Skip to Main Content
Why Is My Newborn’s Stomach Bloated and Hard?

Why Is My Newborn’s Stomach Bloated and Hard?

From typical gas to cow’s milk allergy, there are a few reasons why a baby’s belly could be bloated.

While most infant bellies stick out a little bit, especially after a hearty meal, the stomach should feel soft between feedings. But it’s not uncommon for newborns to have a bloated or hard belly. Here are some possible explanations for why your little one’s tummy might seem swollen or harder than usual.

Why does my baby’s belly look bloated? Five potential reasons:

1. Gas

Regardless of whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed, they’ll likely have gas. It’s a normal bodily function. But when those air bubbles aren’t relieved by burping or flatulence, they can build up in your little one’s belly. The aftermath? Bloating and uncomfortable gas pains, which can make them cry and fuss.

Potential causes of gas

What’s causing all that gas? It could be because your baby is:

  • Swallowing too much air when sucking on the breast or bottle or crying
  • Unable to fully break down food yet due to their immature digestive system
  • Experiencing food sensitivities, such as cow milk protein sensitivity or allergy

Rarer causes of gassiness are underlying health conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Easing gas in babies

Encourage that gas to come out by trying the following:

  • Keep your baby upright for up to 30 minutes after feeding. Burp them during and after feeding to help release gas pockets, and alternate positions to see which ones work best.
  • With your baby flat on their back, move those chubby little legs in a bicycling motion. From time to time, gently push their legs back and hold for a few seconds.
  • Have some tummy time fun, which can help your baby pass gas by lightly pressuring the belly.

When to talk to your pediatrician about baby gas

While gas is expected in babies, reaching out to your pediatrician is recommended if your baby is experiencing severe or chronic gas or gas accompanied by:

  • A fever
  • Signs of constipation
  • A rash with diarrhea or green stool with mucus or blood

2. Colic

Babies cry, but a colicky baby cries for hours for no apparent reason. They've been fed and burped, have a clean diaper, and don’t respond to your soothing. While crying is the primary indicator of colic, a baby may also have a hard belly.

Colic indicators

Your baby may be experiencing colic if they cry for:

  • More than three hours a day
  • More than three days a week
  • More than three weeks

Potential colic causes

While colic is a common condition in otherwise healthy babies, it’s somewhat mysterious, as experts don’t really know what causes it. Some possible causes could be:

  • Babies are still learning to self-soothe
  • Gas
  • Food allergies such as cow’s milk protein allergy

If your baby is colicky, see your doctor. They can examine your little one and help identify what’s going on.

3. Cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA)

Some babies are allergic to the proteins in cow’s milk. Their immune system mistakes the proteins as a threat, triggering an allergic reaction.

Cow’s milk protein allergy indicators

A baby with cow’s milk protein allergy may have a bloated belly as well as:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Tummy aches and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Itchy red rash
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose

In rare cases, cow’s milk protein can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, or difficulty breathing, which is a medical emergency.

When to see your doctor about a potential cow’s milk protein allergy

If you suspect your baby may have a cow’s milk protein allergy, see your pediatrician, who may request an allergy test. If you are formula-feeding, your pediatrician may advise you to eliminate cow’s milk protein from your baby’s diet by switching to a hypoallergenic formula. If you’re nursing, they may suggest that you avoid cow’s milk in your own diet.

While you want to help your baby feel better fast, if your little one is using formula, it’s important to not switch formulas without speaking to your doctor first. What looks like an allergy may not always be one, and some formulas may not be suitable for every baby.


If you suspect your baby may have a cow’s milk protein allergy, see your pediatrician.


4. Lactose intolerance

Often confused with a milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance is very different. An allergy involves the immune system, while lactose intolerance is when the digestive system can’t fully break down and digest the milk sugar. Lactose is found in milk and dairy products, including most non-hypoallergenic, dairy-based infant formulas.

Indications of lactose intolerance in babies

When milk products are consumed, a baby with lactose intolerance may experience:

  • Bloating, abdominal pain, and cramping
  • Gas
  • Firm belly
  • Watery diarrhea with gas

When to see your doctor about lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is not that common in infants, but if you’re concerned that your baby has any food sensitivity, contact your doctor. They can review your baby’s issues and provide professional identification and support to help you manage your little one's dietary needs.

5. Constipation

Pooping isn’t always easy for babies—and that’s why you can probably tell when they’re in the process of it. They make faces and squirm around. But if your baby is straining for more than 10 minutes, has a firm belly, and shows discomfort when touched, they could be constipated. You may also notice small hard stools that contain blood, spit up, and excessive fussiness.

Potential causes of constipation

Constipation is one of the most common causes of abdominal distension in newborns. Here are a few reasons why your baby could be backed up:

  • Dietary changes
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of fiber
  • Heat
  • Certain medications

Easing baby’s constipation

Typically some simple dietary changes and at-home remedies are all that's needed to help manage constipation. Don’t change your baby’s diet without seeing your doctor.

  • Boost your baby’s good gut bacteria with prebiotics and probiotics. Check with your doctor first.
  • Keep your baby moving to encourage the bowels to move too. Try rolling them over back to front or moving their legs gently, guiding their knees to their stomach one at a time.
  • If you’re feeding your baby formula, your doctor may recommend one designed to promote comfortable stools.

When to see your doctor about your baby’s constipation

While constipation is uncomfortable, it's usually not serious. However, it's a good idea to see your pediatrician to rule out other conditions that could be contributing to the issue. A call to your doctor is also recommended if your baby’s stomach is hard and they haven’t had a bowel movement in one or two days.

Ask your doctor about Nutramigen® with probiotic LGG® infant formula for managing bloating and colic caused by cow’s milk protein allergy

Seeing your baby uncomfortable with a swollen and bloated belly can be distressing, but in most cases, it doesn’t indicate a dangerous medical condition. As with any health concern, talk to your doctor, who can help you navigate the issue and help your baby feel better. If you’re using infant formula and your doctor identifies a cow’s milk protein allergy, ask them about Nutramigen LGG Infant Formula, a hypoallergenic formula clinically shown to manage colic due to cow's milk protein allergy fast, in as quickly as 48 hours.* Nutramigen LGG can also help reduce the incidence of future allergy challenges, while still providing the nutrition your baby needs for healthy development. Learn more about Nutramigen LGG.




*Studied before the addition of DHA, ARA, or LGG.

All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.