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Withholding wee and poo positions

There are lots of different signs and clues which show your child is trying to stop wee or poo from coming out. Here are some of the things children may do when they withhold:

  • Appear to be straining to go, when actually they are desperately trying to stop wee or poo leaving their body!

  • Stopping suddenly during play.

  • Making unusual facial expressions such as grimacing.

  • Holding their bodies at a different angle, go rigid and standing on their tip toes. Also known as a ‘banana bend,’ this holding stance is used by children when a wave of peristalsis (squeezing of the gut) happens.

  • Seeming vacant and not responding to instructions. It can take a huge amount of effort and concentration to hold on. Your child may get cross if you interrupt them at this point or seem 'unreachable'.

  • Going into denial e.g. "I don't need a poo and I haven't had an accident" when you can clearly smell that they have! This is a classic stress response to a situation they feel embarrassed about but don't know how to stop or control.  

  • ‘Smudges’ of poo in their pants or nappy. This is where the poo is trying to come out through the anus - it may brush the pants, then your child realises what is happening and ‘sucks’ the poo back in.

  • Damp pants may also be an indication that your child is only allowing a dribble of wee out at a time. 

  • Hiding in a favourite, safe space. They may choose to hide in their favourite pooing spot, commonly this is behind the sofa, rolled up in a curtain, in a corner or even behind a barricade of toys.

  • Some may sit on the toilet or potty and make grunting noises that sound like ‘pushing’ but this is actually them using all their effort to keep their bottom firmly closed.

  • Crouching or sitting when the poo begins to emerge and then standing up quickly to prevent it coming out.

  • Pooing in their night nappies or night wear, is another indication of stool holding. Once your child relaxes in bed, they can no longer hold and the poo escapes. We don’t normally poo the night because our bowel isn’t being stimulated by food and drink. The gut is resting and not pushing its’ contents through as actively as during the daytime.

More information about withholding and how to treat it