Inside: 3 tips to help your toddler poop in the potty when you start potty training.
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It’s ironic how happy-go-lucky the poop emoji looks when you consider how poop can spark overwhelming anxiety in parents who are potty training their toddler.
Before the diaper comes off, one worry is what if the poop goes in the wrong place? A poop in your child’s pants. A poop on your floor. Or a poop in the middle of spaghetti dinner night.
Right there in the high chair.
How can you set up your toddler to get a poop catch? Are there some tricks? As with everything in potty training, the small stuff does matter.
So does your language.
Here are a few important reminders to help your toddler poop in the potty.
When poop is going wrong (not in the potty), it can truly feel like it's taking down your house, your family, your life. And that's not surprising as poop is toxic. So it's safe to assume no one wants poops in random spots of your home.
As a first reminder, here are baseline poop helpers that can help your child poop in the potty..
Thinking about what your child is eating and how healthy full-fat foods help avoid toddler constipation
But there are other little ways you can set your toddler up to be comfortable to go poop in the potty.
Remember that your child has been pooping in a diaper for their whole life. That muscle memory feeling is what toddlers know when you step into potty training.
And for some kiddos, it really takes some time and support for them to feel confident releasing this *big poop* in the potty. It's a whole new sensation they have to get used to. And remember, newness often doesn't go well with toddlers.
Here are 3 more tips to help your child feel more confident to go poop in the potty.
1. Bring in a stepstool
Once you're past the start of potty training when you're working together to catch every poop and pee you can (even mid-stream), then you want to back off placing your child on the potty. You're more likely to kick up resistance in block two of Oh Crap Potty Training (and beyond) if you're plopping your child on the potty.
Like with everything else, toddlers really like to do it themselves and a stepstool helps your little one climb up to the big toilet (with potty insert) all on her own. By having both a small potty and a potty insert and stepstool for your toilet, you've set up a space where your child can choose to independently sit and poop on the potty.
That's important, because there aren't prompts to go poop, in the same way you can prompt your child to go pee. You're looking for your child to self-initiate when the sensation to poop strikes.
2. Ask before you pick up your child
What if you're potty training your 20-month-old child who's not so nimble climbing up on the toilet (even with a stepstool)? Or what if your 25-month-old toddler runs small and you've been giving her a boost up?
Of course, it's okay to help your child with getting onto the big toilet — everything from setting up the potty insert to helping her get securely on the seat.
But you want to start giving your child the ropes in the process.
You want to start showing her that she's in control of her pee and poop and you're just guiding her in how to pee and poop in the potty. One way to do that is to simply ask before you intervene.
Pretend you're her preschool teacher rather than her mom trying to potty train.
Ask before you pick her up.
Ask before you place her on the potty.
Your child will hear that you're giving her a choice, which always works in your favor.
Your child will hear that you respect her and her body to ask first before picking her up and placing her somewhere you want her to be. (And maybe she's not ready to sit and then you'll see resistance.)
Potty training doesn't tend to go well when you're trying to force a pee/poop on the potty.
It sets her up to make a good choice. And that's when you see potty training success.
I remember once reading in some Montessori materials for my kids how important it is to get permission before picking up your child. We hear so much about 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds and their tantrums (which happens to all toddlers, of course, as it's developmentally what happens at this age).
But consider being 3 feet tall and having no control when a grownup comes and lifts you up and puts you somewhere you haven't made safe in your head yet (the potty).
Imagine you're nervous about going poop in the potty (a common thing we see in the beginning of potty training) and you suddenly get lifted onto the potty that you're feeling nervous about.
How would you react? Not happy, I'm guessing. That's when we see the child stiffening up like a board, whining, fussing, and refusing to sit on the potty.
And most importantly, that will not result in an easy poop catch in the potty.
Your child needs to be relaxed to poop on the potty.
You can't force it.
When I say *ask* before picking up your child to sit on the potty, I'm not implying some long conversation or dramatic ask. It's just a little show of respect, an olive branch of control you're passing over, a small signal that you're on the same team as your toddler. It can go something like this..
If you need help, I'm here and can give you a boost.
Do you want to get on the big potty yourself, or do you want mama to lift you?
That's all! When you team up with your child, the potty training process goes much smoother.
Related: And this idea is something you can use in other self-care parts of your toddler's life, too. Before I give my goodbye hugs to my kiddos at their school, I ask if they want an *up hug or down hug*. They almost always want an *up* hug, where I lift up my kiddo up into my arms for a hug.
But the simple ask shows them that it's their body, and I want their okay before simply lifting them up.
Ask if your child wants your help before doing it for them — when it comes to getting dressed, cutting their waffle, or zipping their jacket. Your child may be a long way off from doing all these skills themselves. But a simple ask before going in and doing it for them helps your toddler feel more *in control*.
And when your toddler feels more independent, more in control, you'll see less resistance, fewer dramatic meltdowns.
And you'll see your child relax more.
If you want your child to *take on* pooping in the potty, first think about how you can make your child feel more independent and in control of their body in other ways.
Related: What if your child won't let you lift them on the potty? How do you get poop catches in the potty? I spend a whole section of my e-course Potty Training Solutions talking through ways to help the child who won't sit on the potty. As it's true, you also don't want poops on the floor to become the norm. If your child has been struggling with pooping in the potty for many weeks, I'd check out Jamie's Pooping Solutions course.
3. Consider how you're wiping your child's bum
So here's a simple tip as you move into potty training. Some parents ditch the diapers, start potty training, and immediately abandon the wipes. There's no *rule* about this but consider these points first.
Your child is not going to be able to effectively wipe their bottom for a long time (even a 3-year-old's arms are often not long enough to reach and wipe inside their bum).
Toilet paper is dry and not as comfortable as wet wipes on the bum. You don't want your child first connecting *pooping in the potty* with *ouchy dry toilet paper* especially if your kiddo is on the sensitive side.
If your child has poop that looks like almond butter in texture (often a sign that there haven't been enough veggies and high fiber or hydration that day) then wiping with toilet paper is more likely to lead to track marks in the underwear, which is never pleasant, either.
Stick with what your child feels comfortable with and what's been working for you when possible.
Of course you can use toilet paper, especially when you're out and about and need to use a public restroom. (Though I like to carry my wet wipes in a wet/dry pouch along with a spare set of clothes for outings.)
Honestly there are 327 reasons to continue carrying wet wipes around even after your child is diaper-free.
This is just one! (I've had many instances in the car where wet wipes have saved the day.)
Here's another simple but necessary thing to consider with wiping.
Make sure you're doing it gently, no matter what you're using.
Of course we're often trying to get the job done fast, and it's not a super pleasant task to wipe poop off your child's bottom. But we want the whole process of pooping — start to finish — to feel comfortable, relaxed, and gentle for your toddler. Keep that in mind and check in to be sure any other caregivers are also wiping with wet wipes (if that's the route you choose) or at least using a gentle touch.
Help your kiddo feel comfortable and in control.
Remember it's the simple stuff — done consistently — that helps toddlers click in to a new routine. Pooping in the potty.
And it's the small stuff that goes a long way towards making poop feel like something to celebrate with a happy emoji.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs