36 answers

4 Year Old Looks like She's Pregnant

Here is my concern. I have a 4.5 yr girl whos stomach sticks out so far that it looks like she is pregnant. It does this sometimes but not all the time. We have been having this problem for over a year now. When I took in for it before they gave her senokot for a week, and suggested maybe a lactose intolerance issue and said to give her Lactaid when she has dairy. We did that and her stomach was ok for a while. But like I said it doesnt look big all the time. She usually has a bm everyday or every other day. When she went for her Kindergarten physical a few months ago I mentioned it again, but of course that day her belly looked fine. They did blood tests for Celiac, and a RAST for milk, they both came back fine. The doc said that even if the RAST come back ok, if I see that she has problems after having milk, then she might still have an intolerance. Well whenver I read about lactose intolerance they always mention diareah. She never has diareah. Her pants always fall down because her belly gets so big, they wont go over it. I cant just get her a bigger size cause the rest of her is skinny. Like I mentioned she is 4.5, she weighs 31 lbs, and is 38in. My 3yr old weighs 30 lbs. I am really concerned since she is underweight and her belly does this. She eats pretty good. Dont know if this can be related just in case, about 8 months ago she lost a patch of her hair. The docs said it was because of tension form her hair being in a ponytail. I dont buy that. Her hair has thinned out all over and is very brittle. She is taking vitamins. Her hair is slowly growing back. Any thoughts?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone. For now I am going to keep a diary of her symptoms and what she eats. After I do this for a couple weeks I will go back to the doc, I will probably just go to a gastro doc though. I will keep everyone updated. Thanks again everybody.

Featured Answers

If the first doctor says she's fine, get a second opinion. When her stomach sticks out like that, call the doctor and say she needs to be seen immediately, because the symptoms she is showing will go away soon. Hopefully, whatever tests they run then will tell you something.

Hi there! I am an adult, but I do the same thing I bloat very badly with dairy, especially Ice cream, but I am also clean as far as the tests go

Take her to another doctor for a second opinion. Keep a log of what she is eating and activites on every day to show the doctor what is going on when you note her belly getting bigger or hair falling out or any other physical symptom you notice.
D. O

More Answers

Hi there! I am an adult, but I do the same thing I bloat very badly with dairy, especially Ice cream, but I am also clean as far as the tests go

Hi! I would have her thyroid and pituitary checked. She could have a problem with her growth hormones which are generated by the pituitary and subsequent adrenal glands. it is right to be concerned as this does not sound like "normal" growth for a 4yo. My growth problem went on for 6 years before a good doctor found the problem. You may ask your PCP to send her to an endochronologist for a systemic workup. Best wishes to you!!

Have them check her thyroid. It can effect weight loss/gain and also effects hair (can cause thinning/loss of hair). My daughter and my sons girlfriend have this issue only at the opposite ends of the spectrum. While my daughter was losing weight like crazy despite being pregnant, my sons girlfriend put on a lot of weight and her hair was falling out/thinning out. When she was discussing this with a new doctor today they explained the other side effects of the disorder. I am not sure if it could be this or not but something to check in to, as well as maybe a liver enzyme test. I wish you and your child good luck and blessed health.

T., SEE a DIFFERENT DOCTOR! Don't let ANY Dr. pass over your concerns, start keeping a food and BM diary, start today, write down everything she eats, how much, when she has bowel movements, when her tummy is big, take pictures, in the diary it may show what is giving her trouble. If hep temperment changes, write that down too, if you have pictures to show her hair thinning, take those too. She could be gluten intolerent, or have other allergies, fruits... every ones body reacts different. IF you go prepared a doc is more likely to listen, send you to an allergist or specialist. A food allergy could be making her body not absorb the proper nutrients, which is why her hair is falling out. Start YESTERDAY! If there is another doc in the office you go to see that one, or find a different DOCTOR. PLEASE. Good LUCK,

Have they tested her thyroid? Also have her treated for parasites (worms)

Hi T., Please don't let the doctors brush you off like this. Is there pain when it swells? I would keep a diary like someone suggested, write down the foods, her routine, what she is doing (lethargic, playful, cranky, etc). This could be stress and diet, it could also be hormonal (thyroid, etc). I hope that you take the advice given and take her to a gastric specialist and if he doesn't offer a diagnosis that includes the hair problem then take her to an endocrinologist. Prayers to you.

This is just a thought: I remember when my younger daughter was that age and she had a "huge belly" too. She is very fair, so you could also see all the veins under the skin. I worried that she had something growing in her belly, there are childhood neoplasms that can grow fairly rapidly. Thinking of the worst, I was always horrified that something terrible would happen to my angel. Her belly was like that much of the time but not always. Thinking back, my older daughter had less of a belly, too. In our case, as in many other cases, it was simply the weak and relatively undeveloped nature of the abdominal muscles at this age-- they are not strong enought to hold all the intestines in flat as yet :) Lots of kids go through this stage, I think, at about this age, and as the abdominal muscles get stronger, their tummies get flatter -- I wish mine would not do the opposite ! My daughters are now 9 and 6 and their tummies no longer stick out, they are healthy and robust (God willing will continue to be). The older is now actually pretty skinny but well muscled for her age, the younger still has a tiny amount of baby fat. But her tummy is now almost flat as well. They have both grown well. I think perhaps the key is whether the child is doing well otherwise and growing approprietly. I would start to worry if she crosses one or especially 2 of her growth curves (like the 50%tile or 25% or any other) but as long as she is staying close to her previous growth curve and she is a happy kid otherwise, then it's probably just the abdominal wall muscle weakness and nothing to worry about. But if she HAS "fallen off the growth curve" as they say, then seeing a pediatrician and even 2 is worthwhile, but remember that sub-specialists (like gastroenterologists and endocrinologists are trained to look at a body part or single system -- if they do not see something wrong with their particular organ system, they are likely to simply move you along to someone else. You can spend a lot of time and get gray hair doing that. SOmewhat contrary to what I've read here, I'd suggest talking to a good general pediatrician who has been in practice for 10 years or so. A general pediatrician in practice for a decade or so has seen thousands of kids grow up, and is likely to see a pattern if there is one. S/he is also more likely to look at your daughter as a human being rather than a "bag of parts". If you are really concerned, then going to an academic center like UofM or Wayne State or MSU. One thing not to do is to go doctor shopping for a diagnosis. You'll eventually find someone who will give her a diagnosis whether she deserves one or not, and might treat her -- take care that the treatment is not worse than the "problem". Again, if your daughter is growing along the same curve as before, in terms of both height and weight, that is highly reassuring. If not, really consider an academic center consultation, but again, I'd say start with general pediatrics, then let them direct her to a sub-specialist if needed. Pediatricians are specialists in kids, after all. Again, this is just a thought.

I suggest to start a food diary and then possibly an elimination diet.

Keep track of what she eats VERY specifically, and also write down when her tummy was bloated looking - for a week or 2 (longer if needed) then look back and try to notice if there's any thing that could be a trigger. What she eats today might affect her right away, but it could also be a delayed reaction, so look at what she ate the day before, and 2 days before the bloating happened in the diary.

If this seems too difficult, you could just start the elimination diet and start by eliminating ALL dairy (including sour cream, cream cheese, lactose, casein, whey, etc.- there are so many different names for milk based products. It might not only be a lactose problem, she could be having difficulty with the proteins in milk) and wheat/gluten flours (including oat - anything, bran, barley, semolina, white bread, white flour, anything that says "contains wheat" or "contains gluten", etc.) . Don't give anything that would contain either of these types of foods for at least 3-4 weeks. See what happens.

If you choose to do the elimination diet, there are rice and gluten free breads and mixes that you can make at home which you can use to substitute. Our grocery store carries them in the health food isle. Ask your store manager if you can't find them.

(I have a son who is gluten and dairy intolerant. He has different symptoms than you described, but, what you described is a possible symptom that I have heard from other parents.)

If the bloating doesn't go away with the elimination diet, then it might not be that. Unless you weren't really strict. If it does go away, then you can try adding in ONE of the things only, and see what happens. DO NOT add in both at once! It's critical to be able to determine what the problem is. Then, if the bloating comes back by adding in one, then take her off of it again, stay off both for awhile, maybe a week, then add back in item #2, and see what happens. If the bloating comes back again, then maybe it's both, if it doesn't maybe it's only one.

You'll know more than anyone. AND WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING!!
Keep doing the journal and READ EVERYTHING YOU BUY for ingredients.

I'd HIGHLY recommend that you look at the web site


It's a very thorough resourse of parents who have children with food allergies, or celiac. Sometimes allergy tests are wrong, and sometimes celiac tests are wrong. Check with these VERY knowledgable parents! They have GREAT answers to many questions.

Good luck!


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