My so-called grunting, gassy baby

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.

13 thoughts on “My so-called grunting, gassy baby

  1. I was without internet for four days, what a deprivation! I’ve diagnosed the problem, and I think ii’s the books you read her that cause the gassy grunting; let’s hold off a while on the porcupines and jumping elephants and see what happens.


  2. Fellow new mom & pager of Dr. Google; Found your blog via Google search for grunting baby syndrome. My son is 5 Weeks old and also appears to exhibit the same symptoms you describe for your child. It seems I’ve also run the gamut of the same options you’ve been trying to no avail. Just wondering if you’d seen any relief since you wrote this post!


    • Hey Keiko,

      Congratulations on your baby boy.

      As for The Grunter (as we call her), I think the best strategy we’ve discovered is the old-fashioned one: waiting. Since I wrote that post, Nico’s has either become a little less grunty, we’ve gotten more used to her grunting, or both. One natural cure we discovered is just to hold her and wrap her in a blanket. Marta claims that a warm stomach soothes gas and, while I am doubtful about that, keeping Nico super warm does seem to help. Another thing that likely helped is that the pediatricians diagnosed her with acid reflux, which actually shares many symptoms with this “grunting baby syndrome.” Baby’s with acid reflux spit up A LOT and also tend to arch their backs, making guttural or grunting noises and general discomfort. To treat that, Marta has been nursing Nico for less time but more frequently and keeping her upright after feedings. She also cut back on milk products and we’ve recently begun giving Nico a small dose of an acid reflux drug that the doctors prescribed. All this has helped, though not cured, the grunting and discomfort. As I write this now Nico is grunting away in her bouncer chair 🙂

      I hope that helps and best of luck with Jonah. My little sister had a premie who was in the NICU for almost a month. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.


  3. Pingback: The people they send to pediatric surgery | This Queer Familia

  4. Thanks for your article. I have 5 week old baby that grunts every waking moment too. Other than that heappears normal and happy. I also turned to google for answers an I found an iteresting one that blames caffeine in coffee taken in by the breast feeding mother. I would imagine that soda fits in there too.
    Out of curiosity, do you drink coffee?


    • My partner is the one nursing, but no she stopped drinking coffee. We started giving Nico a prescription for acid reflux, though, and that helped. Good luck with your baby. I know it can be hard, but it gets better.


  5. Hi! I have the same issue and I am/was worry that it could be something serious.

    My 7 weeks boys keeps arching his back and grunting while sleeping and sometimes while eating! I have also tried burping in different ways, I stopped all cheese, milk, yogurt etc, lifted the bed few cms , etc etc and nothing solves the problem

    How is your baby now? Is the grunting still there? My baby does not spit, so no reflux. Doctors says as long as he is smiling and seems happy, pooing and peeing … It is not a big problem. Just wait. Which frustrates me a bit. :-1


    • Hey. Nico is fine now and, though the grunting period was frustrating, I realize now that the doctors are probably right on this one: you just have to wait it out. Nico grunted for about a month, I’d say, but then it stopped and she’s not a healthy grunt-free baby. She was, though, later diagnosed with acid reflux and my guess is that the two things are related. If this is the case with your baby, the pediatrician can prescribe a medicine to help alleviate that problem and often that helps with any discomfort the baby seems to be having. Good luck!


  6. Loved the post. Almost exactly like my experience with my 5 week old. Also diagnosed with Acid Reflux and on Zantac. Whats the medication you’ve been given? I’m going to take mine off the meds though. Even though its minute amounts, its an adult drug and i’m not very happy giving it to her.


    • Hey Ana, Welcome. We had our daughter on an off-brand of Zantac for a little while, maybe a month or two, but mostly because she wasn’t able to sleep due to the acid reflux. Later a pediatrician recommended trying to prop her up while she slept–by putting some cushioning under the sheet–and that actually worked pretty well. Hope you baby’s grunting and discomfort clears up soon.


  7. I stumbled across this while consulting Dr Gogle at 4am while holding my distressed, grunting baby, and was very concerned when you pointed out that GBS doesn’t seem to pop up in any paediatric sources.

    So I wanted to clear that up for any other mums in my position – Grunting Baby Syndrome is real. It’s proper name is infant dyschezia – you’ll find some credible sources if you google that instead.


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