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Baby Symptoms & Conditions

Baby Pulling Up Legs

Baby keeps pulling up her legs — what could that mean? Is she in pain? We've got answers.

What is considered a baby pulling up her legs?

Does your baby seem like she’s trying to fold into the fetal position, pulling her legs up toward her chest? It could be a sign of something going on in her abdomen.

What could be causing my baby to pull up her legs?

Babies, um, toot all day long, and sometimes simply changing positions — like pulling her legs toward her chest — can help her pass that gas more comfortably. However, on rare occasions, pulling up the legs can be a sign of a serious medical condition called intussusception, which occurs when part of the intestine pulls into itself, like a telescope. This can block the passage of food and cut off blood supply to the area, and it can be very serious.

When should I bring my baby to the doctor if she’s pulling up her legs?

In most cases, your baby is simply trying to relieve herself of gas pains, and it (along with the gas) shall pass. However, if she’s crying loudly every few minutes and her cries are growing louder and longer, and if she has other symptoms like fever, vomiting or bloody or mucus-like stool, or appears otherwise severely out of sorts, you should immediately call your doctor.

What should I do to treat my baby when she’s pulling up her legs?

To treat gas, try gently rubbing your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction or lay her facedown across your knees, gently moving your legs to massage her belly. You can also try burping her or holding her upright after feedings. If you suspect intussusception, call your doctor.

By Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, FAAP, pediatrician with Seattle Children's Hospital, Everett Clinic