Parents of newborns watch their new creation like a television they just can’t turn off.
New parents notice every “beep”, “bop” and “blip” their baby makes.
While a lot of these sounds may throw new parents into a fury of worry, most of them are quite normal and can even be funny.
But if you’ve ever heard your baby grunting, you may be concerned. But should you be?
What is Grunting Baby Syndrome?
Grunting baby syndrome is an informal term that’s used to describe a condition that some newborns display when they have difficulty with bowel movements.
Not to be confused with constipation, a baby with GBS will pass soft stools. A baby with GBS may grunt, strain, cry or even turn purple while passing stools.
Newborns have a lot to learn about how their body works, and naturally, it takes time for them to coordinate their body’s functions.
Have you ever tried to swing one arm forward while swinging the other arm backwards? You might find it bit tricky at first—this is what you’re baby is experiencing, only with their abdomen and pelvic floor.
In order for a baby to pass stool, they need to flex their abdominal muscles, while simultaneously relaxing their pelvic floor. This requires coordination that your baby may not have mastered yet.
While he/she is trying to coordinate these two actions, your baby may cry, grunt and strain, which will help the abdominal muscles push down on the bowels.
What does grunting baby syndrome look like?
For new parents, watching your newborn grunt can be unnerving, especially when constipation is also a worry. If your baby is still passing soft poops, then you can likely rule constipation out.
Once you’ve eliminated constipation from the conversation, the following symptoms are signs that your baby may have Grunting Baby Syndrome
- Your baby cries, strains and grunts while having a bowel movement.
- Your baby turns purple or red when having a bowel movement. This may last for several minutes.
- Your baby appears uncomfortable for 5-10 minutes before having a bowel movement.
If you’re not sure, or if there are other additional symptoms, check with your doctor to rule out any other possible concerns.
If your baby is grunting with every breath, has a blue tongue or lips, or a fever, these could be signs of a more serious respiratory condition and you should contact your pediatrician immediately.
What should I do about my grunting baby?
Typically, you won’t need to be worried at all, but it’s always good to double check with your pediatrician just to be safe.
Grunting Baby Syndrome is normal and most babies experience this heartbreaking (though sometimes laughable) discomfort.
Admittedly, watching your baby writhe and turn red isn’t the easiest thing to do, but where GBS is concerned it’s important to let your baby’s body take the lead. Let him/her learn how their body works and eventually bowel movements will become easier for them (and you)!
You may want to ease some of your baby’s discomfort, so some doctors recommend stimulating his/her anus with Vaseline and a cotton ball or an anal thermometer.
This will help your baby’s anus to relax and more easily pass the stool. While this aids baby in the moment, this method may cause unwanted consequences later by conditioning your baby to only be able to poo when stimulated.
It’s important for your baby to learn how to coordinate their muscles and pass stool on their own. Also, be sure to avoid any constipation medication unless advised by your pediatrician.
As a new parent, you are probably enjoying every sweet “coo” and “gaa” your baby is sharing with you. While the grunts may seem a little less appealing, try to enjoy them too! As with every aspect of parenting, “this, too, shall pass”. Remember to sit back and enjoy the program .
When should you be concerned?
Having said all of this, just because your baby is making grunting noises, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s GBS.
There are a few other reasons why your little one might be grunting.
Although constipation isn’t the reason for Grunting Baby Syndrome, a grunting baby might actually be constipated.
There are some key differences to look for to determine if your baby is constipated.
- Your baby may appear to be straining very hard to have a bowel movement.
- Be very irritable and crying.
- Have a hard tummy to the touch.
- Have small hard and infrequent poop like rabbit droppings.
- Have streaks of blood in his/her poop which is caused by straining to poop (anal fissures).
Acid Reflux / Colic
Another reason why your little one might be grunting is colic.
This ailment occurs when stomach acid and milk is able to travel back up through baby’s esophagus, which is often due to an underdeveloped esophageal sphincter.
If you suspect your baby might be suffering from reflux, your doctor will be able to suggest some easy tips to fix it.
A lot of the time, it can be remedied by simply changing the angle at which you feed your baby.
Most of the time acid reflux isn’t a huge issue and tends to resolve itself on its own, but as always, please check with your doctor if you suspect your little one might be suffering from it.
Respiratory distress or other illness.
If your baby is grunting often and seems to also have signs of illness or is in distress, please see your pediatrician. This could be the sign of a serious medical issue.
- blue skin or tongue
- weight loss
- pauses in breathing
- nasal flaring
We would never recommend jumping to conclusions, but if your child has a medical issue, having it diagnosed as early as possible is always a good idea.