How to fix sticky poop.
April 13, 2010 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a solution to my toddler's sticky poop issues. Details inside.

My almost two and a half year old toddler lately has poop that is horrible to deal with! It is the consistency of muffin batter and really sticky. We have a fight almost every time we change a poopy diaper because to clean him we need a lot of wipes to scrape this poop off his bum and *ahem* other areas. I want to know if I can change his diet to help this, or if not solutions that will help during diaper changes. My mum has mentioned that this type of poop will make potty training a struggle also. I am also wondering if this points towards some sort of diet deficiency?

Other useful info:

he is regular and had a bowel movement almost every day
he does not have diarrhea and is not constipated
he eats alot of fibre (whole grain everything plus fruits and vegetables)
he eats very little meat (his choice)

Help me get back to "nice" poop!
posted by heybearica to Health & Fitness (24 answers total)
I don't have any idea why this is happening, but I've read that right after birth, you can slather your babies diaper area with olive oil to make sticky meconium easier to get off during that first week. Maybe that would help with the sticky poo you're dealing with now.
posted by chiababe at 8:39 PM on April 13, 2010

Hmm, at 2 and half I guess I'd be putting my energy into encouraging potty use. Every kid figures out toileting in their own time, but the sticky poop issue may be a reason to give a bit more push.
posted by serazin at 9:05 PM on April 13, 2010

OH, and as far as intake goes, my instinct is to look at whether increasing his water drinking would help.
posted by serazin at 9:06 PM on April 13, 2010

If it's an issue, take him to a doctor or perhaps a dietitian.
posted by ZaneJ. at 9:06 PM on April 13, 2010

My feeling is he needs fibre. Our son has same issue as and when he is eating less fibre. 2 or 3 days of fibre intake and he is back on track.
posted by zaxour at 9:12 PM on April 13, 2010

So nothing has changed about his diet lately? How long has this been going on?
I don't really have an answer but I will say I don't think it's too unusual. At least not in my world, where I have twin boys who are 2.5. Sometimes they just have funky poop. One is a pretty good eater and one is pretty picky but they both kind of eat sporadically- we joke that they eat every third day. In reality, some days they eat well, some days they just kind of graze, some days one of them might eat 4 mandarin oranges and then have a funky diaper the next day. Such is the world of 2 year olds, I believe.
posted by phogirl at 9:25 PM on April 13, 2010

I wash the chlid's bum in the tub as my usual poopy-diaper-changing routine, and it certainly gets sticky stuff off a lot faster and better than wipes do. Saves on wipes, too, if you're going through half a dozen per diaper change.

My kids' poops get like that when they've been eating a lot of nuts and nut butters -- I think it's the high quantity of fats. It's good for them, obviously, but yes, more difficult to clean off.
posted by palliser at 9:40 PM on April 13, 2010

I've worked with a lot of kids who have similar issues and I know exactly what you're talking about. Does he like bananas? Sometimes bananas can firm things up a bit.
posted by corey flood at 9:49 PM on April 13, 2010

Soluble fibre is what you need here. Building a couple of teaspoons of psyllium husk into morning and evening recipes will work wonders.
posted by flabdablet at 10:31 PM on April 13, 2010

What about some good old porridge for breakfast? Works wonders for me.
posted by jpcooper at 1:50 AM on April 14, 2010

If bananas are not an option blueberries also have a "hardening" effect.
posted by Glow Bucket at 1:57 AM on April 14, 2010

hal_c_on, what do you see as the possible negative consequences of psyllium husk? In my experience it doesn't harden stool in the slightest, just makes it more cohesive and better lubricated. I eat it by the half cupful (with at least two cups of extra water of course) and I can't see how a teaspoon or two could possibly harm anybody, even a very small anybody, provided they didn't try to eat it dry.
posted by flabdablet at 4:12 AM on April 14, 2010

hal_c_on, I know of at least one well-reputed pediatrician who suggested sprinkling psyllium over oatmeal to encourage healthy bowel movements. This is Metafilter, by the way, not the YouTube comments section.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:27 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

In hal_c_on's defense, dose is very important when it comes to toddlers. It's quite possible that a pediatrician could advise the OP as to an amount of psyllium that would be a good idea, and at the same time true that it would be a bad idea for the OP to buy a thing of psyllium and make up her own dose, based on the recommended adult dose on the package.

I think a good rule of thumb is that when there are dosage instructions on something, you should ask your pediatrician before giving it to a small child. Dosage instructions are an indication that it's possible to get too much, and you don't really know what "too much" is to a two-year-old unless you ask a pediatrician.
posted by palliser at 5:43 AM on April 14, 2010

Googling "toddler sticky feces" and "toddler sticky stool" helped. This page suggests that this is fairly common and from too much sugar / fruit juice, but this one suggests that it isn't normal.

I'd call the pediatrician. They'll probably want to see the poop to rule out melena (black sticky stool which comes from bleeding in the gut).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:49 AM on April 14, 2010

I have twins the same age. I too think you are better off with concentrating on potty training. The only deliberate change I would make to my children's poop would be more water. I experiment with my own diet, not my kids.

I recommend good wipes, for one thing. The soft generic ones work far better than the huggies and other brands that I swear are just dryer sheets. On days with sticky poop that I've missed for longer than i'd care to admit, it becomes bath time.
posted by mearls at 6:12 AM on April 14, 2010

Fiber is only "liberating" when it is mixed with plenty of water. Lose the water and you've got a log jam in there (or muffin batter). You know they hang wall paper with gluten right? Anyway, WATER! The boy needs water.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:19 AM on April 14, 2010

My boys (2 also) have the same kind of poop, off and on. I don't really worry about it too much. What worries me is that I can tell what kind of poop it's going to be by the smell.

I've changed too many poopy diapers.
posted by pyjammy at 6:36 AM on April 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I don't think it is a problem for my doctor yet, but if it gets worse I'll go in. I will offer him more water and some bananas which he used to eat a lot of and hasn't recently.
posted by heybearica at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2010

Thanks, hal_c_on; those references confirm what I already knew to be the risks associated with psyllium, which are that (a) if you eat it dry you risk creating blockages or bloating and (b) like any soluble fibre it will slow absorption of anything ingested along with it, and if that happens to be a pharmaceutical, you need to be aware of that.

The really strange thing about medical advice regarding psyllium is that they always say to whack down a suspension of dry powder in water before it's had a chance to gell. That's never made sense to me; I can't think of a riskier way to ingest a fibre supplement.

If you mix psyllium and water and let it sit for ten minutes, you end up with a goopy gloppy mix that will be pretty much the same texture coming out as going in, except that it will all be formed into slippery non-adhesive boluses instead of being a single big sticky mass. You get a really good idea of exactly how much volume you're about to push through your GI tract, and you reduce the risk of drying out or blocking up your innards to zero because if fully gelled psyllium is going to be thick enough to stop you up it will be too thick to swallow.

Mix it with a fruit juice instead of water and you end up with something that's nutritionally very close to whole fruit on a volume for volume basis, but holds its volume much better through the digestive process and makes much better poo.

The best way to ingest psyllium husk is to incorporate it into cookery, as I originally suggested. Just about any recipe that uses cornstarch or wheat flour as a thickening agent will work equally well with comparable quantities of psyllium instead.

If you breakfast on cooked oatmeal made with a 4:1 mix of dry oats to dry psyllium by volume, and adjust the amount of water you cook it with until it turns out the same thickness you're used to, then you won't even notice that the psyllium is in there until you realize you're using four times less toilet paper than usual.

It's good stuff. Try it yourself before trying it out on your child, and by all means ask your pediatrician if there's any reason not to use it. I'm tipping there won't be.

- some guy on the Internet
posted by flabdablet at 4:05 AM on April 15, 2010

flabdablet, there are a few things specific to children that stand out to me on reading your description. The first is that they are very susceptible to choking, so giving them something on the assumption that their inability to swallow it will protect their gut is a bad idea.

A second is, again, the dosage issue: usually, medicines are scaled down to children based on relative mass. But if the issue with psyllium is potential blockage of the intestines, maybe it should be scaled down based on the relative volume of the intestinal tract? Or the relative surface area of a cross-section of the bowel?

Or, if children have less available liquids in their bowels, maybe it needs to be accompanied with more cooking liquid than it does for adults, in order to be safe? Or maybe the same is true because of the choking-hazard issue?

I don't know, but choking and bowel obstruction stand out to me as having very high relative risk for children.
posted by palliser at 5:50 AM on April 15, 2010

palliser, get hold of some psyllium and play with it.

The only way this stuff is going to choke you or clog up your works is if you eat it before it has gelled and swelled to full size. If you cook with it, that simply never gets a chance to happen.

Eating dry psyllium husk is indeed a bad, bad idea, because it will suck water out of any tissue it lands next to, probably sticking to it in the process, and then proceed to swell. That's why I totally fail to understand the standard dosage advice, which amounts to recommending that people swallow what's effectively a suspension of dry psyllium in water or juice. Doing that makes the gelling process take place inside your body, which is in my opinion unnecessarily risky.

giving them something on the assumption that their inability to swallow it will protect their gut is a bad idea

My point was that if you've pre-mixed psyllium and a liquid carrier, and allowed it ten minutes to gell, then you'd know if you had made something that could possibly clog you up, because it would be very thick and very stiff and hard for you to swallow. If you make it up to the consistency of bread dough, it would probably obstruct your bowel to about the the same extent. It doesn't taste as nice as bread dough.

Choking is caused by food finding its way into the airway by accident. This is far more likely to happen with thin liquids like juice or milk than with solid foods. Adding psyllium to juice will thicken it and make it less of a choking hazard.

As for bowel obstruction: if I wanted to attempt to obstruct my bowel with psyllium, I'd do it by putting dry psyllium powder in enterosoluble capsules and swallowing a heap of them. That might just do it (the same method would probably work equally well with plain flour or gelatin crystals). But doing that is nothing like what I advised, which was to incorporate about a teaspoon of psyllium into breakfast and dinner cookery. Put some in the oatmeal. Put some in the casserole.

I absolutely fail to see how incorporating psyllium into cookery could possibly contribute to choking or bowel obstruction, but if anybody has a link to a case history where this has happened, I'm happy to be educated and will naturally stop advising people to use it that way.
posted by flabdablet at 10:04 PM on April 15, 2010

Well, I used to eat six weetbix for breakfast. Now I eat two, plus half a cup of psyllium husk (raw husk, not powder). I add about the same quantity of 50:50 milk and water or 50:50 fruit juice and water mix as I used to add of milk. I wait for the psyllium to gell before eating my lovely soggy weetbix (luckily I like them soggy). Sometimes I'll cook oatmeal, and instead of the whole cup of rolled oats I used to use I'll use half a cup each of oats and psyllium.

Since I started doing this I get less hungry during the day, I'm slowly losing weight instead of slowly gaining it, I'm twice a day regular, morning and evening, I no longer ever have to strain, I'm no longer ever muffin-batter sticky, and I'm always clean in two wipes. I started using psyllium after Reductil made my arsehole bleed and burn. It doesn't do that any more either. TMI? We report, you decide :)
posted by flabdablet at 4:57 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Choking is caused by food finding its way into the airway by accident. This is far more likely to happen with thin liquids like juice or milk than with solid foods.

This is just totally wrong. Look at the CDC's fact sheet on choking episodes among young children: hard candy and coins appear to cause the plurality of choking incidents. Not liquids.

Really, it's super-basic that the solider something is, the more likely it is to cause choking. With babies, you start with well-thinned cereals and work your way up to more viscous things, then to solids.

Sorry to be blunt, but I'm finding it hard to believe that someone who appears to have zero education or experience in medical treatment of small children would say, essentially, "I can't think of a way that would be dangerous, so it must not be dangerous." So you can't think of a way -- quite possibly because there is no way, and quite possibly because you don't know much about the physiology of small children.
posted by palliser at 12:55 PM on April 16, 2010

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