Imagine you're sitting on a swing – one of the old styles with the flat wooden plank. Now imagine there are no ropes to hold onto or balance yourself. You either have to use your body to balance yourself, or you have to hold onto the plank of wood with your hands, and possibly bend your knees to use your legs to steady yourself (I know I told you no ropes, so the swing would be on the ground, but just go with me). So now, you're sitting, trying to steady yourself. Now imagine trying to poop successfully there. It'd be pretty difficult, right? If you're focused so much on balance, and you're wobbly, and unstable – it'd be hard to focus on defecating.
This is exactly what little kiddos have to do on big, adult-sized toilets.
Little bottoms need a lot of extra help balancing on big toilets. If a child already has some factors working against them to achieve normal, functioning toileting habits (like chronic constipation) and you add another factor on top of those other existing ones, you're adding fuel to the flame.
Just like adults, kids need to know how to appropriately sit on the toilet to make their toileting as efficient as possible. If you're battling constipation, this is even more important. So, if you have a little one (the age doesn't matter, but if they're struggling to balance on the toilet seat to stay stable), and they are struggling to get all of their stool out, the toilet seat may be the first thing to fix.
You can't make an adult toilet smaller, but you can adjust it. There are lots of options. Seat inserts are one great tool. You add a squishy ring on top of the existing toilet seat, and the ring of the toilet seat is smaller, and more supportive, which means the kiddo feels and is more stable, allowing them to relax and allow their musculature to relax – essential for allowing poop to pass through the muscles of the pelvic floor. Another tool I like to suggest is a floor potty made for kids. Not every kiddo will like, want, or fit into this option, but it allows them to sit on a smaller seat AND have their feet supported, with knees above hips (super important – check out the Squatty Potty tab for a bit more information, and look out for a future post on this product soon!).
One question I will often get in response to this, is what do you do when you're in public? You can't always bring a seat insert or a kid-sized potty with you when you're out and about. You're right. There are options and products that can help (check out the travel-friendly squatty potty), but essentially, you're not going to be able to control every situation that you're in. And this is OK!
We're human, living in a world that has so many things that our outside of our control. If we try to control everything, you're likely to encounter other problems – trying to achieve control over everything will very likely increase your stress, and could increase the tone of wherever you carry your stress – maybe you retain your stress in your pelvic floor? (Are you "anal retentive?").
The odds are, that if a person is getting sufficient stool out on a daily basis, one missed bowel movement because they can't poop in a store, isn't likely to set them into a cycle of constipation. Similarly, if your child is pooping regularly at home every morning, but you're out one morning during their typical poop time, this likely won't cause them to cycle into constipation. However, what you do have to confront, is that they still try, and that your child understands that if they haven't gotten poop out yet, their body still needs them to get it out – so you try again later.
Positioning and relaxation is key to pooping. If position is off, or if the body isn't able to relax, it isn't very likely that poop will easily come out. And in a kiddo that is unmotivated to sit and try to poop, and is VERY motivated to get back to their playtime, its best to try to optimize every part of pooping, to be the most efficient, and to get the most out of the time that they are sitting to try to go.
How does your child currently sit to try to poop? Is there anything about the environment that you could change?