Baby Grunting and Straining

It is common for newborns to make funny sounds while they try to learn how to function on their own. It is equally common for a new parent to feel concerned about every strange sound the baby makes. Baby grunting and straining is one of the cases, which is usually normal. It is, however, important to learn a bit more about the sounds your baby makes to understand when you need to take your baby to your doctor to rule out the possibility of a sickness.

Why Is My Baby Grunting and Straining?

Newborns will grunt and strain, which is usually normal. You may think they are constipated, but that may not always be the case. Actually, it is usually known as a condition called grunting baby syndrome.

What Is Grunting Baby Syndrome?

It is obvious for babies to have little information about how their bodies work, so it is common for them to find it difficult to coordinate the muscles required for a bowel movement. An adult would use his/her abdominal muscles and relax his/her pelvic floor muscles to have a bowel movement, while newborns don't always know how to control these muscles, so they will strain and grunt. This grunting makes their abdominal muscles to apply more pressure on the bowels. They will continue to grunt, strain and cry until they pass the stool. You may even see them turn purple in the process. The condition is called grunting baby syndrome.

How Do I Know My Baby Has Grunting Baby Syndrome?

Babies with grunting baby syndrome will have soft bowel movements, but they will grunt usually when they are constipated. The most common signs that your baby has grunting baby syndrome are:

  • Your baby cries, strains and grunts while having a bowel movement.
  • Your baby turns purple or red when having a bowel movement.
  • Your baby appears uncomfortable for 5-10 minutes before having a bowel movement.

What to Do to Treat Grunting Baby Syndrome

Many parents ask what they should do for baby grunting and straining. Actually, it is more important to know what you should not do in this situation since it is always a normal condition that happens to every newborn. You can take your baby to your doctor to confirm your baby has grunting baby syndrome and it's not something else. Never give any constipation medication to your baby. Even if your doctor says it's constipation, you can still insert a piece of cotton with Vaseline into his anus to stimulate these muscles to work.

It is true that watching your baby cry and turning purple are never a great experience, but you need to be patient and hope that your baby will soon learn to contract those muscles to have a normal bowel movement. You should, however, confirm with your doctor that your baby has grunting baby syndrome. If that's the case, crying more intensively will really help your baby become familiar with muscles used during a bowel movement. If it is really constipation, don't overuse the cotton method either – let your baby discover how to use their body.You may have to look for other remedies and discuss it with your doctor if your baby's condition doesn't improve in a month or so.

How Long Will Grunting Baby Syndrome Last?

If your baby has grunting baby syndrome, he/she may take a few hours to get done with a bowel movement. It means that some newborns will have trouble for a few hours, while others will have to deal with it longer. The condition may persist for 3-4 months, but you should consult with your doctor if you notice some other symptoms as well.

5 More Normal Sounds Newborns Will Make

Baby grunting and straining may be a sign of grunting baby syndrome that is usually normal, and some other sounds your newborns make can also be okay. For instance:

  • Crying: It is obvious to feel concerned when your baby starts crying. You don't always need to worry though because crying is the only way your baby knows to communicate with you. You will also learn more about his crying, which may mean your baby's hungry, wet, sick, etc.
  • Hiccups: You will hear hiccups when your baby's diaphragm contracts. This is an involuntary act because they pull their diaphragm down to pull air into the lungs. The diaphragm relaxes when the air flows out of the lungs. Sometimes, your baby may swallow excessive air during feeds, which may irritate the diaphragm and lead to hiccups. Hiccups are completely normal and don't bother your newborn.
  • Irregular breathing: If you notice your baby's breathing pattern isn't normal, don't worry. The breathing rate of newborns will vary greatly, and may even exceed 60 breaths per minute. However, you should seek medical attention if your baby stops breathing or turns blue.
  • Sneezing: You may also notice sneezing quite often in your baby, which usually doesn't indicate an infection, cold or allergies. This is quite normal like hiccupping.
  • Snuffling: Snuffling is common because newborns tend to breathe through their noses and snuffle because the nasal passages are still narrow.