Bloated tummies

Why is my baby's tummy so big?

Weight gain and growth follows a pattern in babies: Within a couple of weeks of birth, their tummies get wider and it looks as though they swallowed a big ball. Their thighs get fatter and the loose skin on the inside of the thighs disappears and their necks get thicker and hard to clean.  A big tummy is normal for a baby who is getting enough milk. Rarely, it is a sign of a serious tummy illness such as a blockage or bowel twist. If your baby’s tummy bloats suddenly and the baby seems very unhappy or extremely sleepy or starts vomiting, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

A) Normal big tummies

This baby has a normal tummy that bulges at the sides.

There is a pattern to the way babies grow and become fleshier.

Within one to two weeks of delivery and when your baby is lying down, tummy side up, you will notice the tummy bulging out below the ribs. Indeed, healthy babies look as if they swallowed a big ball. The tummy should feel soft and the baby should generally be happy. The baby’s neck and thighs will also fill the first weeks after birth.

Parents often worry about the size of their baby’s tummy. A big tummy is normal for a baby who is getting enough milk and gaining weight well. A big tummy is not caused by excess amounts of gas. Normal babies will also have lots of tummy noises and cramps as they digest milk.

Premature babies and those born small for their age seem to have even bigger tummies because the rest of their body is very thin and the tummy tends to fill before the rest of the body.

After the first year, children’s tummies start looking leaner and less fleshy.

B) Abnormal big tummies

Rarely, a sudden increase in the size of the baby’s tummy is a sign of a serious tummy illness, such as a blockage or bowel twist. In these cases, the tummy will bloat suddenly and the baby will seem very unhappy or extremely sleepy. The baby may also vomit or have bloody stools (poop). See your health-care providers as soon as possible if you notice these changes.