The truth about poo (not Pooh): what every new parent needs to know

Warning: This is about poo – so if you may be offended please stop reading!

Before I gave birth to my first son, I had read a couple of books to prepare me for what was to come.

One thing I wish someone had told me was that healthy babies, around six weeks of age, cry a lot. It is a developmental reality not a sign that we are lousy parents. Gee that would have been helpful to know.

Well another thing I wished that more experienced parents or maternal nurses had given me some information about was poo – in all its glory –especially up until around when our children start primary school.

Let’s start with the first shock. The first poo after a baby has been born can be a shock. I mean how often have you seen a black poo? Totally healthy, however it still looked pretty awful to me.

Every single baby or toddler will have a different ‘poo personality’.

I had no idea that some babies under three months of age cannot poo for 10 days and then it can kind of pour out – like all at once – over a couple of minutes.

I witnessed this for myself with one of our beautiful grandbabies and I was totally gobsmacked.

We actually needed paper towels to help us collect the almost endless oozing poo. Of course the few days before this massive eruption, our precious little one had been restless and uncomfortable. Heck – no wonder! Once she had completed her evacuation, she was back to her happy contented self for the next nine days or so until it all happened again!

I remember having a very distressed five-month-old baby boy (who was fully breastfed) screaming – seemingly distressed. My wonderful family doctor – an older Scottish guy – suggested that maybe he could be constipated and asked when did he do his last poo? Sure enough, it had been around five days prior and he was constipated. My doctor suggested adding some prune juice into his diet – nowadays there are much more delicious things that have been created to help little ones who become constipated.

Babies and toddlers can do neat little poos or absolutely massive ‘poonamis’ or ‘shituations’. These occur when the poo seems to be spread right up to their neckline – both back and front!

For some weird reason, these particular spectacular poo performances tend to happen in the doctor’s surgery, in the supermarket, just as you are dropping an older child off to school or just as you are trying to run out the door for an important meeting.

Even after having four babies, I was still caught out by these performances and there were times that I had continued on to an appointment, with said poo smeared on my skirt or pants, having not noticed at the time.

When your toddler is at that stage when they seem to think changing them is an opportunity to become a contortionist – when they do 360s and you’re only holding on with one leg – wow that will test the most competent of parents.

And it does not make it any easier that they are laughing at you at the same time because they think it is a game. The poo can be spread to some very interesting places during this performance.

Then there is the toilet training experience and it seems that for many children, it takes a lot of courage to be able to poo in a potty or a big toilet.

For a range of possible reasons – such as sensory issues around the noise of a flushing toilet, the texture/feeling of poo, anxiety around being alone in a toilet, the height of the toilet – some of our sensitive little ones who have completely mastered being able to wee as need be, can take ages to master the poo the same way.

I know one special lad who is now only just over three, would grab a few dinosaurs and a couple of his favourite cars and disappear under the dining table to do a poo. Now he has been able to do the odd poo in the potty, but most days he will come and ask if he can have a nappy on so he can disappear into his safe poo place, to do the work he needs to do.

It seems the more stress children feel, the less likely they are going to be able to do a poo anywhere other than their safe poo place.

One thing I have often noted about boys in particular is they do not poo at school.

Sometimes your son may kick you as you are leaving the school setting if you stop to talk to someone. He is possibly trying to tell you he has a poo that is due, and he would like it if you would take him home so he can deliver it.

While reluctance to poo at school can be common, if your child beyond toddlerhood has ongoing issues with fear of pooing, withholding poo or being phobic about toilets, you may need to do some work on calming their anxiety around this. If you have any concerns around these things, please do seek professional help.

These are just a few of the things I wish I knew about poo, before I became a mum the first time round.