My daughter is 2 years and 3 months old. Ever since ever she has had very unpredictable bowel movements - some days none, some days lots and lots; some hard and firm and some very loose.

When she was still exclusively breastfed they were all typical "BF poo" (very loose) but still unpredictable in quantity and frequency. Since she started on solid food they have been utterly unpredictable in all ways.

Possibly relevant facts:

  • she is still breastfed at bed time and during the night and drinks whole cow's milk and water during the day
  • she eats a wide variety of food and I have not been able to tie down any relationship between "input" and "output"
  • she never seems to have any stomach discomfort or wind and is generally very cheerful and active

The combination of sometimes very big / very loose bowel movements makes us worry about having to go out with her at times when she seems to be "storing it up" - she can make the most gigantic mess.

I'm also concerned that when we start thinking about potty training (which we already are thinking about but haven't done anything about yet as she isn't really showing any signs of being ready) it might be hard for her to hold in these very large / loose poos until she can make it to a toilet / potty, and it will definitely be very hard indeed for her to learn to clean herself up.

She is my second child and although my older son had some variation in daily output (not like some children - or adults - you hear about who are utterly regular), she is in a different league.

[To avoid any worries that this is a medical question and should be addressed to a doctor - I'm currently keeping a diary noting input and output and intend to take her to the doctor once I have completed a month of logging. I'm asking here for likely possible diagnoses / further tests that the doctor might consider.]

1 Answer 1


You might look into a food intolerance (inability to digest), the most common being lactose intolerance. At this age (over 2) the digestive system is usually running fairly smoothly, as the child has had enough time to build a sufficient population of healthy bacteria. They are not "allergic", since there is no histamine reaction, and so is typically not a risk, other than the wacky digestive system.

The most straightforward method to identify this is to run 3-5 day periods where you do not feed them certain foods. Start with diary (be mindful of the lowered calcium intake), and next look at wheat gluten (which is also very common, and can be quite challenging to avoid).

  • 1
    I would add that it's possible to be intolerant of the protein (casein) in milk as well. My now 9 year old was extremely intolerant of milk protein and we had to do a dairy free diet for him until he was 5! My advice is if you choose to do dairy free or gluten free or whatever, be vigilant with reading labels. A food manufacturer can change ingredients from one batch to the next and there will rarely be a notice on the box that draws your attention to the fact.
    – Jax
    Apr 17, 2014 at 0:52
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    Oh, and be aware that it can take weeks for her body to adjust to the absence of a particular food from her diet. So, don't give up if she doesn't improve in a few days. Be patient, and give her gut time to heal.
    – Jax
    Apr 17, 2014 at 0:54
  • Wouldn't a food intolerance display other symptoms (gassiness, fussiness...) as well?
    – Vicky
    Apr 17, 2014 at 10:06
  • @Vicky great question -- but neither are core symptoms. Gas is actually a byproduct of the mutualistic gut flora (bacteria) doing their job, and since the discomfort level can be low (it is usually high for an allergic reaction) "fussiness" can be minimal or nonexistent. The lack of fussiness is actually why an intolerance was high on my list of possibilities.
    – Shawn C
    Apr 17, 2014 at 13:58

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