'Help! My Toddler Won't Stop Peeing And Pooing In Their Cot'

A HuffPost UK reader reveals their toddler keeps removing their nappy in bed and making a lot of mess in the process. What can they do?
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Raising a toddler can be a wild ride. One moment they’re telling you they love you, the next you’re dislodging a small plastic sheep that’s been launched across the room from your head (just me?).

As they grow up and understand more of the world, they will test the water with all manner of behaviours – colouring on the floor; hitting; or even *checks notes* removing their nappy and pooing or weeing all over their bed.

Such is the case for one anonymous HuffPost UK reader, who shared their parenting dilemma with us:

Our toddler recently started taking their nappy off in the cot and then peeing or pooing all over their bed. We do a whole bedtime process including reading books, singing lullabies and then we will tell them it’s time to sleep and leave the room. In the past, they would go to sleep at this point, however just recently they’ve started to undress themselves and will pull their nappy off and then urinate or poo in the bed, including on the duvet, sheets and pillows. It’s happened at nap time and bedtime. What is the best way to respond to this behaviour? And how can we prevent it from happening, as it seems to be developing into a habit?

The good news is that this is pretty normal toddler behaviour.

“It is common for toddlers to exhibit behaviours that may seem challenging or unconventional as they navigate their development,” says Hendrix Hammond, systemic and family psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

First of all, the parent might want to ask themselves why the toddler might be doing this. What’s the motivation here?

“Your toddler might be exploring boundaries. In this case, removing the nappy and urinating or defecating in the bed might be a form of experimentation or a way for your toddler to exert independence,” Hammond tells HuffPost UK.

“Furthermore, your toddler might recognise that this behaviour elicits a particular response from you as parents, which serves them an unconscious need.”

So, what can they do?

1. Reconsider their clothing choices

One relatively simple solution could be to try bed-wear that’s more difficult for the child to remove, such as onesies with poppers at the shoulders.

This can act as a deterrent and make it harder for them to access and remove their nappy.

2. Try positive reinforcement

When the toddler goes through a nap time or bedtime without removing their nappy, the therapist recommends parents acknowledge and praise their behaviour.

“Positive reinforcement can help motivate them to keep the nappy on,” he adds.

3. Get them to help with cleaning up

If the toddler does happen to wee or poo in their bed as a result of removing their nappy, the therapist suggests involving them in the cleanup process.

“This helps them understand the consequences of their actions and fosters a sense of responsibility,” he explains.

4. Stick to routines

Familiarity can help reduce anxiety and unpredictability, which may contribute to this type of behaviour, so the therapist recommends keeping bedtime routines consistent.

5. Communication

Sometimes it can help to simply sit down with a toddler and talk about their actions simply and clearly. “Explain that nappies must stay on during sleep and that accidents can create messes,” Hammond suggests.

6. Speak to a GP

If the parent tries all of the above strategies and the behaviour persists, Hammond advises them to speak to a GP, who can assess whether underlying physical or emotional factors might contribute to their toddler’s behaviour.

7. Be patient

Easier said than done, we know, but Hammond notes that “with a combination of understanding, consistent guidance, and potentially seeking professional advice, you can work towards helping your toddler develop healthy habits”.

Here’s to a drama-free bedtime.