When potty training gets hard: constipation


toilet paperUnfortunately, constipation and potty training go together.

This should come as no surprise. Let’s consider the two favorite words of two and three-year-olds:
“Mine,” and “No.”

Now think of how these words apply to a toddler who is starting to understand the purpose of the potty. The well meaning parent says, “Honey, we want you to put your poop to the potty.”

For many toddlers, the answer is… “NO! MINE!”

The problem begins when the toddler is determined NOT to give up her own poop. The longer your child holds in the poop, the harder and more difficult it will be to pass the poop. Thus, a vicious cycle begins. Your child finds pooping painful and scary. This cycle must be interrupted. Here are some tips:

Stop potty training and go back to diapers.

Before you groan at this suggestion, hear this story:  The parents of one 2 ½-year-old were pleased that all “pee pee” was making it into the potty, but dismayed that she demanded a Pull-Up for poop. I suggested that she should wear diapers full time, and when pee AND poop go in the potty, then the princess underwear would come back. The child responded to me, “That isn’t very nice!” But guess what? That night, she pooped in the potty. Of course, her baby sibling is due in a few weeks, so we’ll see if success continues…  but regression with new babies is a topic for another blog post.

Make the poop easy to pass.
Use natural interventions: increase water throughout the day and give undiluted juice such as prune, pear, apple, or pineapple (the other juices don’t hurt but do not actually help the cause) once a day. Offer fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and high fiber cereals (just read the labels, try for more than 3 grams per serving).  Encourage exercise.

Practice regular potty/toilet sitting.

Catch the poop when it’s naturally likely to come.  The most likely time a toddler will poop is just after eating because of the gastrocolic reflex, a reflex which causes the bowels to move after eating. After every meal, have your potty trainer sit for 2-5 minutes. Treat this as a house rule. Read a book on the potty or tell stories to help pass the time.

Teach your child to prioritize pooping over playing.
If kids “really have to go” but they are busy playing, they will hold in the poop to avoid interruption. Watch for signs of a need to defecate such as squirming (better known as the potty dance) or hiding. To avoid a power struggle, say something like, “The poop wants to come out, let’s go,” rather than, “Do you want to go to the potty now?” and reward the child for sitting, not for producing.

Some over-the-counter products can help. You should discuss dosing, timing, risks, and benefits of each with your child’s health care provider before choosing. Medicines include:

  • Mineral oil: mix with something that tastes good such as juice or chocolate milk.  The brand Kondremul tastes sweet and is hidden easily in milk because it’s white. Mineral Oil makes poop so slippery that even a determined toddler will not “hold it.”
  • Polyethyleneglycol (PEG) 3350 (Miralax):  with a prescribed amount of liquid, it has no taste and pulls extra water into the bowels so that the poop stays soft.
  • Glycerin suppositories:  can be the “quick fix” step before you have to resort to enemas, which are more traumatic.
  • Children’s laxatives such as Milk of Magnesia.
  • Senna-containing products – in the past there were concerns of bowel dependency with long-term use. This concern has been questioned by specialists. Ask your doctor about the products.

At one potty training child’s three year birthday party, the poor birthday boy spent half his party trying to pass a large hard poop, the result of several days of withholding. After one small glycerin suppository and a large amount of anxiety, he rejoined his friends; leaving his parents feeling guilty that they had not paid attention to his pooping frequency prior to the party. While the goal is for our children to be completely independent potty users, we have to help our potty trainers by keeping track of the frequency and consistency of their poop in order to prevent a withholding/painful pooping/constipation cycle from starting.

Be alert to potential medical causes of constipation (as opposed to behavioral or situational) and consult your child’s health care provider if you can’t seem to remedy the problem.

In the world of young potty trainers, try to avoid power struggles, “keep things moving,” make things soft and easy, and remember that this too shall pass.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod®
updated 2017




The Scoop on Poop: back by popular demand!


As we said to Robin Young on NPR’s Here and Now, “A lot of life’s issues all boil down to the essentials of life…eat, sleep, drink, pee, poop and love.” So today we give you… the scoop on poop.

Admit it.

Before you became a parent, you never really gave much thought to other people’s poop.

Now you are captivated and can even discuss it over meal time: your child’s poop with its changing colors and consistency. Your vocabulary for poop has likely also changed. Before your baby’s birth, you probably used some grown-up word like “bowel movement” or “stool” or perhaps some “R” rated term not appropriate to this pediatric site.

We pediatricians have many conversations with new parents, and some not-so-new parents, about poop. Mostly this topic is of great interest to parents with newborns, but poop issues come out at other milestones in a child’s life, namely when starting solid foods and during potty training.

Poop comes in three basic colors that are all equal signs of normal health: brown, yellow, and green. Newborn poop, while typically yellow and mustard like, can occasionally come out in the two other colors, even if what goes in, namely breast milk or formula, stays the same. The color change is more a reflection of how long the milk takes to pass through the intestines and how much bile acid gets mixed in with the developing poop.

Bad colors of poop are: red (blood), white (complete absence of color), and tarry black. Only the first poop that babies pass on the first day of life, called meconium, is always tarry black and is normal. At any other time of life, black tarry stools are abnormal and are a sign of potential internal bleeding and should always be discussed with your child’s health care provider, as should blood in poop (also not normal) and white poop (which could indicate a liver problem).

Normal pooping behavior for a newborn can be grunting, turning red, crying, and generally appearing as if an explosion is about to occur. As long as what comes out after all this effort is a soft poop (and normal poop should always be soft), then this behavior is normal. Other babies poop effortlessly and this, too, is normal.

Besides its color, another topic of intense fascination to many parents is the frequency and consistency of poop. This aspect is often tied in with questions about diarrhea and constipation. Here is the scoop:

It is normal for newborns to poop during or after every feeding, although not all babies poop this often. This means that if your baby feeds 8-12 times a day, then she can have 8-12 poops a day. One reason that newborns are seen every few weeks in the pediatric office is to check that they are gaining weight normally: that calories taken in are enough for growth and are not just being pooped out. While normal poop can be very soft and mushy, diarrhea is watery and prevents normal weight gain.

After the first few weeks of life, a change in pooping frequency can occur. Some formula fed babies will continue their frequent pooping while others decrease to once a day or even once every 2-3 days. Some breastfed babies actually decrease their poop frequency to once a week! These babies’ guts digest breast milk so efficiently that they are left with little waste product. As long as these less-frequently-pooping babies are feeding well, not vomiting, acting well, have soft bellies rather than hard, distended bellies, and are growing normally, then parents and other caregivers can enjoy the less frequent diaper changes. Urine frequency should remain the same (at least 6 wet diapers every 24 hours, on average) and is a sign that your baby is adequately hydrated. Again, as long as what comes out in the end is soft, then your baby is not “constipated” but rather has “decreased poop frequency.”

True constipation is poop that is hard and comes out as either small hard pellets or a large hard poop mass. These poops are often painful to pass and can cause small tears in the anus. You should discuss true constipation with your child’s health care provider. A typical remedy, assuming that everything else about your baby is okay, is adding a bit of prune or apple juice, generally ½ to 1 ounce, to the formula bottle once or twice daily. True constipation in general is more common in formula-fed babies than breastfed babies.

Adding solid foods generally causes poop to become more firm or formed, but not always. It DOES always cause more odor and can also add color to poop. Dr. Kardos still remembers her surprise over her eldest’s first “sweet potato poop” as she and her husband asked each other, “Will you look at that? Isn’t this exactly how it looked when he ATE it?” If constipation, meaning hard poop that is painful to pass, occurs during solid food introductions, you can usually help soften up the poop by giving more prunes and oatmeal and less rice and bananas.

Potty training can trigger constipation resulting from poop withholding. This poop withholding can result in backup of poop in the intestines which leads to pain and poor eating. Children withhold poop for one of three main reasons:

  1. They are afraid of the toilet or potty seat.
  2. They had one painful poop and they resolve never to repeat the experience by trying to never poop again.
  3. They are locked into a control issue with their parents. Recall the truism “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” This applies to potty training as well.

Treatment for stool withholding is to QUIT potty training for at least a few weeks and to ADD as much stool softening foods and drinks as possible. Good-for-poop drinks and foods include prune juice, apple juice, pear juice, water, fiber-rich breads and cereals, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, under the guidance of your child’s health care provider, medical stool softeners or laxatives are needed until your child overcomes his fear of pooping and resolves his control issue. For more information about potty training we refer you to our post with podcast on this subject.

Our goal with this blog post was to highlight some frequently-asked-about poop topics and to reassure that most things come out okay in the end. And that’s the real scoop.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2017 Two Peds in a Pod®
modified from 2009 and 2014  posts




A guide for parents of one-year-olds


When your baby turns one, you’ll realize he has a much stronger will. My oldest threw his first tantrum the day he turned one. At first, we puzzled: why was he suddenly lying face down on the kitchen floor? The indignant crying that followed clued us to his anger. “Oh, it’s a tantrum,” my husband and I laughed, relieved.

Parenting one-year-olds requires the recognition that your child innately desires to become independent of you. Eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop: eventually your child will learn to control these basics of life by himself. We want our children to feed themselves, go to sleep when they feel tired, and pee and poop on the potty. Of course, there’s more to life such as playing, forming relationships, succeeding in school, etc, but we all need the basics. The challenge comes in recognizing when to allow your child more independence and when to reinforce your authority.

Here’s the mantra: Parents provide unconditional love while they simultaneously make rules, enforce rules, and decide when rules need to be changed. Parents are the safety officers  and provide food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep. Parents are teachers. Children are the sponges and the experimenters. Here are concrete examples of how to provide loving guidance:

Eating: The rules for parents are to provide healthy food choices, calm mealtimes, and to enforce sitting during meals. The child must sit to eat. Walking while eating poses a choking hazard. Children decide how much, if any, food they will eat. They choose if they eat only the chicken or only the peas and strawberries. They decide how much of their water or milk they drink. By age one, they should be feeding themselves part or ideally all of their meal. By 18 months they should be able to use a spoon or fork for part of their meal.

If, however, parents continue to completely spoon feed their children, cajole their children into eating “just one more bite,” insist that their child can’t have strawberries until they eat  their chicken, or bribe their children by dangling a cookie as a reward for eating dinner, then the child gets the message that independence is undesirable. They will learn to ignore their internal sensations of hunger and fullness.

For perspective, remember that newborns eat frequently and enthusiastically because they gain an ounce per day on average, or one pound every 2-3 weeks. A typical one-year-old gains about 5 pounds during his entire second year, or one pound every 2-3 months. Normal, healthy toddlers do not always eat every meal of every day, nor do they finish all meals. Just provide the healthy food, sit back, and enjoy meal time with your toddler and the rest of the family.  

A one-year-old child will throw food off of his high chair tray to see how you react. Do you laugh? Do you shout? Do you do a funny dance to try to get him to eat his food? Then he will continue to refuse to eat and throw the food instead. If you say blandly,” I see you are full. Here, let’s get you down so you can play,” then he will do one of two things:

1)      He will go play. He was not hungry in the first place.

2)      He will think twice about throwing food in the future because whenever he throws food, you put him down to play. He will learn to eat the food when he feels hungry instead of throwing it.

Sleep: The rule is that parents decide on reasonable bedtimes and naptimes. The toddler decides when he actually falls asleep. Singing to oneself or playing in the crib is fine. Even cries of protest are fine. Check to make sure he hasn’t pooped or knocked his binky out of the crib. After you change the poopy diaper/hand back the binky, LEAVE THE ROOM! Many parents tell me that “he just seems like he wants to play at 2:00am or he seems hungry.” Well, this assessment may be correct, but remember who is boss. Unless your family tradition is to play a game and have a snack every morning at 2:00am, then just say “No, time for sleep now,” and ignore his protests.

Pee/poop: The rule is that parents keep bowel movements soft by offering a healthy diet. The toddler who feels pain when he poops will do his best not to have a bowel movement. Going into potty training a year or two from now with a constipated child can lead to many battles. 

Even if your child does not show interest in potty training for another year or two, talk up the advantages of putting pee and poop in the potty as early as age one. Remember, repetition is how kids learn.

Your one-year-old will test your resolve. He is now able to think to himself, “Is this STILL the rule?” or “What will happen if I do this?” That’s why he goes repeatedly to forbidden territory such as the TV or a standing lamp or plug outlet, stops when you say “No no!”, smiles, and proceeds to reach for the forbidden object.

When you feel exasperated by the number of times you need to redirect your toddler, remember that if toddlers learned everything the first time around, they wouldn’t need parenting. Permit your growing child to develop her emerging independence whenever safely possible. Encourage her to feed herself even if that is messier and slower. Allow her to fall asleep in her crib and resist only rocking her to sleep. Everyone deserves to learn how to fall asleep independently. You don’t want to train a future insomniac adult.

And if you are baffled by your child’s running away from you one minute and clinging to you the next, just think how confused your child must feel: she’s driven towards independence on the one hand and on the other hand she knows she’s wholly dependent upon you for basic needs. Above all else, remember the goal of parenthood is to help your child grow into a confident, independent adult… who remembers to call his parents every day to say good night… ok, at least once a week to check in…. ok, keep in touch with those who got him there!

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2012, 2017 Two Peds in a Pod®




Raise a well-behaved child: set the stage while they are toddlers


Riding into toddlerhood

Riding into toddlerhood

When your baby turns one, you’ll realize he has a much stronger will. My oldest threw his first tantrum the day he turned one. At first, we puzzled: why was he suddenly lying face down on the kitchen floor? The indignant crying that followed clued us to his anger. “Oh, it’s a tantrum,” my husband and I laughed, relieved he wasn’t sick.

Parenting toddlers requires the recognition that your child innately desires to become independent of you. Eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop: eventually your child will learn to control these basics of life by himself. We want our children to feed themselves, go to sleep when they feel tired, and pee and poop on the potty. Of course, there’s more to life such as playing, forming relationships, succeeding in school, etc, but we all need the basics. The challenge comes in recognizing when to allow your child more independence and when to reinforce your authority.

Here’s the mantra: Parents provide unconditional love while they simultaneously make rules, enforce rules, and decide when rules need to be changed. Parents are the safety officers  and provide food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep. Parents are teachers. Children are the sponges and the experimenters. Don’t be afraid of spoiling  your child; be afraid of raising a child that acts spoiled. Here are concrete examples of how to provide loving guidance:

Eating: The rules for parents are to provide healthy food choices, calm mealtimes, and to enforce sitting during meals. The child must sit to eat. Walking while eating poses a choking hazard. Children decide how much, if any, food they will eat. The kids choose if they eat only the chicken or only the peas and strawberries. They decide how much of their water or milk they drink. By age one, they should be feeding themselves part or ideally all of their meal. By 18 months they should be able to use a spoon or fork for part of their meal.

If, however, parents continue to completely spoon feed their children, cajole their children into eating “just one more bite,” insist that their child can’t have strawberries until they eat  their chicken, or bribe their children by dangling a cookie as a reward for eating dinner, then the child gets the message that independence is undesirable. They will learn to ignore their internal sensations of hunger and fullness.

For perspective, remember that newborns eat frequently and enthusiastically because they gain an ounce per day on average, or one pound every 2-3 weeks. A typical one-year-old gains about 5 pounds during his entire second year, or one pound every 2-3 months. Normal, healthy toddlers do not always eat every meal of every day, nor do they finish all meals. Just provide the healthy food, sit back, and enjoy meal time with your toddler and the rest of the family.  

A one-year-old child will throw food off of his high chair tray to see how you react. Do you laugh? Do you shout? Do you do a funny dance to try to get him to eat his food? Then he will continue to refuse to eat and throw the food instead. Instead, you can say blandly,” I see you are full. Here, let’s get you down so you can play,” then he will do one of two things:

1)      He will go play. He was not hungry in the first place.

2)      He will think twice about throwing food in the future because whenever he throws food, you put him down to play. He will learn to eat the food when he feels hungry instead of throwing it.

Sleep: The rule is that parents decide on reasonable bedtimes and naptimes. The toddler decides when he actually falls asleep. Singing to oneself or playing in the crib is fine. Even cries of protest are fine. Check to make sure he hasn’t pooped or knocked his binky out of the crib. After you change the poopy diaper/hand back the binky, LEAVE THE ROOM! Many parents tell me , “He just seems like he wants to play at 2:00am or he seems hungry.” Well, this assessment may be correct, but remember who is boss. Unless your family tradition is to play a game and have a snack every morning at 2:00am, then just say “No, time for sleep now,” and ignore his protests.

Pee/poop: The rule is that parents keep bowel movements soft by offering a healthy diet. The toddler who feels pain when he poops will do his best not to have a bowel movement. Going into potty training a year or two from now with a constipated child can lead to many battles. Also the toddler decides when he is brave enough or feels grown up enough to sit on the potty. Never force a toilet training child to sit on the potty. After all, did you force your toddler to learn how to use a remote control for your television? Of course not- he learned to use it by imitating you and wanting to be like you and by being pleased with the result (Cool! I turned on the TV!). The same principle applies to potty training. He will imitate you when he is ready, and will be pleased with the result when you praise him for his result.

Even if your child does not show interest in potty training for another year or two, talk up the advantages of putting pee and poop in the potty as early as age one. Remember, repetition is how kids learn.

Your toddler will test your resolve. He is now able to think to himself, “Is this STILL the rule?” or “What will happen if I do this?” That’s why he goes repeatedly to forbidden territory such as the TV or a standing lamp or plug outlet, stops when you say “No no!”, smiles, and proceeds to reach for the forbidden object.

When you feel exasperated by the number of times you need to redirect your toddler, remember that if toddlers learned everything the first time around, they wouldn’t need parenting. Permit your growing child to develop her emerging independence whenever safely possible. Encourage her to feed herself even if that is messier and slower. Allow her to fall asleep in her crib and resist rocking and giving a bottle to sleep. Everyone deserves to learn how to fall asleep independently (and to brush their teeth before bed). You don’t want to train a future insomniac adult.

And if you are baffled by your child’s running away from you one minute and clinging to you the next, just think how confused your child must feel: she’s driven towards independence on the one hand and on the other hand she knows she’s wholly dependent upon you for basic needs. Above all else, remember the goal of parenthood is to help your child grow into a confident, independent adult.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2015, revised from 2012
Two Peds in a Pod®




The Scoop on Poop- another essential of life


IMG_8913As we said to Robin Young on NPR’s Here and Now, “a lot of life’s issues all boil down to the essentials of life…eat, sleep, drink, pee, poop and love.” Continuing our ideas and updates on all of those baby essentials, here’s the scoop on poop :

Okay, admit it.

Before you became a parent, you never really gave much thought to poop.

Now you are captivated and can even discuss it over meal time: your child’s poop with its changing colors and consistency. Your vocabulary for poop has likely also changed as you are now parents. Before your baby’s birth, you probably used some grown-up word like “bowel movement” or “stool” or perhaps some “R” rated term not appropriate to this pediatric site. But now, all that has changed.

As pediatricians, we have many conversations with new parents, and some not-so-new parents, about poop. Mostly this topic is of real interest to parents with newborns, but poop issues come out at other milestones in a child’s life, namely starting solid foods and potty training. So we present to you the scoop on poop.

Poop comes in three basic colors that are all equal signs of normal health: brown, yellow, and green. Newborn poop, while typically yellow and mustard like, can occasionally come out in the two other colors, even if what goes in, namely breast milk or formula, stays the same. The color change is more a reflection of how long the milk takes to pass through the intestines and how much bile acid gets mixed in with the developing poop.

Bad colors of poop are: red (blood), white (complete absence of color), and tarry black. Only the first poop that babies pass on the first day of life, called meconium, is always tarry black and is normal. At any other time of life, black tarry stools are abnormal and are a sign of potential internal bleeding and should always be discussed with your child’s health care provider, as should blood in poop (also not normal) and white poop (which could indicate a liver problem).

Normal pooping behavior for a newborn can be grunting, turning red, crying, and generally appearing as if an explosion is about to occur. As long as what comes out after all this effort is a soft poop (and normal poop should always be soft), then this behavior is normal. Other babies poop effortlessly and this, too, is normal.

Besides its color, another topic of intense fascination to many parents is the frequency and consistency of poop. This aspect is often tied in with questions about diarrhea and constipation. Here is the scoop:

It is normal for newborns to poop during or after every feeding, although not all babies poop this often. This means that if your baby feeds 8-12 times a day, then she can have 8-12 poops a day. One reason that newborns are seen every few weeks in the pediatric office is to check that they are gaining weight normally: that calories taken in are enough for growth and are not just being pooped out. While normal poop can be very soft and mushy, diarrhea is watery and prevents normal weight gain.

After the first few weeks of life, a change in pooping frequency can occur. Some formula fed babies will continue their frequent pooping while others decrease to once a day or even once every 2-3 days. Some breastfed babies actually decrease their poop frequency to once a week! It turns out that breast milk can be very efficiently digested with little waste product. Again, as long as these babies are feeding well, not vomiting, acting well, have soft bellies rather than hard, distended bellies, and are growing normally, then you as parents can enjoy the less frequent diaper changes. Urine frequency should remain the same (at least 6 wet diapers every 24 hours, on average) and is a sign that your baby is adequately hydrated. Again, as long as what comes out in the end is soft, then your baby is not “constipated” but rather has “decreased poop frequency.”

True constipation is poop that is hard and comes out as either small hard pellets or a large hard poop mass. These poops are often painful to pass and can even cause small tears in the anus. You should discuss true constipation with your child’s health care provider. A typical remedy, assuming that everything else about your baby is normal, is adding a bit of prune or apple juice, generally ½ to 1 ounce, to the formula bottle once or twice daily. True constipation in general is more common in formula fed babies than breastfed babies.

Adding solid foods generally causes poop to become more firm or formed, but not always. It DOES always cause more odor and can also add color to poop. Dr. Kardos still remembers her surprise over her eldest’s first “sweet potato poop” as she and her husband asked each other, “Will you look at that? Isn’t this exactly how it looked when it went IN?” If constipation, again meaning hard poop that is painful to pass, occurs during solid food introductions, you can usually help by giving more prunes and oatmeal and less rice and bananas to help poop become softer and easier to pass.

Potty training can trigger constipation resulting from poop withholding. This poop withholding can result in backup of poop in the intestines which leads to pain and poor eating. Children withhold poop for one of three main reasons.

They are afraid of the toilet or potty seat.

They had one painful poop and they resolve never to repeat the experience by trying to never poop again.

They are locked into a control issue with their parents. Recall the truism “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” This applies to potty training as well.

Treatment for stool withholding is to QUIT potty training for at least a few weeks and to ADD as much stool softening foods and drinks as possible. Good-for-poop drinks and foods include prune juice, apple juice, pear juice, water, fiber-rich breads and cereals, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, under the guidance of your child’s health care provider, medical stool softeners are needed until your child overcomes his fear of pooping and resolves his control issue. For more information about potty training we refer you to our post with podcast on this subject.

Our goal with this blog post was to highlight some frequently-asked-about poop topics and to reassure that most things come out okay in the end. And that’s the real scoop.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2014 Two Peds in a Pod®

modified from original 2009 post




My tummy hurts! Stomach pain in children


stomach painIt’s 24 hours after your teenager finished up a competition for National History Day. Now she’s curled up in a ball whimpering with belly pain. Post adrenaline let down? Ate something wrong for breakfast? Appendicitis? Just as a mom’s mind goes berserk thinking of all the possible causes, a doctor’s does too. There are many organs that live inside a belly, including the stomach, the intestines, the liver, and the bladder, that cause pain. Then there are the organs next to the belly which can cause pain including the lungs and the female reproductive organs. On top of it all, chemical imbalances and emotional issues can cause or exacerbate pain. So, how can one tell if your teen should ignore the pain and go to the showing of Divergent or consult with her pediatrician?

Here are some “Red Flags” of belly pain. Pay close attention to pain associated with any of the following:

  • Pain which wakes your child out of sleep
  • Severe pain – prevents walking, moving, makes kids not want to be touched. Severe pain makes kids unable to jump up and down easily.
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stools
  • Refusal to eat/not hungry—We do not mean the refusal to eat brussel sprouts, but rather refusal to eat any food
  • Change in behavior. To gauge severity, it helps to stand back and observe your kid. Block out what he is saying. Instead, watch how she acts. Your child may play with friends, run by you, say “My belly hurts,” and then continue to play. This is not as worrisome as the child who stops playing with friends and goes to lie down by herself on the couch.  School avoidance is also a sign that something is not right. 
  • Pain with a pattern– Perhaps you notice that your child experiences pain after downing milk or ice cream (dairy intolerance), or pain only on school mornings and not weekends (possible bullying at school).

Be aware, young kids often use the phrase “my tummy hurts” for any type of belly discomfort. A child whose belly pain disappears after he eats may mean, “I’m hungry.” New potty trainers may mean,” I need to go potty.” Young kids also use the phrase to mean, “I am nauseous.”

Finally, the most important “red flag” is if your child’s belly pain makes YOUR belly hurt; that is, if your gut tells you that something is wrong with your child, consult with your child’s doctor immediately.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2014 Two Peds in a Pod®




Happy Thanksgiving 2013 from your Two Peds


 

thanksgiving paper turkeyWe love being pediatricians because it’s an honor to be a part of your family, it’s intellectually challenging, and it gives us a chance to teach. But mostly, we love to make people feel better. 

 

 

 

We love not only when our patients feel better, but also when their parents feel better.

 


Parents feel better when we say:

 


Not strep throat. It’s a viral sore throat.
Not pneumonia. It’s a viral cough.
Not a broken foot. It’s an ankle sprain.
Not appendicitis. It’s constipation.
Not an ear infection. It’s fluid behind her ear drum.
Not cancer. It’s a lymph node infection.

In other words, our favorite diagnosis is “Not what you are worried about.”

 

 

Parents, including us, fear the worst when their children are ill. Some parents apologize to us when we give the diagnosis of “Not what you are worried about.” They feel they have wasted our time or their time. But this diagnosis is never a waste of time for anyone. It is a stress relieving, sometimes guilt relieving, diagnosis that we are happy to give. Too often we wish with all our hearts that we could give this diagnosis, but instead, we must confirm a parent’s fears.

 


So this Thanksgiving, we take time to be grateful for the diagnosis “Not what you are worried about.”

 

May you find lots of Happy in your Thanksgiving.

 

With gratitude,

 

Drs. Kardos and Lai
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®




Potty Talk: the "Scoop On Poop" on philly.com





We’re pleased to bring to the Greater Phildaelphia Area our “Scoop on Poop” post which was published in the Healthy Kids blog for Philadelphia Inquirer’s philly.com

Although many can not talk about the topic without snickering, face it. “Poop” is an essential of life. If pooping gets thrown off, everything gets thrown off. The kid who won’t poop in the potty sets everyone else in the household off kilter, and leads to bribes, threats and chaos. A constipated kid is a grumpy kid.  Constipation can lead to tantrums, refusal to eat, and even an inability to fall asleep. If you still have have infant and toddler poop questions, check out our podcast on potty training and our post “When potty training gets hard: constipation.”  On a related topic, please also visit our post “It’s a Gas, your young infant’s burps and farts.”

Until you are a parent, you can never fully appreciate the fierce desire for “everything to come out okay in the end.”

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2012 Two Peds in a Pod®




Parents of one-year-olds: Rule your Roost!


 

When your baby turns one, you’ll realize he has a much stronger will. My oldest threw his first tantrum the day he turned one. At first, we puzzled: why was he suddenly lying face down on the kitchen floor? The indignant crying that followed clued us to his anger. “Oh, it’s a tantrum,” my husband and I laughed, relieved.

Parenting one-year-olds requires the recognition that your child innately desires to become independent of you. Eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop: eventually your child will learn to control these basics of life by himself. We want our children to feed themselves, go to sleep when they feel tired, and pee and poop on the potty. Of course, there’s more to life such as playing, forming relationships, succeeding in school, etc, but we all need the basics. The challenge comes in recognizing when to allow your child more independence and when to reinforce your authority.

Here’s the mantra: Parents provide unconditional love while they simultaneously make rules, enforce rules, and decide when rules need to be changed. Parents are the safety officers  and provide food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep. Parents are teachers. Children are the sponges and the experimenters. Here are concrete examples of how to provide loving guidance:

Eating: The rules for parents are to provide healthy food choices, calm mealtimes, and to enforce sitting during meals. The child must sit to eat. Walking while eating poses a choking hazard. Children decide how much, if any, food they will eat. They choose if they eat only the chicken or only the peas and strawberries. They decide how much of their water or milk they drink. By age one, they should be feeding themselves part or ideally all of their meal. By 18 months they should be able to use a spoon or fork for part of their meal.

If, however, parents continue to completely spoon feed their children, cajole their children into eating “just one more bite,” insist that their child can’t have strawberries until they eat  their chicken, or bribe their children by dangling a cookie as a reward for eating dinner, then the child gets the message that independence is undesirable. They will learn to ignore their internal sensations of hunger and fullness.

For perspective, remember that newborns eat frequently and enthusiastically because they gain an ounce per day on average, or one pound every 2-3 weeks. A typical one-year-old gains about 5 pounds during his entire second year, or one pound every 2-3 months. Normal, healthy toddlers do not always eat every meal of every day, nor do they finish all meals. Just provide the healthy food, sit back, and enjoy meal time with your toddler and the rest of the family.  

A one-year-old child will throw food off of his high chair tray to see how you react. Do you laugh? Do you shout? Do you do a funny dance to try to get him to eat his food? Then he will continue to refuse to eat and throw the food instead. If you say blandly,” I see you are full. Here, let’s get you down so you can play,” then he will do one of two things:

1)      He will go play. He was not hungry in the first place.

2)      He will think twice about throwing food in the future because whenever he throws food, you put him down to play. He will learn to eat the food when he feels hungry instead of throwing it.

Sleep: The rule is that parents decide on reasonable bedtimes and naptimes. The toddler decides when he actually falls asleep. Singing to oneself or playing in the crib is fine. Even cries of protest are fine. Check to make sure he hasn’t pooped or knocked his binky out of the crib. After you change the poopy diaper/hand back the binky, LEAVE THE ROOM! Many parents tell me that “he just seems like he wants to play at 2:00am or he seems hungry.” Well, this assessment may be correct, but remember who is boss. Unless your family tradition is to play a game and have a snack every morning at 2:00am, then just say “No, time for sleep now,” and ignore his protests.

Pee/poop: The rule is that parents keep bowel movements soft by offering a healthy diet. The toddler who feels pain when he poops will do his best not to have a bowel movement. Going into potty training a year or two from now with a constipated child can lead to many battles. 

Even if your child does not show interest in potty training for another year or two, talk up the advantages of putting pee and poop in the potty as early as age one. Remember, repetition is how kids learn.

Your one-year-old will test your resolve. He is now able to think to himself, “Is this STILL the rule?” or “What will happen if I do this?” That’s why he goes repeatedly to forbidden territory such as the TV or a standing lamp or plug outlet, stops when you say “No no!”, smiles, and proceeds to reach for the forbidden object.

When you feel exasperated by the number of times you need to redirect your toddler, remember that if toddlers learned everything the first time around, they wouldn’t need parenting. Permit your growing child to develop her emerging independence whenever safely possible. Encourage her to feed herself even if that is messier and slower. Allow her to fall asleep in her crib and resist rocking her to sleep. Everyone deserves to learn how to fall asleep independently. You don’t want to train a future insomniac adult.

And if you are baffled by your child’s running away from you one minute and clinging to you the next, just think how confused your child must feel: she’s driven towards independence on the one hand and on the other hand she knows she’s wholly dependent upon you for basic needs. Above all else, remember the goal of parenthood is to help your child grow into a confident, independent adult… who remembers to call his parents every day to say good night… ok, at least once a week to check in…. ok, keep in touch with those who got him there!

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2012 Two Peds in a Pod®

 




The Scoop on Poop


Okay, admit it.


Before you became a parent, you never really gave much thought to poop.


Now you are captivated and can even discuss it over meal time: your child’s poop with its changing colors and consistency. Your vocabulary for poop has likely also changed as you are now parents. Before your baby’s birth, you probably used some grown-up word like “bowel movement” or “stool” or perhaps some “R” rated term not appropriate to this pediatric site. But now, all that has changed.


As a pediatrician I have many conversations with new parents, and some not-so-new parents, about poop. Mostly this topic is of real interest to parents with newborns, but poop issues come out at other milestones in a child’s life, namely starting solid foods and potty training. So I present to you the scoop on poop.


Poop comes in three basic colors that are all equal signs of normal health: brown, yellow, and green. Newborn poop, while typically yellow and mustard like, can occasionally come out in the two other colors, even if what goes in, namely breast milk or formula, stays the same. The color change is more a reflection of how long the milk takes to pass through the intestines and how much bile acid gets mixed in with the developing poop.


Bad colors of poop are: red (blood), white (complete absence of color), and tarry black. Only the first poop that babies pass on the first day of life, called meconium, is always tarry black and is normal. At any other time of life, black tarry stools are abnormal and are a sign of potential internal bleeding and should always be discussed with your child’s health care provider, as should blood in poop (also not normal) and white poop (which could indicate a liver problem).


Normal pooping behavior for a newborn can be grunting, turning red, crying, and generally appearing as if an explosion is about to occur. As long as what comes out after all this effort is a soft poop (and normal poop should always be soft), then this behavior is normal. Other babies poop effortlessly and this, too, is normal.


Besides its color, another topic of intense fascination to many parents is the frequency and consistency of poop. This aspect is often tied in with questions about diarrhea and constipation. Here is the scoop:


It is normal for newborns to poop during or after every feeding, although not all babies poop this often. This means that if your baby feeds 8-12 times a day, then she can have 8-12 poops a day. One reason that newborns are seen every few weeks in the pediatric office is to check that they are gaining weight normally: that calories taken in are enough for growth and are not just being pooped out. While normal poop can be very soft and mushy, diarrhea is watery and prevents normal weight gain.


After the first few weeks of life, a change in pooping frequency can occur. Some formula fed babies will continue their frequent pooping while others decrease to once a day or even once every 2-3 days. Some breastfed babies actually decrease their poop frequency to once a week! It turns out that breast milk can be very efficiently digested with little waste product. Again, as long as these babies are feeding well, not vomiting, acting well, have soft bellies rather than hard, distended bellies, and are growing normally, then you as parents can enjoy the less frequent diaper changes. Urine frequency should remain the same (at least 6 wet diapers every 24 hours, on average) and is a sign that your baby is adequately hydrated. Again, as long as what comes out in the end is soft, then your baby is not “constipated” but rather has “decreased poop frequency.”


True constipation is poop that is hard and comes out as either small hard pellets or a large hard poop mass. These poops are often painful to pass and can even cause small tears in the anus. You should discuss true constipation with your child’s health care provider. A typical remedy, assuming that everything else about your baby is normal, is adding a bit of prune or apple juice, generally ½ to 1 ounce, to the formula bottle once or twice daily. True constipation in general is more common in formula fed babies than breastfed babies.


Adding solid foods generally causes poop to become more firm or formed, but not always. It DOES always cause more odor and can also add color to poop. I still remember my husband’s and my surprise over our eldest’s first “sweet potato poop” as we asked each other, “Will you look at that? Isn’t this exactly how it looked when it went IN?” If constipation, again meaning hard poop that is painful to pass, occurs during solid food introductions, you can usually help by giving more prunes and oatmeal and less rice and bananas to help poop become softer and easier to pass.


Potty training can trigger constipation resulting from poop withholding. This poop withholding can result in backup of poop in the intestines which leads to pain and poor eating. Children withhold poop for one of three main reasons:


       They are afraid of the toilet or potty seat.


       They had one painful poop and they resolve never to repeat the experience by trying to never poop again.


       They are locked into a control issue with their parents. Recall the truism “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” This applies to potty training as well.


Treatment for this stool withholding is to QUIT potty training for at least a few weeks and to ADD as much stool softening foods and drinks as possible. Good-for-poop drinks and foods include prune juice, apple juice, pear juice, water, fiber-rich breads and cereals, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, under the guidance of your child’s health care provider, medical stool softeners are needed until your child overcomes his fear of pooping and resolves his control issue. For more information about potty training I refer you to our podcast on this subject.


My goal with this blog post was to highlight some frequently asked-about poop topics and to reassure that most things come out okay in the end. And that’s the real scoop.


Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD


©2009 Two Peds in a Pod®