Soiling is most commonly caused by constipation

A child is considered constipated if they have a poo less than three times a week. When we don’t poo often enough the bowel becomes full and blocked by hard poo. When you move around, smaller or looser pieces of poo can leak around the side of the blockage, and this is known as soiling. Many children simply don’t realise they have soiled because their bottom doesn’t send a clear message to indicate that it needs a poo. This can make many children feel quite anxious, as well as embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened.

Top tips

  • Keep a diary: It can be useful to keep a diary of your child’s soiling to see if there are any patterns in when it occurs or what is happening when they soil.
  • Introduce a toilet routine: Children are more likely to have a poo when they are feeling relaxed, so find quiet times of the day to go to the toilet and allow them 5–10 minutes to sit. Our bowels tend to be at their most active about 20 minutes after eating, so encouraging your child to sit on the toilet after meals can help to prevent accidents.
  • Have fun on the toilet: Blowing bubbles or blowing up balloons uses the same muscles as having a poo and helps many children to poo more easily. Alternatively, rocking backwards and forward to music or a song encourages the movement of poo and may help your child pass their poo with ease.
  • Praise and reward: Children love praise! Try encouraging your child with a reward chart and reinforce whatever step they are working towards, e.g. sitting on the toilet for five minutes. 
  • Diet: Ensure your child is eating a healthy diet with lots of fibre – e.g. fruit, vegetables and wholegrains – and plenty of water. Aim for about six to seven cups of water or a water-based juice each day.
  • Exercise: Exercise is really important in stimulating the bowels’ movement so be sure there is plenty of time to run around!
  • Talk to your child: Often children withhold their poos when they are feeling worried or anxious about something; try to talk to your child to see if there is anything on their mind.

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If you would like further support please speak to your GP, health visitor or school nurse.