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The poop enigma: What to do when 20 month old starts pooping her pants out of nowhere.

GDF Podcast 37

What in the hey do you do when your EC’d, potty independent child starts resisting the potty...and pooping her pants?

Maybe you can relate to Kate from Eugene, Oregon, who has a 20-month old daughter:

“Hi Andrea. My name is Kate and my child is almost 20 months old and she has not pooped in her pants since she was probably six months old. Recently, we went on a vacation and she started pooping in her pants again. Not every time, but more regularly. She's very opposed to potting right now, both pee and poop, but we can usually get her to pee, some of the time. But poops are kind of an enigma to us now because she hasn't pooped in her pants for so long and we don't know what to do. We were hoping for your help. I think that's all the information you need. Thanks so much. I really look forward to hearing your answer. Thanks. Bye.”

When your child takes a big step backwards, you can feel like all the elimination communication (or potty training) you've done was for nothing.

Truth: Major changes to a child's routine, such as a vacation, can definitely spur on a potty regression.

What you are going through is completely normal...but how do we get out of this dreadful situation?

Today we'll talk about a few things you can do to help get your child back on track if they start resisting the potty...and begin pooping their pants after a near-lifetime of not pooping their pants. :)

Listen to the full podcast episode for a special musical surprise at the end!

You will hear:

  • How changes in routine can impact EC
  • How to check your vibe
  • What “misses” really indicate at this age
  • The surefire way to get out of a potty pause at 20 months (you’d be surprised that it has nothing to do with EC)

Links and other resources mentioned today:

Download the Transcript

If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?) and read the transcript here:

Transcript: The poop enigma

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Has your baby ever resisted using the potty after a vacation or change in routine? Please leave a comment below with your experience!

I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.

xx Andrea

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)


  1. Avatar Nicole Stiles on April 2, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    I didn’t know babies can go through potty pauses. My baby is 9 months and we’ve been doing EC part time although I’m transitioning to doing it full time. I didn’t know this could happen. It’s great to know ahead of time so that I don’t panic if it does occur. Thanks for the great info!

    And your insight in that potty training is providing independence re-enforces my thoughts on the difference between potty training and EC. EC is about training ourselves and potty training is about training the baby.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 3, 2019 at 12:43 am

      Hi Nicole! It really does help to know it can happen and that there are ways to work through it. xx Andrea

  2. Avatar Liza on April 2, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I also thought I never needed to do potty training since I did EC with my son from when he was 3months old. But turns out potty training was that extra push to wrap up EC with him after many frustrating potty pauses. That need for independence Andrea mentions is so real. The first time my son completed the whole process from start to finish all by himself, he did a victory run all around the house!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 3, 2019 at 12:45 am

      Hi Liza! That is so adorable! He must have been so proud. And you are right, sometimes it does take that extra push to wrap up. I am so glad it helped you and your son. xx Andrea

  3. Avatar Cindy Rueckert on April 2, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    My two-and-a-half year old had a major potty regression over Christmas break when we spent a week at Granny’s. Things went from unfamiliar to awful when my father-in-law died unexpectedly, which resulted in us spending another week there, on and off. She was wetting her pants all the time. I was completely speechless when I found her walking around with poop in her underwear for the first time in a year.

    I couldn’t focus on the potty regression until after the funeral, but once home, I realized more was going on- frequent, foul urination. She had a UTI.

    Hang with me here because I’d never heard of this! The doc showed me that her menora (small lips of the vagina) had grown together, almost covering the urethra completely, which prevented her from eliminating completely and allowed bacteria to build up. He said he sees this all the time. Around 2 years of age, little girls have a major drop in estrogen, which often results in the menora coming together. So the solution was simply to apply estrogen cream until it opened back up.

    Talk about a crazy potty regression storm!!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 3, 2019 at 12:50 am

      Hi Cindy! I am so sorry for your loss. It definitely sounds like there was a lot going on to cause your daughter’s regression. UTI’s are quite often the cause when kids suddenly begin having frequent misses. I have heard of the adhesion problem that can happen to girls. I am so glad that you were able to figure out what was causing the problem and get everything back on track. xx Andrea

  4. Avatar Coco on April 4, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Hey there, I have been using all of your resources like crazy. I have one problem. Poops.

    This girl will be walking and poop without breaking stride. I am partially proud she has a great diet that gives her easy poops, but I am at a total loss because there is never a warning, I had tried to catch her and potty her after big meals (she poos 2 a day) but she will not go on the reducer or mini potty even if I leave her in the room with privacy. She is not really a stealth pooper, she does not hide, she just has a talent for pooping in the middle of any activity without ever breaking rhythm.

    She pees just fine every time, even brings us to the bathroom when she needs to go. But poops are a complete fail to catch on my part. Any suggestions are welcome.

    • Avatar Coco on April 4, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      She is 15 months by the way**

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 7, 2019 at 12:55 am

      Hi Coco! Have you tried having her help clean up? Not as punishment, but taking responsibility. Have her do as much as she can with help. Point out how much longer it takes than to just use the potty. You can also change up how she is dressed to see if that helps. If she’s in undies/trainers try commando. xx Andrea

      • Avatar Coco on April 7, 2019 at 6:48 pm

        Hey Andrea,

        I do make her come to the potty and we talk about poo poos and how they go in the potty and we take her panties off (we are in your tiny undies), I let her see the poo poo, we put the poops in the potty & tell them bye. We also put our undies on the sink so they can be cleaned & go through the process of wipee bath & new undies, then she goes to her activities as before. I was curious if it was the undies, I will try commando again for a little while, do you have a time frame? “No longer than a week” “no less than 3 days”?

        • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 10, 2019 at 1:57 am

          I think your instincts are spot on to try commando for a while. I would have her commando for 2-4 weeks if you have ditched diapers recently. Sometimes undies feel similar to a diaper and kids just go without thinking. It takes a little while for that trigger to go away. xx Andrea

  5. Avatar Lucy on April 5, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    We had a difficult time with our son after I became pregnant with our second (about a year ago now).. I was constantly vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum) and even was admitted to hospital. This was very hard for A, 18 month’s at the time. He had been signing potty to me every time for while before.

    At first he would be signing potty all the time to get me up (even when he didn’t need it). He also stated having so many misses. My mum told me to put in back in nappies (diapers), but I refused as he’d been out of them since 12 months old.

    I stopped worrying too much about wee misses but tried to get him to always sit in the potty while I read a couple of stories after waking and eating. So we generally caught most poos.

    When after a few of months and I found a combination of meds that worked for me I was much less sick so things were mostly back to normal for A. His pottying improved a lot but he’d still have many misses if we went away for a weekend or something. I tried not to worry but kept up communication. Just before the baby was born he wasn’t having any accidents for about a month. Then after she was born we had another potty regression for about 2 and a half months. But not a bad as before! Now baby is 4.5 months old and A is 2.5 years old and I think were he’s actually done now!

    PS. Been doing EC with baby since birth, and all is going well :)

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 7, 2019 at 12:57 am

      Hi Lucy! I’m sorry you were so ill during your pregnancy, that must have been difficult. It sounds like you did a fantastic job of working through the regressions. Congratulations on officially wrapping up! xx Andrea

  6. Avatar Neeta on May 4, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Wow, I would not have associated potty pauses with a desire for independence concerning toileting. That perspective prevents the instinctual response of everything we did has gone to waste and shifts the perspective to more of a motivation to persist and encourage kiddo to do what she wants to do! Makes me say “hi sweet girl, I hear you let’s do this!“ Attitude changes as you have said before inspires an attitude change in kiddo too.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 8, 2019 at 2:25 am

      Hi Neeta! It does seem odd, but it really is a sign they want independence. You are so right, an attitude shift can make such a huge difference in the process. Instead of being frustrated, you work with the child to guide them to independence. xx Andrea

  7. Avatar Jen on November 20, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    After nearly 6 months of never pooping in his pants, I went back to work and my, then 19 month old, started going to Nanas during the day. Fast forward 2.5 months and my 21 month old has started pooping his pants almost every day. Since the “life transition” happened a few months ago I’m having a hard time accepting it as a regression because of that. I have no idea what else it could be and it’s been very upsetting to me. Could it be linked to the change 2 months ago or is there something else for me to consider? Thank you!!

    • Avatar Jen on November 20, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Oops, I meant to add to my comment above that most of the regression related solutions point to having at least a several day stretch at home with my son, getting things back on course. But since I’m back at work I have no choice but to send him to Nanas during the day, so I need a solution that will work with him being away from me for 8ish hours every day. I hope someone can help! Thank you!

  8. Avatar annie on August 17, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    My son is 20 mo and we’ve been potty training for about 2 weeks and overall it has gone very well (unlike our attempt at 14 mo which was great for 2 days and then a miserable failure). He signals and then can wait until we get to a toilet to pee, even on outings and I am thrilled! The only real issue is poop. He is a once a day pooper, usually midmorning. He’s never had an issue with constipation or in the past with pooping in his diaper, he would just indicate that he wanted to be changed after. Since potty training he is super freaked out by pooping. Even when he and we know he needs to go it seems like it doesn’t matter how long we sit on either the toilet or potty, he doesn’t go, even when given privacy. Then he’ll go to play and will look at me, start pooping and screaming and it always comes out so fast none of it gets in the toilet . He gets so scared and upset by pooping in his pants and even more so when it gets on him by taking off the pants. I have tried the advise for more privacy, but it didn’t help and I don’t really think that’s the issue. We’ve tried everything from books, play dough explanations, having him watch us poop on the toilet (super weird but we’re desperate!). I’ve been calm and matter of fact and had him help clean up. When we did some potty training at 14 mo he pooped in the toilet then with almost no issue until everything went off the rails at once, so I know he’s capable. I even tried once last week putting him in a diaper just in the bathroom at poop time with on the suggestion that he go poop in it in there and then you slowly cut a larger and larger hole out of the bottom but I didn’t get him to go in there that first time, I think because he wouldn’t relax. PLEASE HELP!!!! Any advice is appreciated! Thank you

  9. Avatar Ida on February 29, 2024 at 3:30 pm

    Hi! Thank you for such a great blog, youtube channel, podcast, books and products!

    My daughter is now almost 3yrs and I did EC with her from very early on and then finished wrapping it up at 2.

    A few days ago, she all of a sudden started screaming when she needed to poop and really resisted the potty for poops. So much so that it would press through just when she would squat to play, causing her to stand up abruptly crying hysterically.
    She has always eaten a lot of fibres and vegetables but she kept it in for 3 days! (used to poop daily).
    After putting her on the toilet while she was semi asleep (alternative to a dreampee was my thought) she finally pooped (this was last night). But today she is again resisting and crying hysterically when this happens…
    Do you have any thoughts? I have tried searching your forums but havent had luck (but maybe I am typing the wrong words in the search engine).

    Kind regards, Ida

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 1, 2024 at 10:22 pm

      That’s rough, I’m sorry momma! She could be practicing more autonomy by controlling her bowl movements, or she could just be constipated. Did she have a bad bout of constipation that could have been painful to pass in the past? This can sometimes lead to resistance and fear of having a painful bowl movement.

  10. Avatar Katie on June 30, 2024 at 8:28 pm

    First off, thank you Andrea so much for introducing me to the world of EC and your book on home birth! I am such an advocate for EC as my first child went number two in the toilet at three months and was completely using toilet all by himself at 1 year 5 months! However, child number two is a new ball park ( healthy home birth with just husband thanks to your book!) Child two was amazing as baby and preferred the toilet early on, but at 14 months is regularly waiting for nap time to go number two. I’m not sure if he is pushing for independence or if this is something different all together. He is usually good otherwise but does have bouts of holding it on toilet then going immediately after being offered which I take as independence as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you again!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on July 1, 2024 at 6:01 pm

      It does sound like he wants a bit of independence and perhaps even some privacy. There’s also several milestones that baby is accomplishing at this time, so a little bit of regression is completely normal. You are doing great mama!!!

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