Potty training - wee but won't poo!

Toddlers often learn to wee on the potty before they’ll ever poo there. It’s not unusual for them to have soiled pants even if they’re doing all their wees on the potty. But if you suspect your little one needs to poo but is keeping it in, you might need to help things along.

Make sure it’s not constipation

First make sure your child isn’t constipated. If your child is not getting enough dietary fibre or fluid in her daily intake, her poos may be infrequent and when they do come they’re big, hard and painful to pass. Constipated kids can be forgiven for being reluctant to do a poo under these circumstances.

Make sure it’s not a power struggle

Potty training too early or in a pressured situation where children are made to feel bad or naughty for having accidents can turn the whole thing into a power struggle. You might think you’ve made progress with wee in the potty, but holding onto his poos can be a toddler’s final attempt to regain control. If you suspect this might be the case, slow down, reassure your child he’s doing really well and that your proud of his progress so far. Then lay off him while he relaxes back into pooing wherever he feels comfortable doing so.

Put her poo in the loo

If everything is otherwise fine but your toddler’s still doing her poos in her pants or pull-up, let her carry on. However there are two things you can do:

  1. Get her to do the deed in the bathroom or toilet room even if that means she sits in the corner doing it in her pants. Then progress to getting her to sit on her potty – even if she’s still in her pants or pull-up. The next step is then to remove the pull-up or pants. Take it slow and give her lots of positive fuss when she makes any progress.
  2. Once she’s done a poo in her pants or pull-up, make sure you empty the poo into the toilet and let her see you doing this. She needs to be reminded of the connection between poo and the loo. She’ll also get used to the plopping sound, the splash and the flush if these are things she’s worried about.

A parent's view

Kevin, dad to Perry (3 years, 6 months) says: “Perry had some kind of phobia about doing his poos anywhere except in his night-time pull-up. He’d hold it in all day The Health visitor suggested we sit him on the potty with a balloon to blow up or a toy trumpet to blow. It uses the pooing muscles apparently. Hey presto! After that Perry seemed to turn a corner and all his poos started going in the potty.”

The expert view

Kate Daymond from Parentalk says “Bowel movement resistance is quite a common problem. Some children find the sight of poo a bit frightening, so they won’t poo anywhere but a nappy. Your tot may need reassuring, so as bizarre as it sounds, let them see other people’s poos. A book like Everybody Poos by Taro Gomi can help him realise that there’s nothing to be scared of.”


My son had trouble pooing on the potty. I think it was hard for him to poo sitting when he was used to squatting to do it. For him, it helped if I gave him a hug as he was trying. Made him feel more secure and after several successful attempts like that, he no longer needed that! I've also heard of toddlers succeeding better when given a little privacy! It can be hard to poo if you have an audience!
Hmm..We have the opposite issue.. 2yr3month old boy asks to sit on potty or big toilet to poo but wont wee on potty or toilet!
My son is 2.7 months, started potty training when he was 2.3 he took to it with in a flash. He was dry during the night probably 6 months before then. We started with a potty sitting him down on it a month before that he was going for poos on it no problems. As soon as we started potty training him he refuse to go to toilet for a poo he just go in his pants. For how long should I be patient?
my son cant poo in the potty its not a wont he just has not learned to SIT and poo yet he can only do it when he is STANDING or SLEEPING! poor kid finds it most distressing running aroung shouting i need a poo i need a poo what we did the last time was strip his pants stand outside and catch it and praise him for doing apoo in his potty bless him
My daughter wee's fine on the potty or toilet if she feels like it. she's 3 in july but still wont poo anywhere except her nappy. she tells me she need a poo then i have to put a nappy on her otherwise she'll just hold it in!
my little boy will be 3 in may but he wont use the potty i dont no what to do he is not talking that well either which is harder to get him to tell me when he needs to go can anyone help thanks
my little girl is just training- well nothing pressurised- we just let her do what she wants when she wants to (she is 22months) Weeing not a problem, and we got over the poo thing pretty much straight away after she first did it... She was running round nappy free, squatted to start pooing- so popped the potty under her bum... she was mesmerised at it- she put her hand int he potty to pick it up... squidged it a bit- now she thinks its great when she poo's - she picks up her potty, runs to the toilet with the poo to flush it! Felt a bit gross watching her squidge her poo, but she was intrigued so figured why not let her- washed her hands after so ........