Newborn Bloated Belly: Should I Worry?

May 22, 2024

Newborn bloated belly is a fairly common concern for many parents.

In this article, we will explore the causes of bloated belly in infants, how to recognize meteorism, manage colic, and remedies to relieve air in the belly and abdominal distension.

In addition, we will discuss when to worry and seek medical attention.

Causes of newborn bloated belly

Bloated belly in infants can be caused by a number of factors.

One of the main reasons is the ingestion of air during feeding, also called aerophagia.

Infants may swallow air while sucking from a bottle or breast, especially if they are not positioned correctly.

Another common cause is the introduction of new foods, such as first feedings, which can cause bloating and intestinal discomfort and then your baby might not want to eat.

Gas colic is another frequent cause of a bloated belly.

These are typical in the first three months of life and manifest with inconsolable crying, often in the evening hours.

Colic may be due to an immature digestive system, which makes it difficult for the baby to manage intestinal gas.

Some infants may also be lactose intolerant or have food allergies, causing bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

In rare cases, a bloated belly may be a sign of more serious medical conditions, such as intestinal obstructions or metabolic diseases.

If in doubt, the best thing to do is to hear from your pediatrician in person.

If your newborn has meteorism

Meteorism, or accumulation of gas in the intestines, is a common problem in infants.

Signs of meteorism include a swollen, strained abdomen, frequent flatulence and obvious discomfort.

The infant may become restless, cry frequently and pull his or her legs toward the belly in an attempt to relieve the pain.

The main cause of meteorism is the ingestion of air during feeding.

To reduce this problem, it is helpful to pay attention to the infant’s position during breastfeeding, whether breast or formula feeding.

In addition, it is important to take frequent breaks during feeding to allow the infant to burp, eliminating excess air (as well as trying to facilitate a final post-feeding burp).

Another factor contributing to meteorism is the type of feeding.

Some infants may have difficulty digesting certain types of formula or baby food, which you will choose in consultation with your pediatrician.

How to manage newborn colic

Colic in newborns is one of the most difficult challenges for parents.

They are episodes of intense and prolonged crying, often with no apparent cause. Colic can start as early as the second week of life and last until the third to fourth month.

To manage colic, there are several strategies that can be helpful (although we discuss these in depth in the article on infant colic):

  • First, creating a calm and soothing environment is key.
  • Avoiding excessive stimuli, such as bright lights and noise, can help reduce the infant’s discomfort.
  • Abdominal massage is another effective technique. Using gentle, circular movements, massaging the baby’s belly can help pass gas and relieve pain.
  • Taking a warm bath can relax abdominal muscles and reduce swelling.
  • Another option is the use of a baby carrier.

Keeping the infant close to the parent’s body with a sling can provide comfort and security, reducing crying and discomfort.

newborn bloated belly

Remedies to air in the belly

When it comes to relieving air in an infant’s belly, there are several remedies that can help. Some of them we have just discussed.

There are also lesser-known remedies, which should still be discussed with the pediatrician.

For example, the use of probiotics. Some studies suggest that probiotics may help improve digestion and reduce symptoms of meteorism and colic.

The infant’s and mother’s diet, if breastfeeding, can affect the amount of air in the belly.

Avoiding or limiting foods that cause gas, such as legumes, broccoli, and cabbage, can be helpful.

If the infant is formula-fed, considering changing the type of milk can make a difference, although changing the formula is not always easily accepted by the baby.

Finally, the use of herbs such as fennel and chamomile tea, under medical advice, can help reduce bloating and intestinal discomfort.

When to worry about a swollen baby belly

Although abdominal distension in infants is often a temporary and benign problem, there are situations when it is important to consult the pediatrician.

If the infant shows signs of intense and persistent pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or blood in the stool, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention.

These symptoms could indicate more serious conditions, such as intestinal obstruction or infection.

Another warning sign is failure to gain weight or significant weight loss.

If the infant is not growing adequately, there may be a nutrient absorption problem or food intolerance that needs medical attention.

In addition, if abdominal bloating is accompanied by high fever, lethargy, or changes in the infant’s behavior, it is essential to contact the pediatrician.

These symptoms could be indicative of an infection or other medical condition that requires immediate attention.

We are with you.

We at Parentalife are here to support you every step of this parenting journey.

We support you with our guides, classes, and personalized counseling.

Remember, you will never be alone; we are with you.

SOURCES

Chen A, Du J, Du LZ. [Clinical characteristics of abdominal distention in early newborns]. Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi. 2013 Dec;15(12):1074-8. Chinese. PMID: 24342199.

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.