Jo Chesterman and FloMy daughter Flo first became painfully constipated around the age of two at a time when she was teething and became fussy about what she would eat (professionally avoiding fruit and vegetables!). I spent nearly a year trying to deal with this through diet - being as creative as I could about food to ‘trick’ her into eating a balanced diet and keeping the food moving through her system.  We took her out of nappies at three-years-old because we hoped that sitting on the toilet would put her in a better position to poo rather than standing up pooing in her nappy.    

Vicious cycle of withholding and constipation 

Until that point, I hadn’t realised just how hard constipation makes the potty training process and the impact of Flo's habit of withholding. This made it even more difficult for her to poo and so the vicious cycle went on… I rang ERIC's bowel and bladder helpline and visited my GP to get help, as what we were trying wasn’t working and it was getting very stressful for Flo and the rest of the family.  We got a prescription of Movicol and told ‘itup to you to get the right dose.’ 

Support from the ERIC helpline 

I didn’t get any more advice from our GP about what else to do sadly, so for a while we just hoped that Movicol alone would solve the issue and we could all move on. A couple of more calls to ERIC's  helpline advisors helped us to understand that Flo was backed up with poo and that we needed to disimpact her and clear out her bowel for any progress to be made.   

Wetting and soiling accidents  

By nowFlo was day wetting and soiling her knickers a lot. Every time I picked her up from pre-school she had several bags of wet, dirty clothes. Fortunately, the staff were very supportive and understanding - several other children there were experiencing the same.   

Flo's day wetting was related to her being backed up and not feeling the sensation of needing to wee. The soiling was made worse by Flo's withholding - poo would leak around the blockage into her pants. Finding the right maintenance dose of laxative also proved tricky. Sometimes the Movicol dose was too low, and then at other times the Movicol dose was too high!  Carrying on with Movicol seemed wise (basically Flo would be severely and constantly constipated without it) but what's really her to keep her poo on the move has been regular, relaxed toilet time.  

Talking to others 

Dealing with Flo's bowel problems is still an ongoing issue for us all as a family, but its better than it was and that keeps our spirits up - most of the time! When spirits drop, then a chat and a cry helps.  I have made friends with two mums who have children with toileting issues and it’s so liberating to talk openly to one another about our experiences without the typical horrified expression that even good friends cant help when you talk about parenting a child who’s having medium/long term toileting problems.   

For peer to peer support, head to ERIC's forum pages.

Jo has also written a blog post with tips for helping children relax on the toilet.