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8 Tips to Stop Poop From Interrupting Sleep

Stop Poop From Interrupting Sleep

At some point or another in our motherhood journey, most of us exclaim “how can I stop poop from interrupting sleep!?” If you are in this situation or have been there in the past, you know how challenging it is! That is why I call this “The Dreaded Poop.”

Pooping at bedtime, during nap or early in the morning are the normal time frames that are sleep busters.  Luckily there are things that we can do to stop poop from interrupting sleep for your little one.

A little science…

Normally we don’t poop overnight, right?  That because our bodies go into shutdown and repair mode so the bowels aren’t active, therefore no poop!  After the newborn phase, this is similar for babies as well.  You may be asking yourself:

Why is my newborn pooping all night long?

How come my baby poops every single morning at 5:00 am? 

Why does my toddler poop every day at nap time?

How come my little one poops at bedtime every night, right after I sit down on the couch?

Let’s explore potential causes, how to handle it and what you can do to help get your child’s sleep back on track. 

Newborns

Newborns do a lot of eating, sleeping and pooping around the clock.  It is completely normal for your newborn to poop frequently at night.  At this stage, newborns normally poop right after a feeding and they are eating A LOT at night at first. 

So if your newborn poops, remember, your wee one has no self-soothing skills, needs your comfort & attention and for you to change their diaper as soon as you discover it.  Also consider lathering your little one’s bum with diaper cream to create a barrier if you don’t catch it right away.

The good news? Around 6-8 weeks of age, babies begin to get their days and nights figured out so they begin sleeping longer periods at night. (usually 4-6 hours the first stretch after bedtime)  This means your little one won’t be eating as frequently. Less eating at night = less pooping at night. This means your newborn will likely have more bowel movements during the day. 

Mom Tips to Help:

  • No snap jammies! For the love of all that’s holy, WHY would baby clothes folks put snaps on jammies?  I figured this out quick after one night of snapping TWO newborn’s jammies overnight.
  • During diaper changes:
    • Keep the lights low
    • Use a sleep safe nightlight or Himalayan salt lamp on a dimmer switch.  Sleep safe = warm colors, like red or deep orange.
    • Wipes warmer.  I thought it was a ridiculous concept, until I used a cold wipe on my baby’s bum at 3 am. (just make sure it doesn’t have a cool colored lights on it – stay away from white or blue lights)
    • No flirting! It is so hard in the middle of the night to not interact, but it will make it much easier for your baby to return to sleep.  It is a powerful cue for your baby that it is sleep time if you aren’t engaging them like you do during the day.

Babies

Normally by 4 months, most babies aren’t pooping at night anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.  Once babies are on a consistent nap schedule, they tend to poop less during nap time as their body adjusts to the consistency.

If your baby is pooping at these inopportune times, normally there is something that is causing your baby to poop. 

Let’s troubleshoot:

  • Did your little one recently start solids? Introducing solids or new foods can increase pooping at bedtime and in the early morning.
  • Is your baby going through a growth spurt? Babies poop more frequently when they are sprouting.
  • Is your baby teething? Added drool can make your little one’s stools looser and cause more frequent poops.
  • Is your baby eating immediately before sleep and not having enough time to digest?
  • Is your baby still eating like a newborn overnight?  Frequent eating = more pooping.
  • Are you sleep training? When babies are learning independent sleep skills, it is common for them to poop more frequently overnight.  This normally returns to normal with 2-3 weeks.

Toddlers

In between 12-18 months children are beginning to be able to control their bowels. It can be common for these frisky toddlers to wait until you put them down for nap or bed to poop. 

Toddlers begin to assert their independence and seek more personal power.  They can exert some of that quest for personal power by boycotting one or more of the things they can control: eating, sleeping and pooping.

This can result in sleep time poops! And for you to be so frustrated!

How can I know if my little one has pooped?

A sure fire sign in my house was when my boys were awake long past their normal time to settle; they had an abnormal arousal in the early morning; or their nap was considerably shorter than normal.

If this happens, a little detective work can help you can figure it out:

  • Do a quick smell test from the door to see if you can smell a poop. 
  • If you can’t, go do a quick smell test of your little one’s bum.

Please keep in mind that my suggestions are *NOT* medical advice. They are based on my experiences as a Mom and my child sleep consulting experience. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, please consult your pediatrician.

So if my baby or toddler poops, should I change their diaper?

Newborns – yes, always.

Babies and toddler – yes, normally, but here are some things to consider:

  • Does being changed amp your child up? Will your little one resettle after a diaper change? Does the diaper change calm your baby right down? These are especially important questions to ask yourself if your child is waking in between 4:00 – 5:30 am with a poop.  Too much parental stimulation can make it REALLY hard for some kiddos to resettle in the early morning hours.
  • Does your child rely on you and sleep props to return to sleep?  If so, it isn’t fair to leave your little one with a dirty diaper because they don’t know to return to sleep without your help. Change them once you discover the dirty diaper and look into creating healthy sleep habits for your little one.
  • Is your toddler holding their poop until sleepy time in attempt at getting more attention?  If so, it may make sense to not give in to the attention seeking and your little one will stop once they realize it isn’t getting their desired result. (I know this is hard!)
  • Are you currently sleep training? If you are currently in the sleep training process, changing diapers can cause reinforcement of the wake up and make it harder for your little one to understand your new expectations. Always follow your parental instincts (on everything!), but know that frequent diaper changes can cause confusion. See tips below for what to do.

Changing your little one during a sleep period

If you decide to change your little one, these steps can help preserve sleep:

  • Keep lights dim and ideally red.
  • Quickly change your little one, blot their bum with a tissue to dry and relather with diaper cream.
  • Put your child back down and leave the room.

So what can do you to help stop your poop probs?

8 tips to stop poop from interrupting sleep for your little one

  1. Lather up: Always lather your little one’s cute bum up like a cake with a thick layer of diaper cream (my fav) before a sleep period.  If you miss the poop or you determine you aren’t changing your little one, you will still protect your little one’s skin from diaper rash.
  2. Eat, Play, Sleep: For babies, use the Eat, Play, Sleep method so your little one has time to digest (and hopefully poop).  Begin feeding your baby when they wake instead of when they are going down.  This is helpful for so many reasons!
  3. Time to digest: For toddlers, ensure that you are giving some time to digest before putting your little one in the crib. A little play after lunch and dinner often helps to get their system moving. Also toddlers tend to like privacy to poop so consider a little independent play.
  4. Hydration: Ensure your little one stays hydrated.  This can help your little one to poop and avoid constipation.
  5. Food log: Keep a food log and see if certain foods are causing the poop. 
    • Give high fiber cereals and the P fruits – pears, plums, peaches, prunes – earlier in the day so your little one has time to digest before sleep.  Switch to starchy carbs like sweet potatoes at dinnertime.
    • If your pediatrician agrees, you can try some more binding foods at dinnertime, like toast, pasta, rice, cheese, meat and bananas.
  6. Routine: Going to the bathroom is easier to do when we are relaxed so consider lengthening your little one’s routine with an earlier bath to give time to poop. Also consider a baby massage and doing bicycle legs to get the system moving.
  7. Schedule: If your little one is consistently waking up early in the morning and pooping, look to see if your child is done sleeping and their bowels are waking up with them.  A too early bedtime for too long can cause early morning wake ups.  Try to adjust your little one to an age appropriate bedtime, which for babies and toddlers is in between 6:30 – 7:30 pm.
  8. Sleep Training: if your nights and/or naps are a mess and your little one doesn’t have healthy sleep habits; it can be harder to regulate their body systems.  Teaching your child to put themselves to sleep, sleep through the night and have a consistent daytime sleep schedule can help your child to move past these challenges and to stop poop from interrupting sleep for your little one.

Does the dreaded poop have you down? Need help figuring all this sleep stuff out? Our team would love to help you! Sign up for a free intro call today so we can learn more and talk about how we can work together.

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