As a mother of a toddler, I can honestly say they’re lucky they’re so cute because they can definitely be pure chaos. I had no idea one tiny creature could have so much sass, even when they’re running around without pants on. The cuteness overload starts with their little waddle when they walk, their teeny tiny pudgy hands and feet, and of course those sweet, round toddler pot bellies. It doesn’t seem to matter how big or small your toddler is, they all have a cute little pot belly that is indescribably resistant to moms squeezing and tickling and smooching it.
“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.
Why Do Toddlers Have Pot Bellies?
Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, 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.)
And those abdominal muscles have to be developed over time. Kind of like how adult “abs” are made in the kitchen and having a consistent form of exercise daily definitely helps. Your toddler’s “abs” will become stronger as they continue to eat all kinds of foods and “exercising” by playing a ton. Their muscles will strengthen and won’t protrude as much. Remember, having a pot belly as a toddler doesn’t mean your child is overweight.
Should You Worry About A Toddler’s Belly?
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.”
If your toddler consistently seems uncomfortable or their belly is really enlarged, they could be bloated due to eating a lot of gassy foods like beans, fried and fatty foods, certain vegetables, wheat and wheat bran, etc., or they have an allergy to something, like dairy or gluten.
When Will My Toddler Lose Their Pot Belly?
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 or Minecraft.
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
This article was originally published on