Breaking the ‘poo taboo’ with Amsterdam’s Potty-Training Expert
Hadassa Voet, THE Super Pooper
No one talks about poop more than parents. In fact, between one hundred and one hundred fifty thousand children have some type of poop problem in the Netherlands each year. Even without any ‘problems’, conquering potty training with your toddler by the time they begin elementary school at age 4 can feel like an overwhelming task.
Hadassa Voet, the so-called ‘Super Pooper’, has spent most of her adult life studying just what causes the difficulties that most families face when potty training their children. As a Mom and Granny, she is also very familiar with poo problems and the effect they can have on one’s daily life. As a result, she is extremely motivated to solve poo problems as soon as possible and has developed ‘The SuperPooper Method’ in order to do so. It is a quick and easy way to solve poo problems which have no medical cause.
Hadassa openly admits that she suffered from extreme poop problems from age 4-14. “Back in the 60’s when I was growing up, they didn’t have a clue what the problem was, so my struggles resulted in a lot of hospitalizations and misdiagnoses. It was a terrible experience to go through as a young child and also very difficult for my parents.” She explains.
Eventually at the age of 9, she was diagnosed with the disease of Hirschsprung. However, despite the diagnosis and correlating treatment, her issues with constipation didn’t clear up until she went to high school and consciously decided (on her own) to use the toilet regularly, even marking an X in her diary each time she had pooped. “It was then that I realized that my problem wasn’t actually Hirschsprung disease or a lack of sense of urge to go, I simply held it in!” she exclaimed. “Once I began studying poop problems in children – I learned that this problem, withholding, is one of the most common of them all!” she continued.
Hadassa moved to Amsterdam when she was 18 and has resided in Amsterdam Zuid, where she still lives, since becoming a mother. She went on to have four children and gained a lot of practice with potty training, but it wasn’t until her fourth child was born prematurely and immediately had digestion (poop) issues that she was really taken back to her childhood struggles. Her son continued to experience serious poop problems, including hospitalization and tests for Hirschsprung disease, and struggled ongoing until age 5.
“In the 90’s you were not allowed to send your children to pre-school in diapers, so already at age 2,5 it was expected that your child would be potty trained. My son was obviously not yet (fully potty trained in the poo department) and I continued to ‘pamper him’, literally and figuratively, and would always give in to letting him poop in a diaper instead of on the toilet”, she recalled. “I even would drive to the pre-school when they would call to say he needed to poop and bring a diaper for him to use! Ridiculous!” she smiled and laughed as she remembered what lengths she went to back then to help her son, pointing out how ‘love can make us blind’ and is often a main cause of pampering our children.
Photo by Claudia Kamergorodski
“When my son was 4,5 and still suffering from constipation, his pediatrician put us on the waiting list for the first-ever ‘poop-poli’ (GI department at the AMC) to be seen when he turned 5”, she explained. “I was there the day after he turned 5 and was looking for a ‘cure’”. All tests came back negative, and no issues were found except for constipation. She had been prescribed to give daily enemas to her son which caused extreme stress for her and her son. Hadassa had had enough so she came up with her own plan. She began by making a little book for her son to explain to him first, how the digestive system works (by writing a story of a house for the poo located in the belly which became overcrowded and needed his help to free them) and included a plan about how they would incorporate going poop into the routine of every day. “At 4pm every day, it was ‘time’ – and after a week he started to poop regularly!” she proudly stated. “That experience really helped me to create the basis of the method I still advise to families today” she explained.
Photo by Claudia Kamergorodski
At age 42, Hadassa changed her career path dramatically. She went back to university to work on obtaining a degree as a children’s therapist. At a certain point she was required to ‘practice’ her new skills and started to advertise her services at her children’s school. “I’ll never forget when my first client showed up and told me that her son had an anger problem. Once I started talking with the child alone, he confessed that his anger was due to the fact that he couldn’t poop, was in pain, and often soiled his pants. These issues caused extra stress at home and in turn, also anger.” she couldn’t help but have the feeling that this was her calling. By 2005 Hadassa had a full practice even before her degree was complete.
She suddenly became the ‘expert’ on helping families struggling with poop problems but admits that she secretly couldn’t figure out exactly how she was actually solving the problem. “Everyone though I had the ‘key’! But I even I didn’t know what my ‘method’ was at that point” she explained. “Eventually I realized that my strength was simply listening, not just about the poop problem, but getting into the ‘real shit’, the underlying issues causing the poop problem.” She continued. “I learned that it was not only my job to help the child but it actually all started with helping the parents.” She eventually stopped working with the children but focused mainly on helping the parents. At one point she was seeing 40 couples per week and struggled to keep up with the workload and manage her own family. “I was overwhelmed and needed to cut down on my work, but I didn’t want to give up or not help these families, so I started to digitalize all of my advice.” She recalled.
In 2014, Hadassa’s first step to take her skills online was to offer virtual consultations via Skype, quickly followed by the release of the SuperPoeper App in Dutch. She went on to write the Dutch and English editions of her book SuperPoeper, launch online training courses for both parents as well as for healthcare professionals and finally in 2019 proudly launched the English version of the Super Pooper App. Her website also has various free resources for parents (in English and Dutch) and was just updated this month with new features and information. She even has a separate section on FAQs with specific questions related to the use of laxatives while potty training.
Hadassa has seen thousands of families, researched endlessly, and consulted with pediatricians around the world, with the goal to rid families of poo problems as soon as possible, so that children and their parents can live their lives without these concerns. “It’s time to break the poo taboo!” she exclaimed during our fun and insightful interview.
As a Mom of four and a Granny of 4 (to be 7!), we can confirm that Hadassa really knows her ‘shit’! We took detailed notes on her expert advice and asked her some of the top questions from our audience and our own experiences as mothers of toddlers:
What is the perfect age to potty train?
“The bodily system will ripe at 18 months and some children may already be interested in potty training at this point but usually between 2 – 2,5 years old certain things will happen (as listed below) which will increase the success rate. This means that between 2,5 – 3 years old can be the ideal time for most children.”
Photo by Claudia Kamergorodski
Hadassa’s ready to potty train checklist:
Does it work? (Is your child able to go
Does the child recognize the urge that he or she needs to go?
Is your child able to withhold a few moments until they reach the toilet?
Does he or she want to go?
Girls potty train earlier than boys
“It’s true that boys are usually suffering a bit more from withholding and or constipation as toddlers, but girls more often experience these issues as adolescents. Personally, I see about the same number of boys and girls in my work and I don’t think gender makes a huge different if you are consistent with your approach.”
What if my child is ‘not ready’?
“This statement is heard a lot from parents but to be honest, it’s not always true. The parents (and caregivers) have to be directive and be clear to the child. Make it a clear part of the day. Routine can make a huge difference so make going to the potty a normal part of your daily routine and stick to it. It’s also very important, maybe most important, that you are ready as the parent, both mentally and in terms of patience which requires very dedicated time to focus on the task.”
If my child is constipated does it mean they need a change in their diet?
Not necessarily. This depends however, so if you are worried about a specific food allergy always consult your GP. In general, it’s important to make sure your child has the following things included in their daily life to ensure healthy poo routines – moving, being active, drinking enough, eating a variety, with plenty of fiber, and sleeping well. Water is especially very important for young children experiencing poo problem (minimal 1 liter from 2 years old).
Should I use a laxative to help my child poo?
“Yes. This is one of my top recommendations to parents struggling with poo problems with their child. When poo problems are left untreated, a child will experience both better and worse periods. One should always treat constipation with laxatives. Unfortunately many parents are afraid of the possibility of laxatives becoming addictive and resulting in lazy bowels...
This is unjustified. Continued constipation without treatment causes delay and stagnation in the bowels. Moreover, the last part of the rectum will be stretched out due to the piled-up poo. This is the main cause of decreased feeling or urge to poo and often becomes a vicious cycle. Laxatives (in the correct dosage) are completely safe to use while potty training your child (and even for an extended period of time) and can make the experience much easier, especially if they are experiencing constipation. Make sure the dosage is correct and is calculated by body weight (not age). I recommend products which use macrogol – like Dulcosoft and Iberolax which are available over the counter or Forlax which is often prescribed by the GP for constipation.”
Hadassa’s top 5 tips for families experiencing a poop problem:
Don’t ignore it – pick a time to start and be consistent
Be patient – don’t be mad or angry, they are not doing it on purpose
Don’t worry about a laxative being ‘addictive’ – macrogol is simply working on the poo and will only help your child (it does not harm them)
Use a routine – and have a good set up in the WC (knees must be higher than hips so use a small stool or ‘Squatty potty’ for their feet to be placed on)
Talk about it where your child is spending time away from home – ask them for help and support – it’s important for the potty rules to be the same wherever they go.