A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Stomach aches in babies and toddlers: What you should know

mother holding a sad baby / frequent stomach aches in babies

You may feel helpless when your child is going through a stomach ache because it can be painful for your baby or toddler.

You may feel helpless when your child is going through a stomach ache because it can be painful for your baby or toddler.

Depending on what age your child is, there are different things you can do to help.

Newborn to 5-month old

In the first few months, a stomach ache could be caused by gassiness, constipation or reflux. The signs of a stomach ache include:

“To help with gassiness or constipation, you can do some bicycle kicks to help move the gas around and out of the belly,” said Dr. Jeff Clark, pediatrician with Marshfield Children’s.

If you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, Clark suggests making sure your child has a good latch so they are not sucking in air.

If you are bottle feeding, your doctor may have you change to a hypoallergenic formula if they believe your child has a milk protein allergy or intolerance.

Some symptoms are more serious. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for these symptoms:

  • Severe crying and screaming.
  • Persistent vomiting.
  • Bloody stools.
  • Tight or distended belly.
  • Continual, persistent vomiting.
  • Prolonged screaming.

5-12 months of age

During this age, the typical cause for a stomach ache is constipation. You should talk with your child’s doctor about possible ways to help.

In less severe cases, your child’s doctor may suggest prune juice or corn syrup in water. They may recommend a medical product called lactulose or a rectal suppository in more serious cases.

If nothing seems to be working, there is always a concern that your child may have an injury to their abdomen.

1-4 years of age

After the first year, constipation is still the main concern since solid foods can be troublesome. To avoid that, your child should:

  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Eat higher fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid fast or processed foods.
  • Avoid eating too much cheese or too many bananas.
  • Stay active to help move things around.

On top of the treatment options available for younger ages, your doctor may recommend you use Miralax for constipation. You should give enough regularly that the consistency of your child’s stool is not thinner than peanut butter. The goal is to have one easy bowel movement per day.

During this age, it is also important to teach your child that pooping is ok. You should ensure they feel safe to go poop and that they do not hold it in.

“Getting good toilet habits early as much as you can, and encouraging frequency is really important to avoid the belly complaints later on,” Dr. Clark said.

For more information about stomach aches in babies or toddlers, talk to your child’s pediatrician.

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