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Why Do Toddlers Have Fat Bellies?

Once your precious little one graduates from crawling and scooting to walking and even running, you might expect his body shape to automatically morph into a more mature stature. No worries – although your tot is growing and getting older, he may still seem to have a fat, rotund little belly until he gets a little older.

Stomach Position

During infancy and early toddlerhood, a little one’s stomach sits horizontally inside the abdomen, state Vicky R. Bowden and Cindy Smith Greenberg, authors of “Children and Their Families.” Sometime around the second birthday, a little one’s tummy will gradually shift from this horizontal position to a vertical, upright position. This shift should resolve that characteristic, rotund appearance of your tot’s tum-tum.

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Little ones also have livers that are relatively large for body size, states the American Academy of Pediatrics in “Pediatric Education for Prehospital Professionals.” As a little one breathes, lungs fill downward as the diaphragm moves, which can also make the midsection seem fuller.


When an older child or adult stands, the lower spine is straight and the stomach should look flat. A little one doesn’t have this same muscular strength and structure, which makes the tummy look rounded, state Susan Scott Ricci and Terri Kyle, authors of “Maternity and Pediatric Nursing." This curvature of the spine is normal for a toddler and it will gradually disappear as the little one gets older.

Possible Problems

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Although a rounded belly is normal for a toddler, the tummy shouldn’t look abnormally large or distended, state Ricci and Kyle. If you think your little one’s tummy seems abnormally rotund, watch it to try to determine what’s up. It’s possible a growth spurt is happening and the tummy will seem less pronounced within a week or two. It’s also possible that your little one may have some bloating issues, according to the Loughborough University. You may notice your toddler’s discomfort in connection with the rounded tummy, especially if it’s connected with constipation or food intolerance. Lactose intolerance could cause bloating, cramps and diarrhea. Have your little one examined by her pediatrician if you have any inklings that her tummy could be anything other than normal toddler roundedness.

  • Although a rounded belly is normal for a toddler, the tummy shouldn’t look abnormally large or distended, state Ricci and Kyle.