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Ask Dr. Marla: Soft Bowel Movements Affecting Potty Training

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Marla - ask dr. Marla: soft bowel movements affecting potty training

My daughter Sophie is two years old. She has been having very soft bowel movements that border on diarrhea for at least three months. We tried taking her off dairy and eggs and saw no difference. The doctor tested a stool sample but that revealed nothing. She is not breastfed, eats meat, vegetables, fruit, bread and dairy on a fairly regular basis. She wants to potty train but this soft stool is preventing her. What would you suggest?

A. The soft stools may not be abnormal and I am unsure why they would prevent your daughter from toilet training. There are a host of reasons as to why there may have been a change in the consistency of her stools. Sometimes a child may have a viral gastroenteritits and following the infection, even after they are better, they may have temporary lactose intolerance. On occasion, although rarely, there might be a permanent lactose intolerance. Try eliminating dairy products again, offering her lactose-free or soy milk products and limiting cheese and ice cream. If this is the reason, by day three or five you should note a difference in her stool consistency.
On occasion, children drink too much juice, and this can influence stool consistency. Also, even though you note soft stool, it actually is possible that this is really overflow and most of the stool in her bowel is actually hard and she is constipated. Your doctor can examine your child and might choose to do further investigations.
While there are illnesses such as gluten intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and other metabolic diseases, your doctor should be able to exclude anything worrisome. Once your doctor has ruled out any significant disease, I would encourage you not to become upset or focused on your daughter’s stool as this might be contributing to the problem in potty training her.

Published May 2010

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