How to Help Your Child Poop in the Potty

How to Help Your Child Get Past Pooping in the Potty Issues and start pooping in the potty. Potty training helps and tips.

photo of a toilet in the bathroom

When we did our first attempt at potty training, Brayden did well with the peeing and struggled with the pooping. He has always been a private pooper. He has always been the kid to poop during solo playtime. If he didn’t have solo playtime, there was no pooping that day. I am one who also needs consistency and isolation to be able to be regular, so I totally get that. If I were to travel to a country where you had to go to the bathroom somewhere other than the toilets I am used to, it would take me along time to be able to do it.

The first time we tried potty training this past January, the lack pooping was such a problem for us that it started to interfere with his peeing and his eating. When you are backed up, you will stop eating, and often times vomit. For those reasons (and others), I decided he just wasn’t ready yet. We gave it a few months and tried again, this time with success.

Our second go around, he still had pooping difficulty. He still took days between pooping. His accidents were few, but if it had been days without pooping, I would put a diaper on him and let him poop in it. I didn’t want him getting uncomfortably backed up or constipated. I knew I had to give it some time. I learned I had to leave him alone in the room while he pooped, even if he said he wanted me there. If I left the room, he usually had success. If I stayed, he didn’t. He only had success with me in the room one time.

Now Brayden poops without problem. He wears underwear 100% of the time and I can’t even remember the last time he had an accident. He is getting better about pooping when we aren’t home. He still has room for improvement; he only poops every other day right now (I am sure one day he is going to be mortified that I shared this information 🙂 ). But things are good. He is quickly learning.

Tips for helping your child poop on the potty

Here are some tips on helping your child past pooping problems:

  • Figure out what works for him. Does he need to be alone? Does he need to read a book? Books did not work for Brayden. You can observe what he did while pooping in the diaper. For Brayden, he would drive a car. That often helped him when he struggled. Most of the time, though, he needed zero distractions. Figure out what works for your child.
  • A comfort item to help him relax. This might be a book. This might be a favorite stuffed animal or toy. I would try to not let that be you for long-term, but if he needs you at first, be there for him.
  • Patience. He needs to figure this out. He needs to learn how to get it out. Give him time.
  • Don’t let him get too blocked up. They can get sick and/or constipated. This will not help him work toward success. That is why I put a diaper on Brayden every so often so he could get it out. Do gauge your child. I saw improvement over time and needed the diaper less. If you try it and things don’t improve, it might not be the right option for you.
  • Evaluate. Be sure this is a skill your child can accomplish right now. If not, back off.
  • Patience again. Pottywise says that learning to pee and learning to poop are two different skills. If pooping is really hard for your child, focus on the pee for now. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of pooping success. Move on to poop once you think he is ready.
  • Be really excited. When your child does have success, be so very excited.
  • Proper rewards. Offer different rewards for pooping that give more motivation. For Brayden at this point, he only gets rewards for pooping. Everything else is just what he does.
  • Remove your negative emotions. Don’t show your disappointment when there are accidents, and better yet, remove disappointment. You have to discipline yourself and remove your emotional investment from the situation. Don’t let whether or not he poops be the make or break for whether or not you are a good parent.
  • Don’t pressure. Telling someone who has a hard time pooping to hurry or to just do it does not make it any better for them. They need space, time, and patience.

Good luck! This is not an easy difficulty to fix, it mostly just takes time and experience from your child. It will come.

Our Experience

Here are some thoughts from our experience in struggling with this area.

We easily moved away from rewards for pooping and peeing. It wasn’t something we had to systematically work at, it just sort of happened without protest from Brayden.

While we trained him on a small potty chair his size (he did much better with that; I think it was because it was less intimidating and he could relax on it rather than try to keep his balance), he soon wanted to go on the big potty. He often, however, still pooped on his small potty.

I was pregnant and often really queasy, so I didn’t love dumping poop out of the small potty and cleaning it up each day. It was better than changing a poopy diaper, but still a bit too much for me.

I decided to encourage him to poop on the big potty instead of the little potty. I told him it was okay to poop in the little potty if he wanted or needed to, but if he pooped in the big potty he would get treats for it.

Since that day, he has always pooped in the big potty and not his little one. However, some days he goes every other day between pooping. He usually goes every day. As he is getting used to something new with the potty, he reverts back to pooping other day. Then, as he becomes more comfortable with the situation, he gets on a consistent and regular schedule.

If your child has (or had) difficulty pooping on the potty, be prepared for similar set backs when you change things up. When you travel, see what you can do to keep things consistent for him. If he always goes in a potty chair, take it along if you can. If/when you change a situation at home, expect some set backs but he should bounce back faster than he got there in the first place.

Reader Questions

Homestic Affairs

I have a fold up travel potty seat that helps my son feel more secure when going potty in public or somewhere other than home. It’s a child size seat, so he doesn’t feel like he’s going to fall in! And helps me feel like it’s more sanitary.

Plowmanators: Good idea Homestic Affairs.


At what age to you recommend to start potty training?

Plowmanators: Mommytoisabella, that really depends on your child. I just recommend you start when your child is ready (or when you think she is ready). There are a couple of things to consider in addition to readiness: 1- time of year. You might not want to start right before Christmas, for example, if you are like most people and busy traveling and shopping before and around Christmas. Avoid other similar distracting times.2- state of you. Pottywise suggests you don’t start while you are in a first trimester of pregnancy. It really is exhausting. Brayden wasn’t ready until 3. Kaitlyn is showing signs of readiness right now at 18 months (started earlier). Since I am really down and out right now from being pregnant, I am not even considering trying right now, but might give it a go in January once the holidays are over. One thing I have to consider, however, is children often revert after a disruption, like a new baby. So I might just wait until the new baby is here and settled. We will see what happens 🙂


I have a 3 yr 4 mos. old who is still struggling with pee accidents at night. I limit her fluids at dinner and after and have her go or at least try to go on the potty right before bed which she does go potty most of the time. I’ve also started waking her up at 5:30 a.m. when my husband leaves for work to go potty and then go back to bed but she is still wet about every other day. I don’t use pull ups anymore, quit that months ago and just wash her and all the bedding when she has accidents. She use to go through the night a while back but then started having more and more accidents. I use to get on her and finally backed off totally and just did the no pressure approach and asked her to just try and if she couldn’t go that it was ok. It’s been no pressure and no bugging her for months now and no pull ups but she still wets the bed about every other night. I’m 8 mos. pregnant and thought she would have this by now and was hoping she’d have it by the time the new baby arrives. My son was very easy and very young. Can she just not really hold it or is it a rebellious thing or what? I always tell her its ok when she wets the bed but it’s growing tiresome and I fear I will have a 5+ yr old who still wets the bed all the time. Does anyone know if this is just normal for some girls or have any advice? I’m ready to take her to the doctor to see if it is physical or what. I don’t want to get on her case like a did a while back about it but I’m beginning to get worried about it again.

Plowmanators said: MassageMama,My guess would be that it is a physical thing. It is totally normal for a child to be able to make it through the night, then not be able to. As the child grows, the bladder doesn’t usually keep up. Evaluate her daytime obedience. If she is rebellious in the day, there is a chance she is rebelling here, also. If she is obedient in the day, I would say physical problem. If it were me, I would have the doctor check her out. If it is physical, you would hate to continue to expect her to do something she just can’t do. Also, if it is physical, you could go back to pull-ups and make morning clean-up easier on yourself 🙂


My son is 2.5 and has been pee trained for several months, but he refuses to poop in the potty. He is very regular (poop in the morning (either right when he wakes up or soon after breakfast) and poop when I lay him down for his nap. I ready your blog about the Give Fair Warning and today was the first day of implimenting no pullups. We talked a lot about it and he always said, “OK Mommy”. I used his teddy bear with underpants to model (as instructed in pottywise) and have been offering treats throughout the day when he stays “clean”. I put him on the potty after breakfast and before nap and he sits for a little while, looking as though he is really trying, then quickly says, “All done. All done.” and nothing has happened. I then laid him down in his underpants. I put his potty chair in his room and reminded him that he could get out of bed if he felt like he needed to poop and he could call for me and I would come help. I told him if he could keep his pants dry and clean during his nap, that he would get a big suprise when he woke up. He was very excited and said, “What’s it going to be? A million toys?” So I don’t feel that motivation was an issue. About 10 minutes later I heard the familiar chattering that usually means he is stinky and not going to sleep. I walked in and he announced he was stinky. I cleaned him up, and he went right to sleep, as usual. I’ve noticed he never sits or lays down once he is dirty…always standing until I come in to clean him up. He often poops in his underpants and just walks around in it until I notice and clean it up. This was my biggest concern for this method working because he is just as likely to poop in underpants as in a pull up. A few times he will tell me when he is dirty. I am at a loss of what to do.

Plowmanators: Lindsay, I would say he hasn’t figured out how to poop on the potty yet. I would probably have him go without underwear around the house for a while, but still put him in diapers for his nap and bedtime until you start to see that he can actually sit on the potty and poop. For Brayden and Kaitlyn, the pooping was the hardest hurdle to get over. 2.5 is still pretty young for figuring it out. I would continue to try to find motivation for him to try and encourage him to do so, but until he has success at pooping on the potty, I wouldn’t do underwear all day every day.

Related Posts

See these posts for more on our potty training experiences:

How to Help Your Child Get Past Pooping in the Potty Issues and start pooping in the potty. Potty training helps and tips.

26 thoughts on “How to Help Your Child Poop in the Potty”

  1. I hope you don’t mind that this has nothing to do with your aticle-but I really need some help. Thanks for your answers to so many of my questions already. My son is 13 weeks old and we are on a good 3 hour schedule. He is waking up once to feed between 3 and 5 and has some little spells in the night where the passy needs to get inserted. My question is about his naps. He is waking up at about 45 minutes to 1 hour of his nap. If I pick him up and rock him or just sway him back and forth for a little while and get him drowsy again- he will go back to sleep to finish his nap and sometimes even longer. Should I continue to pick him up if it works and he is getting his naps- or should I let him cry it out. It seems like when I have let him cry it out in the middle of a nap he just seems to get more awake and agitated- he has never gone back to sleep after a cry it out- and by the time I let him cry it out- its time to get up. — Also, how old would you say a baby should be when they do not need a middle of the night feeding? Thanks

  2. Rewards worked wonders for my older DS. We had a jar of Skittles on the bathroom counter and he got two every time he peed on the potty. But the poop was not happening. He would walk up the stairs and put a pull up on himself! He’d poop immediately and then ask me to change him! So I had to up the ante. I got toy cars (which he loved!) and wrapped them up like presents. He got one every time he pooped. My nanny slipped and told him they were cars and he flipped. He SO wanted those cars but just couldn’t poop. It took a couple weeks, but soon enough he was opening up a present a day. After about 10-15 cars, he was going consistently enough, I could stop.Julie, I’m sure Val will answer your question, but if you are interested in sleep training your son, you should stop rocking him. I know it’s hard to let them CIO especially when you know it will work to rock him and you know he needs the sleep, but you can only go on so long. Be sure he is still awake when you put him down in the first place and then let him cry. He should learn to stay asleep after just a few CIO sessions. Good luck.My question for you, Val, do you have any tricks on how I can print your blog? I’ve tried printing for bed-time reading, but it doesn’t print it all. Any ideas?

  3. Thanks for the pooping tips! I can’t help it…I had to laugh when I first starting reading this. Something about seeing the words, “pooping” and “private pooper” just struck me funny. Maybe because I can relate too! I think Nate will be a private pooper too because he almost consistently has a movement during his morning Room Time. Now I’m off to read your potty training posts. I think we’ll be starting this sooner than we think. Nate is hating his diaper changes and every time he messes in his diaper he grabs it and says “Diaper!”

  4. Mom of 4,I am sorry I guess I wasn’t clear- so thanks for your comment. He does go to sleep fine laying him down awake- i did the crying it out for 2 weeks and now he goes down without a peep— i meant when he wakes up in the middle of his nap. I have tried crying it out- but it just makes him more awake— she wrote on a post that she moves hers to a swing to finish the nap- is this something that you had to keep doing or did it finally work itself out……hopefully i make more sense now….

  5. Julie,Yes, I understood. But I do think CIO is necessary if he is waking up after 45 minutes or so. You can take a second look at your book about the 45-minute intruder. I do remember Val saying she used the swing, but if I remember right, she did that at an earlier age. What you are experiencing is probably what many of us experience around 4 months. There is something about that age that causes sleep disturbances. See if you can search the blog about that. BTW, I only have 2 not 4 (thank goodness!). LOL. Monfore is my last name. 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for this valuable resource. I can’t tell you how encouraging this blog is! My little guy is 6 mo. old. We just dropped his 4th nap and he’s doing well, but I’m having trouble with his waketime. He is only able to stay up for 1hr 30-40 min but he is on cereal 3 times a day. He only naps for about an hour and a half and he is not hungry when he wakes from his nap. His nap schedule is more like a 3 hour sched. while his feeding is 3.5-4. How do I make this work? Any suggestions?

  7. Julie, no problem. My answer is it depends. If you think he is becoming dependent on it, I wouldn’t do it. But if he absolutely will not sleep unless you do that, it is good for him to get used to sleeping long enough. How long have you been doing CIO before naps? Or do you? (sorry, it is hard to keep everyone straight around here 🙂 ). He is at the age where you kind of want to curb once and for all anything that is prohibiting sleep, but if CIO before naps hasn’t been going on for at least 8 weeks, you might want to wait until then before you stop soothing. If you have been doing it for more than 8 weeks, he might be addicted and dependent on the paci. Check out the pacifier post and evaulate that. Pacifiers :

  8. Maureen, that is so funny. I love that he put the pull-up on himself. Thanks for your tips.For printing, I would copy it and past it into Word (or equivelant) and print from there. I copy everything into Word so I have a backup copy in case anything ever goes wrong with blogger. You have to change the justification because for some reason everything is centered when you paste it.

  9. Denise,I know, it is just so weird to be typing “pooping”–and especially in the main title. Funny how things change as we become mothers :)That is a good sign that Nate dislikes having a dirty diaper. I think that is a real help to the potty training process.

  10. Julie,I didn’t have to do the swing thing for every nap, but it seems we used it for about a month. We never could do that with my son, though. Some moms have found CIO in the middle of naps to work well at some point, but others have noted that it didn’t work at a younger age, yet did at an older age.

  11. mmonfore,Yes, I did the swing at a younger age with Kaitltyn. She was closer to two months. By three months, it was a rare time she woke early from naps, and usually for a reason.

  12. wlankford75,See this post:Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle: waketime is actually pretty long for a 6 month old, so I wouldn’t worry about that. You are at one of those hard times baby can’t stay awake long enough and doesn’t sleep long enough (though his naps are perfectly fine) to make a 4 hour schedule, but he could eat on 4 hours. From the post I linked above, you will see that you can do a 30 minute window after a nap and before the feeding. This can get you to 3.5 hours right now. Time will fix the rest 🙂

  13. I’ve got a good one for you! My 10-month-old son has recently begun pooping in the bathtub quite regularly. As much as I’d like to show it to him when he does it, and say “No!”, or give him a squeeze on the hand, I don’t want him to associate “No!” with pooping – just in the tub! Did your kids ever do that? Any thoughts on whether or not this is something I can teach, or if we’ll just have to wait it out? (and keep rinsing out the tub, in the meantime!)Thanks for the great blog! It’s such a wonderful resource!!

  14. That is funny. My daughter actually did start to poop in the tub regularly. I reacted normally whithout hiding my feelings. I don’t think I would do a hand squeeze, especially because you don’t know if he has the ability to stop himself or not. What I did was say something to the effect of, “Oh no, Kaitlyn! You pooped in the tub! Hold still.” I grab towel and get her out of the tub. Get her taken care of then clean out the tub. I then told her to not poop in the tub, but poop in her diaper. Well, she started telling me when she needed to poop or pee. She woudl point down there and said “diaper” or “poop” “potty.” She is very vocal, so you could try sign language. She just stopped doing it, and when she would indicate those things, I would get her out. I don’t think I would punish at this point, but you can definitely let him know it isn’t what you want to happen. But like I said, you don’t know if he can even physically or mentally do anything about it.

  15. Help! My daughter turned 3 in September. We started potty training back in February and she caught on in two weeks and hasn’t had an accident since. I still put her down for naps and night time in a diaper. This is when she poops and refuses to poop in the potty. I’ve tried sitting with her, books, treats, and prizes. She could care less. I was wondering if I should take the diaper off for good. I’m at a loss.

  16. Your Brayden sounds like my son when it comes to pooping: always a private pooper! From about 6 months old until 20 months old when we potty trained, he either pooped in independent play or (if he didn't have independent play), not at all. Now that he's been potty trained for about 2 weeks, we're both in desperate need of some independent play time! For the last two weeks, it has been suspended first because of the training and then because I was uncertain about the pooping. He does poop on the potty and tells me either before he needs to go or 'ahem' during, but it isn't 100%… sometimes he waits until naptime (he's still in diapers for nap and night).I did independent play the last two days, explaining to him that I would just be in the next room and he should tell me if he needs to go (I even asked him every few minutes if he needed to go…), but he won't tell me and ends up having an accident in his pants. What to do? He's getting whiny and clingy and we need to get back to independent play, but can't break from the original rules of independent play to avoid an accident. Thanks!

  17. Oh, and he's getting less concerned with accidents (he was trained in a few days and hasn't had a pee accident since… just poop)

  18. Miranda,I would try one of a couple things. My first try would be to put a little potty in the room with him (on top of a towel). Then tell him to poop in there. He might even need to go without underwear for few days to get it.If that didn't work, I would just put a diaper on for Independent play until he is older and better able to communicate.

  19. We've been working on potty training for a few weeks now but more aggressively in the past week. We have the opposite problem when it comes to pooping. My daughter will poop in the potty without a problem and today told me 3 different times that needed to use the potty, pulled her pants down and went in no time at all. When it comes to peeing, she has a much harder time recognizing she needs to go before she's gone in her pull-up or had an accident. She's peed successfully in the potty a few times and we made a huge deal out of it and gave a big reward but she is still consistently having a hard time with it. Any suggestions??

  20. I have a question. My daughter is a fewMonths past her third birthday. She has been peeing in the potty exclusively (with very little accident) for over a year, but she is still having trouble with pooping in the potty. She has done it many times throughout the past year but she is nowhere near consistent. Right now the only time she has a diaper is at night time for bed. She is in underwear all day and even through her 2.5 he nap. Normally she holds her #2 until night time when she knows she will get a diaper on. We have tried keeping the diaper off her, but her pediatrician said that could cause more bad than good because she held it until it was literally about to fall out of her (sorry for the detail). Over the last two days she has pooped in the potty twice because we bribed her with something she really wanted, and tonight we are back to her refusing to poop in the potty and asking for a diaper. What do I need to do? HELP! 🙂


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