Bebcare Academy Knowledge Series - Abdominal Distension
A blog post by Brian Murphy
Most babies’ bellies normally stick out, especially after a large feeding. Between feedings, however, they should feel quite soft. If your child’s abdomen feels swollen and hard, and if he has not had a bowel movement for more than one or two days or is vomiting, call your pediatrician. Most likely the problem is due to gas or constipation, but it also could signal a more serious intestinal problem.
When an infant has gas, his abdomen can become distended and he might cry, burp, pass gas or experience abdominal cramps. You can naturally relieve his gas symptoms by burping him for 2 to 3 minutes. If he doesn't burp in this amount of time, he doesn't need to and you can return to feeding or give him a warm bath if he is still crying
Another cause of abdominal distention which is very related to infant gas is colic. According to Dr. Alan Greene, about 20 percent of infants experience colic, a period of crying and fussiness that usually lasts for more than three hours each day. Colic can start when your baby is about 3 weeks of age and is most intense between 4 and 6 weeks of age; your baby will typically be colic-free after 12 weeks.
Course of Action for Parents
Different babies respond to different comfort measures during episodes of colic. For example, some like to be swaddled, while others like to suck on something like a pacifier. A colicky baby also likes to be held; be sure to hold her in an upright position to help her expel gas. Talk to her pediatrician for advice on handling colic.
Abdominal distention in an infant may occasionally be related to a medical problem. Intestinal problems that can cause abdominal distention vary and can include obstruction, malabsorption or various infections. Other organs that may be involved in abdominal distention include the liver, heart, kidneys and spleen.
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- Brian Murphy