In most cases, grunting baby syndrome will develop once a child starts learning how to pass stool. However, this usually harmless condition will sometimes indicate a more serious health issue, such as irregular breathing, gastroesophageal reflux, or trapped mucus.
You may think that your grunting baby is in pain, but it is usually not the case. Grunting generally points at a mild problem that will resolve on its own. However, if you notice your child grunting in a specific way, you need to visit a doctor for further examination. You have to know about other symptoms that are dangerous when combined with grunting. Once you are aware of all symptoms you will be able to determine whether there’s a reason to worry when your baby grunts.
Is Grunting Normal?
As strange as it sounds, occasional grunts are perfectly normal in almost all newborns. You will listen to every little movement and sound your baby makes as a new parent, which is also normal. Your newborn’s squirms and gurgling noises seem so helpless and sweet most of the time. However, when you hear a grunt you may start to worry that your child needs the help of that it is in severe pain.
You should know that grunting baby syndrome is usually correlated with digestion. Your baby’s digestive system is still underdeveloped and grunting is just a normal body’s response to the mother’s milk or formula. Infants sometimes have pressure or gas in their stomachs and these can make them feel uncomfortable. This is a common cause of grunting since babies don’t know how to move things through yet.
So, grunting is usually normal and you don’t have to worry about it most of the time. However, you should take your child to see a doctor if it has a fever, if it grunts with every breath, or if it appears to be in distress. Grunting in these cases may indicate serious respiratory problems and your child will be required immediate medical attention.
The most common causes of grunting are dreaming, irregular breathing patterns, and bowel movements. As already mentioned, newborns need some time before they get used to having bowel movements. This is causing grunting and experts usually refer to this specific thing as grunting baby syndrome.
When adults pass stool, they use the muscles of their stomachs while relaxing their pelvic floor. This applies enough pressure on the stool and it helps it move through the gut properly. Newborns’ stomach muscles are very weak in the first couple of weeks and they are not able to do this correctly. This is why babies use their diaphragm to pass stool. This diaphragm exercise is putting a lot of pressure on their voice box, which then results in grunts.
There are also other grunting causes, which are less common but can be determined with enough attention.
- Gastroesophageal reflux. This is a common condition referred to as acid reflux. The symptom of this condition is regurgitation. Regurgitation happens when the contents of the stomach rise back into the food pipe. This causes a lot of discomfort for a baby and is usually a reason why baby grunts.
- You will notice that your baby grunts while sleeping sometimes. This is usually indicating a bowel movement or a specific dream.
- Trapped mucus. Newborns have narrow nasal passages and mucus can easily collect there – which can later result in grunting.
- Irregular breathing patterns. Newborns need some time to develop proper breathing patterns. Grunting may indicate that a child is working on a breathing pattern.
Babies that grunt while passing stool may also turn red or purple in the face, cry, or strain for several minutes.
Always make sure with your baby’s pediatrician that the grunting baby syndrome your child has is normal. If the doctor concludes that your little one is just learning how to pass stool you will just have to take care about relaxing your child. The only cure will come once your baby learns how to relax the anus while having a bowel movement. You don’t have to worry since your child will eventually learn to do this, but through trial and error for sure.
Some pediatricians are recommending anal stimulation as a good treatment for grunting. This is gentle use of a piece of cotton or an anal thermometer to help stimulate the bowel movement. Doing this will most likely help your child to have a bowel movement, but there are a few negative effects on this method. The number one reason why you shouldn’t be doing this is the fact that your child might become dependent on this method and refuse to pass stool without it.
The grunting will usually start in the first few months after birth, but it will also resolve on its own, it just depends on the baby. Every newborn will need a different time frame to master the coordination of the bowel movements.
There are a few home remedies you can try to help your baby with grunting baby syndrome. However, they depend on the cause, so be careful.
As already mentioned, grunting is usually normal when a newborn is learning to have bowel movements. It doesn’t require treatment in most cases. Once the stomach muscles are strengthened and the pelvic floor is relaxed the newborn should stop grunting. This will usually happen in the first few months. You can try rubbing some petroleum jelly on your baby’s anus if you want to. But, it is recommended not to do this since you will be delaying your child from learning to have bowel movements on its own.
Unless your baby is showing signs of breathing difficulties there is no reason to worry if you notice irregular breathing patterns. You can try using a baby monitor if you want to be alerted when your child has changed in breathing while sleeping. Movement monitors are also very useful since they can tell you if your baby is not moving for longer than usual.
If you think that your child is grunting due to trapped mucus you can always try using a nasal aspirator. Consult with your doctor about saline drops and whether it is safe for your baby to take them.
There are a few home remedies you can use that should help you fight off GER symptoms that cause grunting:
- Feed your baby more slowly
- Feed your baby in small portions, but more often
- Don’t use bottle nipples that have large holes, this can cause overflowing
- Burp your baby more often
- Thicken your baby’s milk or formula, but make sure you consult with a doctor first
If your newborn is not getting any better even after you try all of these home remedies your child might suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Be sure that your child’s pediatrician will test for GERD. The tests are done if your baby has symptoms that can indicate lung problems, if your child is not gaining weight, or if there is no improvement with the digestive symptoms.
Grunting and Constipation
Some parents are sometimes not able to differentiate constipation from grunting. This is mainly because newborns that are grunting will usually pass soft stools since their digestive system is still not developed.
Constipation symptoms are similar to grunting but you need to understand to differentiate them. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- A hard stomach
- Reduced appetite
- Less than 3 bowel movements per week
- Small, dry, pellet-like stools
- Discomfort, crying, pain, and irritability before bowel movements
- Stools and gas that smells bad
There are a few things you can do to help your baby with constipation:
- Change the formula
- Massage your baby’s stomach
- Feed your baby more often and increase hydration
- If you are breastfeeding, change your diet
Is There a Reason to Worry?
The grunting of a sick baby is very different from the grunting of a healthy child learning how to pass stool properly. Consider grunting with every breath abnormal, always. This could be a serious warning sign of respiratory distress and you need to take your child to a doctor as soon as possible.
If you notice that your child grunts while having other symptoms such as distress or fever, make sure you take it to a doctor immediately. Your child will require immediate medical attention if it has any of these signs since there could be a serious medical condition causing the grunting.
There are a lot of diseases that could be causing grunting with breathing. Some of them are:
- Heart failure
It is also your job to look out for other respiratory illness symptoms if you notice your child is grunting abnormally. Respiratory problems that come with grunting usually have these symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Bluetongue or skin
- Nasal flaring
- Pauses in breathing
Baby Planet Overview
If you notice that your baby is grunting you should know that it is nothing unusual. A lot of babies will have to grunt since they use diaphragm muscles to have bowel movements. The diaphragm affects voice box which then results in grunting. However, in some rare cases, there is an underlying problem causing grunting. This is when you will be required to take your child to a hospital for further examination to determine what is causing the grunting. The cause can be something mild, but it can also be dangerous in rare cases. It is your job to look out for symptoms and consult with your doctor as soon as you notice any unusual changes.
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- Respiratory distress in the newborn, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov