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ABC’s of Newborns- G is for Grunting

You’re sitting on the couch snuggling your newborn, and all of the sudden they let out a low, slow, grunt.  Immediately, your mind starts racing …
Are they in pain?
Did I do something to make them uncomfortable?
Are they hungry?

Most of the time, the answer is simply related to digestion.  Your baby likely has not figured out how to relax their pelvic floor before moving stool and gas through their system to have a bowel movement, and instead bears down with their diaphragm against their closed voice box (glottis).  After a few months, generally by the end of the fourth trimester, your baby will figure out how to pass gas or have a bowel movement sans grunting.

While grunting while producing gas or a bowel movement isn’t the most glamorous thing, and certainly isn’t the cute baby babble and squeals of joy you were hoping to record on your phone and show your family and friends, it’s all part of your baby’s typical development.  There isn’t much you can do to prevent the grunting, as your baby will eventually learn how to relax their anus and push with their abdomen on their own through trial and error.

However, if your baby is grunting with nearly every breath they take, it is likely due to a respiratory problem, not digestion.  Grunting with every breath is a red flag.  If this applies to your baby, you should call your healthcare provider immediately for further evaluation.

Hearing your baby grunt can be stressful and painful for you as a parent, as you may think your little one is in distress.  However, grunting is a normal sign of digestive development, and should stop after a few months once your baby learns how to push with their abdomen rather than their diaphragm.  

A good way to strengthen your baby’s abdomen and prepare them to pass stool or gas without grunting (aka using those strengthened abdominal muscles) is with regular tummy time, which will be discussed in depth further in the ABC’s of Newborns series.  

Sam Steel

BIRTH DOULA, POSTPARTUM DOULA, PLACENTA SPECIALIST + BEACH LOVER

Miami Beach, FL

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We are doulas living in Miami with a love for cafecito, pregnancy and newborns. We are the experts and the moms who have been there sharing our best tips and tricks with a side of inspiration. Our goal? Help you kick ass at this parenting gig.

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