The Most Common Indications of a Feeding Issue
Did you know that over 70% of infants have some feeding issue? So if your baby is experiencing fussiness, gas or frequent spit-up, you're certainly not alone. Feeding issues can occur whether you're breastfeeding or formula feeding. They often happen because your baby's digestive system is still developing, especially during his first 3 or 4 months.
One way to gauge whether there's something more behind your baby's discomfort is to observe how he acts when you feed him or shortly afterward. Notice if he gets upset when you try to nurse or offer a bottle, or whether he usually seems uninterested in eating - even when you know he's hungry.
Fussiness and Gas
For several months after birth, a baby's digestive system is still developing, so it takes time for it to mature and work smoothly. Until it does, your baby's digestive system may produce a lot of extra gas, and possibly stomach pain, when trying to absorb nutrients. This is one of the major reasons for fussiness.
Another common cause for gas is swallowed air. This occurs when babies swallow large amounts of air while feeding or crying. If the air is not burped back up, it can become trapped in the digestive tract, making your baby really uncomfortable. Your baby's stomach may look bloated or it may feel hard to the touch or tense. He may pull up his legs (or lock them out straight), clench his fists and pass gas.
One of the first questions most new moms ask is whether it's normal for a baby to spit up so much. Actually, spitting up is just part of your baby being a baby. In fact, a baby who's spitting up a lot, yet has no pain associated with spitting up and otherwise seems content, is frequently called a happy spitter. The maturing digestive tract is often the reason.
If you think about how small a newborn is this makes a lot of sense. A one-day-old has a stomach about the size of a marble or grape. At day 10, your baby's stomach is only about the size of an egg. So when you feed this very small stomach even just an ounce or two, it's easy to over fill it and get some back.
As motor coordination and muscle tone strengthen, especially in the stomach and esophagus, food is held down better.
Is It Spit-up or Vomit?
How much spit-up is too much? There really aren't any rules. Many babies spit up regularly without any discomfort, yet others seem to find it unpleasant and uncomfortable. If that's the case, you might want to try and find a way to ease the condition. Also, if it's vomit, there's not only a greater volume of liquid but it is usually projected outwards. If your baby can't hold down his food, the biggest concern is that he won't gain enough weight to meet his growth milestones.
3 Tips to Reduce Spit-Up
Spitting up tends to peak between 1 and 4 months of age, and most babies stop spitting up by age 12 months. Minimal spitting up doesn't hurt but if you feel it's causing your baby some discomfort, you might try these tips:
- Keep baby in an upright position. To reduce spitting up, try holding your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding and if your arms get tired, it's fine to use a front pack, backpack, or infant seat.
- Burp your baby every 5 minutes throughout feeding time. Taking the time to burp your baby frequently both during and after a feeding will keep air from building up in his digestive tract.
- Avoid too much activity after a feeding. Active play right after eating, like putting your baby in a jumper or infant swing, can keep the food from settling in your baby's stomach. Giving your baby's food time to digest will help keep it down.
- Consult your baby's doctor. If none of the above tips help your baby, it's best to talk to your pediatrician.
Another challenge you may be facing with your baby is constipation. At some time, almost all babies will seem to have difficulty passing stools. So weird grunting noises and strained faces are normal. But if your baby's stools seem like they're difficult to pass, talk to the pediatrician. That also holds true if you see blood in the stool. Every baby's bowel movements are different so becoming familiar with what's normal for your baby is the best way to tell if he's having an issue.
Don't judge whether your baby's constipated by how frequently he poops. Sometimes, infants may healthfully go several days without having a bowel movement.
If your baby has chronic diarrhea that lasts for weeks it may signal an issue. The stools of breastfed babies are typically runny and seedy. Stools of formula-fed infants tend to be a little thicker. If your baby has diarrhea, you'll notice frequent, large watery, stools that may be foul smelling. Because infants who have diarrhea may become dehydrated, you should call your baby's pediatrician who may recommend an electrolyte solution to keep him hydrated. When diarrhea following feedings is frequent, it may indicate a milk protein allergy, so be sure to mention it to your baby's doctor.
When you see raised red welts or hives on your infant's skin it could suggest that your baby's having an allergic reaction, possibly to something in his diet or to pet dander, a medication, plant pollen, or any number of things. Hives will usually occur soon after the exposure to an allergen such as cow's milk protein.
A chronic cough, persistent runny nose, and raspy, wheezy breathing may indicate a milk protein allergy.
Easing the situation
Whether it's fussiness and gas, spit up or a cow's milk protein allergy, your baby's feeding issues can often be addressed by taking a closer look at one thing - his diet. So if you run into any of these indications, ask the pediatrician about some options to help soothe your baby's digestive system. The doctor may even recommend an alternative formula. Some formulas have been designed to ease common feeding issues while still providing the nourishment your baby needs for healthy development. If you'd like to do some additional research on this topic, check out the Enfamil® Product Finder. It will help you find which specially tailored formula is available for your baby's feeding issue.