was afraid to poop there. She didn’t successfully do it until she was a few months past four, but now she’s a pro! Here’s what worked for us: 1) take away any shame. Relax about it. Take the pressure off her body telling her it’s not embarrassing, bc everyone’s different, and you’ll help her. 2) Make a rule that she has to poop on her pull up in the bathroom. 3) The rule changes to pooing in the pull up on top of the toilet. 4) Then you start cutting a hole in her pull up. Our pediatrician suggested trick. Gradually cut the hole bigger and bigger. The poop falls into the toilet. At one point, our daughter looked like she was wearing ass chaps. Then voila, no pull ups. Magic. 

Our daughter had this problem, too.  She was constipated, so she needed to squat to have a BM.  We tried stool softeners, but that just made it worse.  When we switched our daughter to drinking only water (no milk or juice) and added a puréed prune baby food pouch everyday, it cleared up her constipation.  She was able to do BMs on the potty after that.

I SO feel your pain! Every kid is so different, but here's our story: Our son was pee-trained at 3 but would only poop in a pull-up. I tried EVERYTHING: rewards, sitting on the toilet backwards, pooping on the potty in a pull-up on, etc. Nothing worked. In hindsight, I think it was a combination of constipation (which had been an issue since he was a baby), the fact he was convinced the only way he could go was standing up (physical and mental block), and his somewhat rigid personality and the resulting power struggle we had over my desire for him to poop in the potty. What worked for us: one day, around age 3.5, after another potty battle, I told him he didn't have to poop in the potty until he was 4. That removed the stress and we both relaxed. We used fiber gummies to help get his bowels more soft, as diet alone wasn't doing it. As age 4 approached, we talked a lot about the upcoming "deadline" and how great it was going to be, etc. When he turned 4 we took away all pull-ups (even overnight - we replaced with a nighttime cloth training pant instead) and went cold turkey. With our pediatrician's approval, we also increased his fiber gummy intake so his poop would be really really soft. I also bought some balloons for him to blow into, as I had read that can help kids engage the bowel muscles. The first couple of days were tough (I think we relented and provided one pull-up because he really needed to go), and then I think on Day 3 of trying, he did it. I think the combination of balloons, the looser stools, feeling like he had made the transition on his terms, and knowing that there would be no pull-ups all helped. Amazingly, once he got the pooping down, we never needed the fiber gummies again, so I really think there was a mind-body connection. I still can't quite believe we made the transition and I feel grateful every time he poops on his own. No joke. Hang in there...you will find the path that works for you. Hope this helps!

I don't have advice for you, but I can tell you that this was me until about age 5.  I am 48 now and I can assure you that I have no long term issues due to it!