As a mother of a toddler currently, I can honestly say they’re lucky they’re so cute because they can definitely be pure evil. The cuteness overload starts with their little waddle when they walk, their teeny tiny pudgy hands and feet, and of course their pot bellies. But why do toddlers have pot bellies? Is it a pretty common thing?
“A good portion of toddlers do have those cute little pot bellies,” Dr. Gina Posner, a board certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper. Which solidifies all of my hopes and dreams: more sweet, pot bellied toddlers in the world please.
But I asked Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, why most toddlers have pot bellies, and he tells Romper, “Toddlers often do not have strong enough abdominal muscles to keep their abdominal contents close to their center. As a result, the stomach sticks out and can get worse when filled with stool or gas.” (Sounds like my belly after having a baby, but it’s not so much cute as it is diastasis recti. But I digress.)
When my son was an infant, he always had a bloated tummy, had bad gas, and was also constipated a lot. His belly was typically very round looking and looked like a pot belly. But how can you tell the difference if your toddler just has a sweet round belly or if there are some digestive issues going on? Posner says you can tell by how their stool looks and if there is belly pain.
“A pot belly can be from constipation, but only if you see it when your child is constipated and it deflates after passing much stool," Ganjian says. "But if you see that your child's abdomen is still distended even after a good bowel movement, then constipation is not the only cause of your child's abdominal distention.”
So how long will we have this adorable little pot belly to kiss and tickle? Posner says when they reach school age. Ganjian agrees, and says this is around the time when the “abdomen muscles become stronger and hold the contents more tightly, similar to an abdominal binder.” It's also around the time when your child will be all, "MOM GET OFF OF ME" and give up their Sesame Street toys for things you don't understand like Pokemon.
So, toddlers and pot bellies — completely normal, and totally adorable. They have them because of undeveloped stomach muscles, but they’ll definitely get them soon enough. You should only be worried if your child’s belly is hard, or if they’re struggling to use the restroom and their stool looks abnormal. Enjoy the pot bellies while you can, because once they hit around 4 years old, they’ll become all bones and knees and stinky feet. (But still adorable.)
Dr. Gina Posner, board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center
Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center