icon-arrow-down icon icon-arrow-fill-down icon icon-arrow-next icon icon-arrow-prev icon icon-tag-close icon
How can I improve my 3-year-old’s bathroom hygiene?
Q: I toilet-trained my 3-year-old daughter six months ago, but I’ve noticed that her hygiene isn’t very good. She often has poop stains in her underwear. When we were at a public pool she went poop in the toilet without even wiping herself after. When I reminded her, she wiped herself from her bottom to the front. Then she jumped off the toilet and I had to remind her to flush and wash her hands. I get so exasperated. What can I do?
Janelle Chicago
A: Congratulations on getting through toilet–training with your daughter, Janelle. But as you’ve noticed, it’s a longer process than just giving up nappys. It can take children another year or more to learn proper hygiene.

You’re doing the right thing by continuing to remind her about all the steps in bathroom hygiene, including wiping properly, flushing the toilet and washing her hands. Good hygiene is particularly important when she has a bowel movement. If she has poop stains in her underwear or if she wipes herself from her bottom to her front, the germs can get into her urethra (urinary tract) or vagina and cause infections. And if she doesn’t wash her hands, she can pass germs from her poop to the water in the swimming pool, food, toys and other people she touches.

Try to stay with her when she goes to the bathroom, and gently remind her to wipe herself by reaching from behind to wipe front to the back, then to flush the toilet and to wash her hands with soap and water. You can try to make it into a game. Ask her: “What do we do next?” or make up a little song or rhyme with the steps.

Also, take her to the bathroom when you go and talk through the steps: “Now I’m peeing/pooping…now I’m wiping…now I’m flushing…now I’m washing my hands!” If your daughter is in childcare or goes to preschool, talk with the teacher about their bathroom procedures and how they can also reinforce good hygiene.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician