Why Does My Baby Grunt All The Time? – Tips, Tricks & Advice For New Parents

Your baby can’t talk to you verbally, but babies do make plenty of noises! Weird, funny, and sometimes scary noises, it’s their way of communication. As much as you’ll find these sweet little cries cute, some noises could worry you, grunting being one of them. You may wonder why does my baby grunt all the time? Thinking that your baby is in pain or having trouble breathing, but the reality is that your baby is figuring out life’s most vital task, which is pooping!

Just as there are levels of sleep, babies also have several levels of being awake

You must have listened to a phrase now and then “sleep like a baby,” which is highly misleading. Babies don’t experience sound deep sleep until they are 6 months old. Babies have a brief and often interrupted sleep cycle of about 50 minutes. During this period, their sleep swiftly interchanges with several levels, including half REM sleep and the Deep bonk dreaming phase. During this phase, babies make many noises like grunting, gurgling and whimpering, and sometimes rouse with their own noise.

Babies and REM

Up until 6 months, babies experience REM sleep (active sleep). So while babies sleep a lot, it is very light sleep, and their bodies are awake with every movement.

Babies wake up every 2 hours and need assistance from parents. It is a 24/7 job with a baby. Occasionally you might hear a loud noise coming from your baby during sleep, which is completely normal, and it is the sound of your baby making poop or passing gas.

Cause of grunting in infants

Cause of grunting in infants

Baby grunt is a sign of having a bowel movement, your baby might produce plenty of loud grunting noises for several weeks until they figure out how to poop.

Babies have tiny torsos and don’t move much either. Gas from adjusting to milk formulas and continuously lying on their back gets trapped. They don’t understand how to relax pelvic floor muscles and use abdominal pressure to pass stool.

The reason why babies grunt is because they have weak abdominal muscles, they tend to hold their diaphragm which puts pressure against close voice box causing a grunting sound.

Grunting baby syndrome

You might notice your baby’s face turns pink or purple and makes weird facial expressions while pooping, makes loud grunt noises during pooping, peeing, or passing gas, strain for few minutes, or often cry while doing their business.

Chances are your baby could be suffering from Grunting baby syndrome, a formal term coined by medical practitioners to refer to a symphony of sounds your baby makes during a bowel movement.

The good news about grunting baby syndrome

Grunting is a beneficial reflex sign as it helps babies to flex their abdominal unfortunately the movements are uncoordinated and they are unable to relax their pelvic muscles simultaneously producing loud grunting sounds

Grunting vs constipation

Often times, people confuse grunting with constipation. It is a common misconception that grunting baby syndrome is caused by constipation, but if you notice the poop in the diaper, it’s soft compared to constipated poop. It is just that your baby hasn’t figured out yet how to flex and relax muscles while pooping.

Grunting lifts up after 6 months

Usually, grunting is relieved after 6 to 12 weeks or up until your little one is 6 months old. Your baby starts to move around a little bit, sit for a while, and learns to control his reflexes. If your baby doesn’t outgrow from grunting, there could be other conditions your baby might be suffering from.

Other causes of grunting

There are several other causes of grunt besides bowel movement, which could be troublesome at times. You should refer to a pediatrician and get their advice on the matter.

  • Respiratory distress syndrome
  • Irregular breathing pattern
  • Acid reflux or GERD
  • Mucus reflux in nasal passageways
  • Dreaming during the REM sleep cycle
  • Sepsis
  • Heart problems
  • Meningitis

FAQs

What is the meaning of grunting?

NCBI defines Grunting as “a low, mid pitched expiratory sound produced by sudden closure of the glottis during expiration in an attempt to maintain Functional residual capacity”.

Why is my noisy newborn grunting, snoring, and whistling in their sleep?

Babies make plenty of noises. They have narrow air passageways, and mucus gets trapped in them, producing various sounds and loud noises. The only cure to grunting is when your baby learns how to relax pelvic muscles, which can be learned with trial and error.

Newborn grunting and other baby sleep noises: Why is my baby so loud?

Newborn grunting is perfectly normal! You certainly don’t need to worry about the health condition of your baby. But it can certainly disturb your sleep as the noises can be really loud.

What does grunting baby syndrome look like?

While grunting, you might notice that your baby’s face turns red or purple with straining and strange, funny expressions. Parents usually suspect that their child is having trouble breathing or has a serious medical condition; this is not always the cause. Your baby could be perfectly normal, trying to figure out how to handle gas pressure.

How to treat grunting baby syndrome?

Sometimes babies feel overwhelmed while struggling and start crying. You can always try home remedies to help them relieve pressure.

  • Lift your baby a little in an upright position and reduce time lying on the back; this will help relieve pressure on the diaphragm.
  • Bicycle exercise of legs helps a lot in lifting gas because newborn babies have minimal movement moving their legs to and forth restrains the baby from grunting.
  • While feeding, have short breaks, and make your baby burp in small episodes.
  • Rub olive oil or peppermint oil on the tummy in a counterclockwise way. This will help relieve pressure in the stomach.
  • Pediatricians also advise to stimulate the anus with a thermometer or cotton ball, and this method has worked a lot of times. Still, it has been seen that anal stimulation makes babies dependent on this method to have a bowel movement. Anal stimulation could delay your baby’s ability to learn correctly.

Does grunting baby syndrome hurt?

As much as it may sound like your baby is in pain and distress, believe me, he is not! Your baby is just trying to work his way out with bowel movements. Keep a close look at your baby’s movements and the sounds he makes if you notice something unusual, consult your doctor ASAP.

How do you tell if a baby is struggling to breathe?

No one can know your child better than you! Always keep an eye on the signs and changes your baby is going through. Common warning signs include…

  • Suddenly waking up from sleep with a cough and abnormal breathing.
  • Trouble sleeping due to difficulty in sleeping.
  • Crying without any reason, fussiness irritated and agitated behavior.
  • Having less or no appetite.
  • Pulling off from breast or feeding bottle to take breaths intermittently.

Why do babies grunt in respiratory distress?

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome occurs when the baby’s lungs are not fully matured and still developing even after birth. It occurs in 7% of births. This usually happens in premature babies born before 34 weeks. If your baby is grunting with every breath, has difficulty breathing, wheezing sounds, Noisy high-pitched breathing with expiration, hypothermia, and face turn purple for several long minutes. This is a serious medical condition!

What is the first sign of respiratory distress in infant?

Grunting baby signs should be concerned when you notice…

  • Rapid shallow breathing might increase to 70 breaths per minute (tachypnea). Grunting sounds in every breath as your baby struggles with blocked airway passages with flaring nostrils.
  • Skin color changes showing that your baby is not getting enough oxygen supply. Pale bluish-grey color (cyanosis) around lips, nails, gums, and under eyes.
  • The abdominal muscles contract more forcefully than usual.

These should be looked into with great concern and refer to your pediatrician immediately. Infants are unable to sustain extra work load of breathing in worst case scenario Respiratory failure could occur.

How can I help my baby push out poop?

Gently massage your baby’s tummy with oil in a counter-clockwise motion. Mix one-part gripe water in feeding bottle; it has been seen gripe water cures gas and grunting rapidly. Moving baby’s legs to and forth in bicycle motion plays a huge role in relieving elevated pressure.

Why does my baby squirm and grunt while sleeping?

Grunting has a similar physiological response to the baby’s body as yawning is in adults. It fills the lungs with oxygen while sleeping baby takes few deep breaths which put pressure on closed glottis producing grunting and squirming sounds.

Conclusion

Grunting is a natural part of development. Let your little one figure out his important life tasks. Grunting helps to strengthen abdominal muscles. Grunting baby syndrome is not a serious problem as long your baby seems happy and healthy, and you shouldn’t be concerned.

It usually resolves after 12 weeks to 6 months. You can always try some tested and tried home remedies to help relieve increased pressure.  Somehow if it isn’t resolved refer to your pediatrician as soon as possible. Your baby could be struggling with other underlying medical conditions.

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