5 Reasons Why Your Kid’s Poop Smells Like Mothballs

poop smells like mothballs

Every day with your baby is an adventure. But some days really make you wonder if there is something wrong with your baby. Like when his poop smells like mothballs. What is that all about?

Usually, a child’s poop smells like mothballs due to indole or skatole in the body. Not only this but the smelly poop depends upon several factors like the type of food intake, allergies, medications, or even the presence of infections. Before you get anxious here’s more on the subject:

Normal Bowel Habits in Toddlers

Healthy food is not the only thing necessary to maintain your baby’s health. Healthy bowel movements are as important as healthy food intake. Some of the healthy bowel habits that you must develop in your child are:

Healthy Diet

Healthy bowel movements can’t occur without a balanced diet. If your child is not taking enough nutrients, fiber, and fluids he is bound to become constipated. Even worse, constipation can lead to severe intestinal infections. Both these conditions make the stool hard and smelly. And above all, it is extremely painful for the child to pass feces.

So cut the processed foods and switch to fruit and whole grain intake. Fibrous food not only takes away undigested food particles but also makes your toddler’s poop smell less.


Children love to play so there is no reason why they won’t be interested in exercising. But if they have increased screen time and your child has become a couch potato instead of playing outdoors, you should be worried about their bowel movements. Just like adults staying active, it’s also important for children for proper bowel movements.

Try to indulge your child in outdoor activities. Take him to parks or play groups where he can interact and play with other kids. This will keep him motivated to stay active throughout the day.

Talking It Out

It is very important for you as a parent to explain to your child that having regular movements is necessary for good health and isn’t something to be ashamed of. Children should be able to deal with it as part of their routine rather than becoming conscious of it.

You also need to tell your child never to hold a bowel movement. When they need to go they must go or else it can negatively impact their health. Calling bowel movements dirty and making them taboo can make your child overthink bowel movements and feel very self-conscious while using the toilet. You must make sure your child is comfortable talking about bowel movements with you.

Is Your Baby Pooping Normally?

How to determine if your baby is pooping normally? As your baby grows the bowel movements go from multiple times a day to once a day. The smell and texture of the poop change; but if the digestive system of the toddler is fine and he is eating a balanced diet, you will see he has normal bowel movements daily.

Children who are suffering from constipation or dehydration often have problems pooping daily. In fact, they have painful excretion, and their poop smell bad. Similarly, children suffering from diarrhea have foul-smelling and watery poop multiple times a day.

What Can You Do About Smelly Poop?

Usually, if your toddler’s poop smells like mothballs you don’t have to take extreme measures. There is nothing to be worried about and there is nothing that can’t be easily sorted out. But remember, the sorting out part should be left to your doctor. Even better if it is your child’s pediatrician because he will be aware of your child’s medical history, especially if your toddler has any allergies.

A pediatrician will know the reason behind the mothball-like smelly poop and deal with the cause accordingly. If the problem lies in diet the doctor will let you know about your toddler’s food sensitivity. In many cases, the problem may be due to some vitamin deficiency. If it is severe, the doctor will recommend a vitamin supplement or certain nutrient-boosting foods, especially fiber.

Other than these reasons, if a bacterial infection is the cause of smelly poop, the doctor will straight out prescribe antibiotics. So first you need to get your child checked by a doctor and then you can find a solution to his problem. Without knowing the cause behind the smelly poop and acting on your own, you will harm your kid further. So always seek out medical advice first.

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Kid’s Poop?

Generally, if your child’s poop smells awful you need to talk to your child. If he is having difficulty while passing stool that is when you need to be concerned. Here are also a few things along with foul-smelling poop that should raise your concerns about your child’s bowel movements. 

Abdominal Pain

Children suffering from constipation and foul-smelling poop also show symptoms of abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is not a cause of smelly poop but rather a symptom of an already existing bacterial infection or worse lactose intolerance.

Abdominal pain can happen due to multiple other reasons and can be really harmful to your child’s digestive system. So if your child complains of abdominal pain, make sure you visit your doctor. If it isn’t a digestive disorder, the pain will subside in some time.

If the pain is accompanied by other symptoms, like constipation, your child needs medical care. He should be able to pass stool easily and if that is not happening, it will negatively impact his overall health.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

If your child is showing gastrointestinal symptoms, this is a cause for concern. The most common gastrointestinal issue in children and adults is constipation. Constipation is considered a leading cause of mothball-smelling poop. In addition, constipation causes extreme tummy and rectal pain to your child. How to know if your child is suffering from constipation?

Simple, if he isn’t pooping regularly, he has constipation. Other signs of constipation are hard feces, smelly poop, and painful evacuation of feces. If your child complains of pain every time he poops, you must do something to overcome constipation.

Children become dehydrated or are reluctant to eat fibrous food. This leads to constipation. Therefore, you must encourage fluid and fiber in your child’s diet. You shouldn’t ignore this as a petty problem, as it can lead to diseases in the intestines.

If after changing your child’s dietary habits you do not see any visible change, you must ask your doctor’s advice. He will prescribe some laxatives and a proper dietary plan for your kid.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose-intolerant children often experience stomach issues. Especially if you get mothball-smelly poop if you are suffering from lactose intolerance. In such a case, you must immediately cease feeding your toddler any dairy products.

It’s important that your child undergoes a pediatric checkup to ensure that you need to ban dairy from his diet. Your child will also need an alternative nutrient source against milk. You can’t decide which supplement is best in such a case. So a medical check-up becomes even more important.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infections, especially those of the digestive system, can cause not only smelly poop but also extreme discomfort to your toddler. It doesn’t exactly make the poop smell like mothballs but makes it smelly nonetheless.

Infections are not limited to bacteria but viral infections and allergies also impact human feces. Malabsorption from food can be serious for your child. So you need to keep your eyes and nose open for any signs of infection like smell, gas, abdominal pain, and constipation.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance like lactose intolerance is a food allergy. In this case, your child can be allergic to wheat, etc., and this can lead to mothball-smelling poop. You can find out about gluten intolerance easily by monitoring your child’s poop after he has eaten something containing wheat, like bread.

If after eating it his poop smells like mothballs you will know that your child is gluten intolerant and avoid giving your child gluten in any food form. Eliminating gluten from your toddler’s diet can decrease the smell of his poop.

Can Food Allergies Cause Your Kid’s Poop To Smell Bad?

Can Food Allergies Cause Your Kid’s Poop To Smell Bad

Food allergies are one of the major reasons why your kid’s poop smells bad. Food allergies are not visible straight away because a baby can’t consume everything. But as you start giving all kinds of solid foods to your toddler you will see the marked impact of certain foods.

That is tough and you can never exactly tell what your toddler is allergic to. Your child is having multiple foods at the same time, and it’s hard to tell what is causing the issue. So You need to visit your doctor ASAP!

The doctor will run tests that will let you know exactly what your child is allergic to. Allergies don’t necessarily stay for life; but in little kids, they do make the poop smell like mothballs.

But after you find out what the problematic foods are, you will notice the change in your child’s poop instantly.

Why is My Kid’s Poop So Sticky?

At times you may notice your kid’s poop sticking to the bowl. This is uncommon and not a good sign because it shows a digestive disorder.  Your child could be suffering from temporary or chronic digestive disorders or gastro problems.

If the poop is sticky and appears greasy or different in color or texture than normal poop, you need a good gastroenterologist to deal with this situation. He will have your child’s stool tested and prescribe antibiotics if the disorder is serious.

You can also manage a balanced diet for your kid so that no allergy gets in the way of proper digestion.

Sneak Peak

So you no longer have to be worried if your toddler’s poop smells. Most of the time it’s due to unhealthy eating habits. In some cases, fungal pathogens or bacterial infections are responsible for foul-smelling poop. However, it is nothing to panic about, and you can easily mitigate the situation by taking the following steps:

  • Healthy eating habits
  • Finding out if your child is allergic to something
  • Checking your child for lactose intolerance
  • Getting your baby’s stool tested

If you are in any kind of serious trouble, your toddler’s pediatrician will alert you. But most of the time it’s just a phase that passes. So don’t sweat about it, and try to develop healthy habits in your child early on.

Stephanie Edenburgh

I'm Steph, a mom to 3 beautiful children and lover all things having to do with my family and being a mom. I've learned a lot raising my own children and working in education and healthcare roles throughout my career. Living in beautiful Southern California I enjoy documenting and writing about all of the hard work us mom's do on a daily basis.

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