Last month, we spent the evening of Jack’s fifth birthday in the emergency room for “fecal impaction,” which is a fancy way of saying Jack would not, and then could not, go poop. Stool refusal is a reasonably common problem, but after five years of Jack suffering from hard poops and constipation, I knew that this problem was not going to work itself out.
Jack has had a hard time pooping since his early life in the NICU. By age four he was pooping out things too big to flush without a plunger and he often experienced pain. So as we progressed through potty training, Jack got in the habit of holding his poops in.
By the time Jack was four, I had begun bargaining with him and even bribing him to go poop. Sometimes with great success, other times not so much. Also, even if I could get him to go poop in the potty, I still could not crack the code of how to make his poops softer and more comfortable to pass.
Fast forward to his fifth birthday in the ER, and the doctor is telling me Jack needs more fiber and enemas and suppositories and prescribes Jack a heavy duty laxative.
Now, Jack gets plenty of fiber in the form of fruit smoothies for the record, and that coupled with a laxative twice a day as prescribed was still not producing results. I knew whatever was causing this level of constipation in spite of everything would have to be dietary.
Jack is an extremely picky eater, and when I finally sat down and thought about the things he puts in his stomach every day without fail, I came up with one very unexpected answer, cows milk.
I did a little research, and sure enough, I found a study where kids just like Jack were taken off milk, and their poops drastically improved. Jack being a NICU baby he had breast milk fortified with formula and eventually formula and ultimately cows milk.
Suddenly it all made sense! The milk had been the culprit all along, from the NICU onward. Hell, I was even putting the laxative the doctor prescribed for Jack, in his chocolate milk!
So, I killed the milk (which Jack used to drink at least twice a day), and I killed the laxative and do you know what? Jack’s poops have improved tremendously. We are still working on building positive poop associations and giving him lots of positive reinforcement and even the occasional reward, but it feels good to see improvement.
Jack went from pooping three times a week or less to at least every other day if not every day. He drinks less juice now because he can actually get diarrhea which never happened before and is working on eating more food now that he doesn’t have milk as his faithful standby.
When Jack went to his checkup, I let the doctor know we had been in the ER and explained our struggles. I told her we cut out the milk and it worked like a charm, and she reassured me that milk intolerance could cause constipation and was glad I had found the diagnosis.
I hope sharing this story will help someone else struggling to get their child’s poops in order. However, all kids are different, and checking with your doctor is essential.