Last updated on April 3rd, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Would you like to have me answer your toddler sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep problem video:
Hi, Kim West, The Sleep Lady and today, I’m going to answer Isabel’s question. Here’s what she wrote in:
“Hi, Sleep Lady. We have a “poop situation”.  My 17-month old daughter is constantly being woken up from her nap with a poopy diaper. She’s now on one nap a day starting at around noon.  I’ll change her as soon as possible but she won’t go back to sleep even  if it’s only been 30 minutes after we put her down. This happens more often than it doesn’t. So, it’s really disrupting her sleep. We’ve tried to change her diet and tried to wait until she poops before putting her to sleep but it’s as if she’s holding it until nap time. I don’t feel like a 30-minute nap is enough at this age. Any suggestions to help with this toddler sleep problem?”
Isabel, this is pretty common, believe it or not. The most amazing thing  I learned from a friend of mine who is a pediatrician is that by 9 months of age a child can learn how to poop and throw up on demand! Can you believe that? I can see the  vomiting on demand but pooping on demand, that’s pretty amazing.
The fact that you said, “I think she’s holding it in”  probably means that that is exactly what she might be doing. I have not heard a lot of great strategies in terms of changing a poop schedule if it’s not for behavioral reasons. Of course, the obvious ones are to give fiber in the morning so that she poops before the nap or giving fiber after the nap so she poops before bedtime– which is a little trickier because sometimes you don’t have enough time for that to happen. I suggest you focus on giving fiber in the morning and asking your pediatrician for suggestions. You can also go to askdrsears.com. He’s got a great section in there about constipation and pooping in general. Here is just one of his helpful articles.
Let’s say you’ve done all your homework and she’s getting plenty of fiber and you just really feel in your gut that she’s doing this because she wants out of the crib and she doesn’t want to nap. Since you can’t make her go poop  in her diaper I would have your usual nap routine, put her in her crib and if  she goes – (I don’t know whether actually she always goes to sleep and wakes to poop or doesn’t go to sleep and then poops) — I would go in when she poops and  change her with as little light as possible, barely talking. If you can change her in the crib, I would do it. It doesn’t have to be a perfect clean up job. Remember, you can re-clean her after the nap. Do a quick diaper change and put her back in to the crib. Don’t do a whole routine again, no reading a book, giving a bottle, whatever it is that she’s having before the nap. Try for at least 30 minutes or more to see if she’ll go back to sleep, know that it’s going to take some time. If, for instance, she doesn’t go back to sleep and she’s crying or fussing on and off and you’re going in or checking on her or shh-shhing from the door or whatever you feel is the best method that you can follow through with consistently, then do dramatic wake up and know that you will probably have to have another nap attempt that day.
Okay, so let’s say she goes to sleep at 12:30pm and wakes up at 1pm. You change her diaper. You finally give up at 1:30. If you want to go a little bit longer like to 2pm , that’s fine but it may be difficult to follow through with longer than 30 minutes at this age.  Then here you find yourself at 2pm which is a long  time to bedtime at7 o’clock and she’s going to be overtired. I would have another backup nap plan such as the stroller or car, even if it’s at 3pm or 3:30pm.  Let her have a 45-minute nap. Again, try to fill her sleep tank since we  don’t want her  nap deprivation to interfere with her night sleep since that’s going really well.
Stay consistent in these efforts for a few weeks and it WILL eventually change!
Sweet dreams,
The Sleep Lady
Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you child did the same thing, please share what worked for you.Please feel free to click the “reply” link under this article and leave them a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!