Grunting Baby Syndrome – Here’s What you Should Know

Grunting Baby Syndrome (GBS) can sound like a serious ailment, but it is actually more normal than you think. There are a lot of things your baby is learning. As they develop they discover other things along the way like motions and noise that are brand new to them. One of the things they realize they have control over is bowel movement. One way they discover they can do this is by grunting. Grunting simply means the baby hasn’t yet figured out how to relax the pelvic floor while using abdominal pressure to move items through his or her digestive system. The abdominal muscles are not fully developed, and babies must bear down with the diaphragm against their closed voice box, which creates the grunting noise.

So, what is grunting baby syndrome? Is it an indication of constipation? Does it tell you that your baby’s bowels are malfunctioning? Is it simply an idiosyncrasy that some babies display? Or, is this a serious bowel problem? Like many other conditions humans suffer from, Grunting Baby Syndrome (GBS) is a diagnosis of exclusion.

Grunting Baby Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Is Grunting Normal for Babies?

Newborn grunting is quite normal. Newborns discover grunting when they use abdominal pressure to push poop or gas through their system. This is a skill they develop because those muscles are underdeveloped at this point. When babies start to grunt, they may be moving their bowels. It can also occur while they sleep. It can be distracting for parents who have their newborns in their bedroom for the first few months.

Once your baby starts to grunt, they will continue doing it while they learn how to pass their stool. There are some who call this grunting baby syndrome because of the sound they make. 

What are the Causes?  

In order to have a bowel movement, an adult will relax the pelvic floor and use abdominal muscles to move the stool through the gut. However, it takes a lot more work as babies are working on strengthening their muscles to do this. The pressure they apply pushes the diaphragm against the voice box, which leads to a grunting noise. 

What are the Symptoms of Grunting Baby Syndrome?

GBS is not constipation. In general, newborns who grunt are passing soft stool. It is part of the process rather than the discomfort of hard, dry stool.

Here are some things you might see when your infant is trying to have a bowel movement:

  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Scrunching up the face
  • Straining
  • Making fists
  • Turning red or purple
  • Squeezing their abdominal muscles

What is the Treatment of Grunting Baby Syndrome?

Since GBS is not an ailment and most babies are not experiencing any discomfort, there is no recommended treatment for it. Once a newborn learns how to relax the pelvic floor, the grunting that occurs when passing stool will reduce and stop altogether. A baby can be about 3 months old when they finally stop grunting because of their more developed bowel muscles.

  • Exercise ”“ help your baby stretch out and work their abs and legs
  • Warm Bath ”“ to help relax the baby
  • Massage ”“ this can help increase blood flow and function to the bowel
  • Hydration ”“ constipation is one sign of dehydration
  • Dietary Changes ”“ fruit juices are great for getting a bowel moving along
  • Windi The Gas Passer– If you believe gas is the cause, check out the Windi which can help your little one out.

Above are ways to make it easier for babies to pass stool, however, they are not recommended for frequent use because it can deter a baby’s necessary development when it comes to muscle strength and learning how to poo.

When Should You Be Concerned?

  • Signs of discomfort, especially after eating. Grunting can occur when food in the stomach rises in the esophagus, such as with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GER).
  • Grunting associated with fever
  • Flared nostrils
  • Grunts occur during breathing that is unrelated to a bowel movement. For example, your baby grunts upon the end of respiration as a way to clear blocked airways.
  • Grunting while breathing hard and fast, as if out of breath
  • Signs of distress including blue tinge in lips and tongue 

Newborns with these symptoms need medical attention right away.

Do keep in mind that because babies tend to grunt for any number of reasons. Therefore, you cannot just assume your baby has GBS. It’s easy to confuse GBS with other things like constipation, acid reflux, respiratory issues, or an illness or infection.


New parents will always have those moments when the noises their babies make scare them. Grunting Baby Syndrome is simply a matter of your baby learning how to pass stool comfortably. It can take time, maybe more time than you would like, but unless your child becomes chronically constipated or otherwise ill, a well-child check-up is all you need to put your mind at ease.

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