Tummy Trouble Tool

  • Question 1:How old is your baby? My baby is:
  • Question 2:What do you feed your baby? In addition to solids (if applicable), I feed my baby:
  • Question 3:How often does your baby cry? My baby cries:
    Why babies cry Check the basics
  • Question 4:Does your baby have difficulty releasing gas? My baby:
    What causes gas? Signs of gas
  • Question 5:What are your baby's stools like? My baby’s stools are:
    What's normal? Signs/causes of constipation Signs/causes of diarrhea
  • Question 6:What color are your baby's stools? My baby's stools are:
    What's normal? What if the color changes?
  • Question 7:How often does your baby spit up? My baby:
    What's spit-up? What are reflux and GERD? What's vomit?
  • Question 8:Is there a family history of eczema, asthma, or any other allergy?
    What are the signs of a food allergy?
Why babies cryClose

Crying is your baby’s only way of telling you something’s bothering her. It might mean there’s an issue, but it could be her way of asking to be held.

Check the basicsClose

Your baby might cry to let you know she's hungry, has a wet diaper, or is hot or cold. Check to make sure all of her needs are taken care of, and make sure she's not wrapped or swaddled too tightly.

What causes gas?Close

There are two likely causes of gas: 1) It's a natural part of digestion, occurring when food is broken down. 2) It occurs when your baby swallows air during feeding or crying. If this air isn't burped back up, it can get trapped in his digestive tract.

Signs of gasClose

He might have gas if he:
Shows excessive fussiness during and after feedings
Pulls his legs toward his chest
Appears bloated

What's normal?Close

Normal stool consistency ranges from runny applesauce to Play-Doh.

Grunting and straining during a bowel movement is normal. Changing the position of your baby during a bowel movement might help.

In some cases, holding her in a semireclining position might help. If she is lying flat, give her something to brace her feet against (your hands or a wall). Pushing against a surface might ease her efforts to have a bowel movement.

In breast-fed babies, the frequency of bowel movements can change dramatically over time. In the early weeks it is not unusual to see a bowel movement with every feeding. By about the sixth week, bowel movements just once or twice a week are considered normal, but most babies have stools every day.

Signs/causes of constipationClose

If your baby is constipated, her stool will be hard and dry, and painful to pass. Grunting or straining doesn’t mean she’s constipated; she is simply learning to use her muscles correctly.

Hard stools occur when the colon absorbs most of the water in the stools.

Signs/causes of diarrheaClose

When your baby's stool suddenly becomes more frequent and watery than what is normal for her, she might have diarrhea.

Diarrhea can signal an infection or your baby's inability to absorb nutrients in her food.

What's normal?Close

Normal stools for babies are yellow, green, or brown.

What if the color changes?Close

Changes in stool color are not necessarily a sign of problems. As long as the stool is yellow, green, or brown, it's normal.

What's spit-up?Close

During or after every feeding, most babies spit up a small amount of food. It is caused by immature muscles in the digestive tract that allow small amounts of food to escape painlessly back out of the mouth. A single episode can look like a lot, even when it's a little. Learn more about spit-up here.

What are reflux and GERD?Close

When stomach contents reflux (back up) into the esophagus and sometimes into the mouth, it is called "GE reflux" (gastroesophageal reflux). In most cases it goes away as the baby matures.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) occurs when the upper digestive system is irritated by stomach acid reflux and symptoms develop. These can include irritability, vomiting, poor weight gain, and respiratory problems.

What's vomit?Close

If spit-up becomes more forceful, with more volume, it is considered vomiting. It usually causes babies some discomfort.

What are the signs of a food allergy?Close

The typical signs of a true food allergy are:
•  Fussiness
•  Skin rash (eczema)
•  Blood and/or mucus in the stool
•  Diarrhea
•  Excessive spit-up or vomiting
•  Wheezing or runny nose

*Dr. Susan J. May, M.D., F.A.A.P. (Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics), is the mom of two children, and is a retired Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Talk to your doctor before making changes to your baby's nutrition routine or to your own health and exercise routines.