I think I may have said before on this blog that I wouldn't talk about potty stuff anymore. But after thinking about it, I've decided that I must share a little more in case any of my friends ever run into this issue with their kids in their future potty-training adventures.
Yes, he potty-trained very quickly back in November or last year. And he did really well for a few months. But then he started regressing, and we found that he was holding his poops in again like he did when he was in daycare before Vivi was born. After doing a bunch of research, I discovered that Owen had a condition called encopresis.
Yes, I am one of those parents who self-diagnosed their own child, via searching the interwebs for information. When my little boy was holding in his poops for days, and I could physically see him holding it and how uncomfortable he was, I was desperate to find out how to help him. We took him to a pediatric GI specialist after Owen landed in the ER from holding it at daycare, but all he did was tell us that our son would probably have to be on Miralax for the next year or so, until we got him through potty-training. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. It is a medication that is not approved for use in children, but still doctors prescribe it off-label when they see a child with chronic constipation or holding, since it helps pull water into the colon.
Our pediatrician echoed his thoughts, but also added that we should try to eliminate as many processed foods as we could from his diet, and add more fruits, veggies, and water. Better, but still, not exactly the most helpful solution for the stressful situation we were experiencing. I was frustrated because the doctors didn't seem to be concerned about a toddler being on an adult medication long-term. I didn't want to do it.
So I didn't listen to them. We used the Miralax when we needed to, but I didn't feel comfortable giving it to him every day. I didn't want him to rely on it, and, more importantly - I was (and still am) concerned about long-term side effects. What if a study comes out in 20 years saying that it caused major damage to the kids who were on it during their childhood? I wouldn't be able to forgive myself. Plus, I kept thinking about when I was a kid, and when my mom and dad were kids. They didn't have MIRALAX back then. So I didn't think Owen needed to use it now. We needed to find a better (and safer) solution.
So I did my research. I found a Yahoo! group made up of parents (mostly moms, as we seem to usually be on the forefront of potty-training) whose kids were dealing with encopresis. To join, all I had to do was send an email request for membership to the group's owner. I was immediately admitted, and started reading the numerous threads of moms and dads discussing their progress with helping their children overcome encopresis.
I met one mom who offered to send me two books that helped her tremendously, and I took her up on the offer. One was for him: It Hurts When I Poop: A book for children who are scared to use the potty by Howard Bennett, the other was for parents: Constipation, Withholding and Your Child by Anthony Cohn. The books came the following week and Owen asked to read the one for him every night for a week. It was the perfect book for him. It is the story of a little boy who holds his poops in so his parents have to take him to the doctor. The doctor explains to him, using a story of her own, how your body uses the food you eat and what is leftover is turned into poop, which we need to let out of our body so that our belly doesn't hurt.
I think it really hit home with Owen. We also started using a suggestion I found via the encopresis forum - we had Owen do a 5-minute sit about 10-15 minutes after each meal. We made it clear that if "poop comes out, that's okay, if poop doesn't come out, that's okay too". I learned that because he had conditioned his body to hold the poops in for so long, he was going to have to re-learn how to feel the sensation that he needed to go poop. Having him do a 5-minute sit helped him to recognize the feeling again over time.
We also printed out a new potty chart for him and every time he pooped on the potty, he got to put a sticker on his chart. He also got 3 chocolate chips for each poop.
He takes a gummy children's multivitamin every morning, in addition to a Fiber Gummy twice a day. I've also added a probiotic yogurt drink in once a day. Sometimes I'll give him a Good Belly juice drink. I think these supplements really help his digestive system. And he loves taking them, so it's a win-win.
The entire month of June he went consistently every single day. Sometimes two times a day, and once we had a 3-poop day! We are so proud of him and are keeping our fingers crossed that the success continues. These last two weeks he's actually been going on his own and we don't have to initiate a 5-minute sit anymore. The funniest part about this whole experience is that after he produces a poop, he yells:
"Mommy, Mommy!! Come see what I made!!"