Let it go – Living with childhood constipation

I’ve really debated in my mind whether to write this post about children and constipation – as, shock horror, it’s about poo. You know, that thing we all do, and no-one likes to talk about, hear about or think about. But, over the last few days I’ve realised that perhaps that’s part of the problem.

Our youngest daughter is three and suffers with childhood constipation, like many other children do everyday here in the UK and across the world. Before I’d experienced this, I’d have probably thought – that’s no biggy, she’s little, give her some prune juice, feed her some raisins, be patient. But in truth, being a parent to a child who massively struggles with dropping the kids off at the pool is so much more than that.

If you’re reading this, and you’re in this boat, hi, I’m right with you. I know how it feels to never leave the house equipped with a change of clothes. I too have spent entire days out watching for the signs and asked continuously if we need to visit the bathrooms. We’ve sat there on the bathroom floor too, waiting, hoping, encouraging with no result. I’ve cancelled things we’ve really wanted to do, because I knew something was brewing. I have always given us ten more minutes at home, in the hope it comes before we leave the house. And I talk about poo far more than is probably socially acceptable.

Toilet Signage Beside Green Leaf

Since potty training 6 months ago, our daughter has just never go on with the code brown situations. On the potty, on the loo, on the floor, in her knick knocks. She’d rather just pass on that whole process thanks very much and get on with her day. Probably not helped by a teeny tiny diet and body, and a preference to drink over eating any day of the week. Dry day and night, she’s grasped potty training and wee’s independently, but she has a clear fear of doing a poo. She’ll hide, strain to hold it in and get really distressed if we try and help and encourage her.

Free stock photo of person, child, kid, fear

But the issue is (and here’s the sciencey bit) if a child holds on to too much extra load down there, their nerve sensation switches off (a bit like yours does at work when you’d rather wait till you get home), the moisture is continuously absorbed, making the end product drier, harder and more difficult to evacuate, and ultimately it’s stretching and blocking up all the passage, causing the blockage to work higher and higher up through the large intestine. The longer they hold on, the worse it gets.

Severe cases can lead to impaction, overflow soiling, and all sorts of gastrointestinal issues if not resolved. So whilst you don’t want to panic if your potty training isn’t going to plan after day two, if you really think something deeper is going on months later, it’s probably worth seeking some medical advice.

And that advice is out there – from people who understand the huge impact of childhood constipation on family life. There are leading treatments such as Movicol / Laxido (Macrogols) which gently help add water to the poo and allow easier passage – but most of all, support and guidance on how to work through the behavioural elements of constipation in children. And as a Mum who has entirely lost the ability to think straight about how to get through with the situation, that expert support is life changing.

Rainbow After Sunset


We have had some help, and now we have a long term pathway. There is no quick solution for sure, and perhaps much of the advice we knew deep down. But in other ways we’d been going very wrong. The key thing if your child is withholding is to celebrate every poo, regardless of where its is. That will come later. It makes sense really, doesn’t it? Praising clean underwear is praising holding on. And the opposite, well right now that might be out of their control until they have resolved their issues and willingness to get the job done in a controlled way.

And most of all, talk about poo. We all eat, so we all poo. Don’t make it a dirty subject and shout it loud and proud for your young child to feel comfortable about it, in every sense of the word. Grab some fantastic books to read such as The little mole who knew it was none of his business, Everybody Poos, or a google search of infinite more poo related stories. These will gently introduce a fun way to talk poo to young kids.

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There is also a fun NHS developed app called Mr Poo goes to Pooland which is brilliant for young children who love a phone to play with.

I realise now that our problem compared to others is at the better end of the spectrum, as this is a living nightmare for kids and teenagers who suffer with chronic constipation; going to school, socialising and living normal lives. It’s opened my eyes to the reality of this condition for not just children, but for school staff and nursery workers who absolutely must support and work with the families and healthcare providers to support a solution for the child’s sake. But for anyone reading this who is struggling, know there is help out there and accessible treatments which may be able to help you and your child.

There are some amazing resources online… see the award winning video below from The Poo Nurses at Darent Valley Hospital, and also The childrens bowel and bladder charity ERIC.



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17 thoughts on “Let it go – Living with childhood constipation

  1. beautybabyandme Reply

    I bet so many will find this post helpful hun. True, it’s not the most glamorous of subjects but as a parent, poo is all part and parcel! xx #coolmumclub

  2. KHF Reply

    You’re so right, it’s all about normalising bodily functions and ensuring it’s not a taboo subject. I started calling my daughter’s vagina, anything but a vagina. Why, I don’t know. It’s like I was embarrassed to say the word in front of her. Kudos to you for raising this issue for us to read, I can imagine this piece will be a great help to a number of worried parents. We’re just about to embark on the journey of potty training, so I’ll be aware of this issue. Thanks for sharing #coolmumclub

  3. Donna (@bobsysmum) Reply

    As a child I had really bad constipation and then almost became scared of pooing…It’s still something I struggle with today if I’m being honest. Bobsy had a few weeks of being seriously constipated, so because of my own childhood we went straight to the drs who prescibed some powders for in her drinks. She barely needs them now, I think we were lucky it’s been such a quick fix! #coolmumclub

  4. Sharon Reply

    Lol love Poo goes to Pooland!

    We had problems with my eldest son when he was younger with his bowel movements! He’s okay(ish) now. I find its people who dont actually have a problem say with contispation but a problem with going outside the home. Like people I work with admit to not going and holding it in until they get home as they dont want to poo at work (or school!). #coolmumclub

  5. Talya Reply

    little E has experience this from time to time and I know how excruciating it can be for all so can only image the pain for an ongoing issue. Sending #coolmumclub poo vibes!!!

  6. mummyhereandthere Reply

    Awww that such a cool app and help them understand what is going by on #coolmumclub

  7. So Happy In Town (@SoHappyInTown) Reply

    Love Poo goes to Pooland! It’s very good to be open and talk about poo, my youngest was very late to potty train so we got NHS help with that so there was a lot of open talking about poo. Constipation is such a horrible thing, especially for tiny tots who don’t understand it. #coolmumclub

  8. RainbowsR2Beautiful (@rainbowsaretoo) Reply

    Thanks for this. Our youngest had terrible constipation from quite young. She had movicol but we had to use it for ages and then slowly withdraw it. Made potty training really difficult too. Poor thing. #coolmumclub

  9. Jennifer Gladwin Reply

    This is so helpful. My son went through a stage of withholding and it was so distressing for both him and us. #coolmumclub

  10. and Jacob makes three Reply

    I remember reading a thread on mumsnet about childhood constipation. It sounds horrific. I think it’s good to be open about these things! #coolmumclub

  11. Sadie Reply

    Poor wee lamb, and poor you too. My middle son had constipation as a result of medication for reflux, and that was difficult enough. Thankfully it resolved once he no longer needed the Gaviscon, so my heart goes out to anyone dealing with it in the longer term.
    I love Mr Poo goes to Pooland…genius!

  12. RaisieBay Reply

    This is such an important subject, well done for writing about it. My daughter has had problems since small and we had no idea what was going on. We tried all sorts to get her to go and it wasn’t until it was way too late that we realised what was really going on. She’s now been on medication for over a year and has regular dis-impactions. She has no feeling at all of when she wants to go, and the worse thing is, she’s now 12! Your information here is spot on, Eric has been a great help to us. There is also a fab Youtube video called ‘the poo in you.’

  13. Aleena Brown Reply

    My daughter took Movicol for chronic constipation from around 15 months until a couple of months ago. Her poos could be so bad that she’s bleed, and we’ve ended up in a&e a few times. She’s been out of nappies since she was 2, and wouldn’t poo herself – she just wouldn’t poo at all! Funny thing is, a couple of months ago (she’ll be 4 in March) we decided to try to reduce her Movicol dose a bit to see what would happen. Reduced it slowly over a period, and she hasn’t had a dose now for about 12 weeks. She’s poo’d every day apart from a couple of ‘struggle’ sessions which I coached her through. Interestingly, she often refuses sweets and treats because she says they’ll giver her a ‘bad poo’. #coolmumclub

  14. Cheryl / Tea or Wine (@cherylebarry) Reply

    I feel for you. My nephew had terrible trouble for ages and it became a mental and physical issue. This summer I took my daughter to the doctors because she wouldn’t get off the toilet and was amazed to hear that she was severely constipated. Turns out whilst I thought she was sitting doing her business all the time, nothing much was happening at all. We were put on Movocol. But again it took a long time for her to get over the mental anxiety of it all. I agree that talking about it and bringing the topic out into the open should help everyone! Good luck, it may take time, but you’ll get there. #CoolMumClub x

  15. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... Reply

    Great to raise awareness of constipation. The fear of accidents can make the situation worse and children need to be reassured. Talk about poo! #coolmumclub

  16. crummymummy1 Reply

    Goodness I had no idea of the extent of the issue. I’m sure this will help raise awareness – it’s certainly opened my eyes! #coolmumclub

  17. Lucy At Home Reply

    I have a friend whose daughter struggled with this for a few years. It was really distressing for all of them. I think you’re right – we just need to normalize it (which should be easy because pooing IS normal!) as much as we can. A great post for raising awareness – well done.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

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