A couple days ago, I thought I had discovered what was ailing Nico.
She was grunting, you see. And arching her back. And kicking out her legs with pained vigor. And then grunting again.
This didn’t happen all the time. But enough to be worrisome.
So, like any responsible new mom, I Googled “grunting, arching back, baby.”
What I got back was this: a blog post on the BabyMed site penned by a “writer and multimedia producer” who has “a passion for creating informative content that is well-researched, unique, and engaging.”
I took her word as gospel, of course, and proceeded to inform Marta, my parents, my brother and a few random friends that my baby has “Grunting Baby Syndrome.”
The diagnosis had a finality to it that made accuracy seem irrelevant. The post I read explained that some babies have not yet figured out how to relax their pelvic floor when pooping and that this causes them to strain unnecessarily, which is often exhibited by grunting and arching of the back. Other sites on Grunting Baby Syndrome explained that, as a cure, doctors will sometimes recommend stimulating the anus of said grunting baby. But, as these same sites point out, this is counterproductive: the grunting baby doesn’t have pooping problem, she has problems realizing that her body is capable of pooping. And so she tenses up. And grunts. Arches her back. Etc. But with time, I was assured, this would pass.
The problem with Google diagnoses, sadly, is that they are Google diagnoses. And this morning, after a sleepless night with a less grunting but clearly gassy-squirmy-unable-to-sleep Nico, I decided to Google the so-called diagnosis a bit more. What I discovered is that Grunting Baby Syndrome is not actually listed in any pediatric textbooks. It has been described in a several medical journal articles, though. And, seeing as I was sleep deprived enough to prevent any other real work this morning, I began reading said journal articles.
One particularly unhelpful one, called “Assessment and Management of Pediatric Constipation in Primary Care,” declared that “Grunting Baby Syndrome” (listed in quotes in the article) is actually just another name for a constipated in a baby who strains and grunts a lot before pooping. “This display of effort is generally rewarded by a stool of normal volume and consistency,” the author, Patricia Jackson Allen, writes.
So grunting baby syndrome is actually constipation in a baby who is able to poop normally (albeit with sound affects)?
At this point, I gave up. Er…returned to Google.
Nico, I decided, has good old fashioned gas. She seems uncomfortable. She squirms. She cries. All signs point to gas. And so I began searching cures for gassy babies.
I tried the football hold, recommended at this site, and explained in this video:
I tried baby massage.
I tried asking Marta to watch her diet better and cut out chocolate, milk, all gas-producing vegetables and beans. She was as tired as I was, though, so I’m not sure how well that went over.
I tried burping Nico in a thousand different ways. I tried singing to her. I tried reading her books about princesses who defeat dragons and a porcupine who convinces an elephant to jump long and hard enough that the berries in a tall, tall tree fall to the ground and he can eat them all.
I tried putting her in her bouncy monkey chair, which vibrates and can make bird sounds, while I began to write this blog post of desperation.
I turned on her favorite Vivaldi station on Spotify. I rocked said monkey chair occasionally. Mostly I just kept hoping that something would work eventually. And she’d fall asleep.
Which she just did, two seconds ago.
…and then she just woke up again. As sad and grunting-gassy as before.