The moment baby is born, mums and dads pay close attention to everything their infant does. This can lead to a number of nerve-wracking concerns with many of them being centered on their baby’s ability to eat and digest food.
Much like adults, your baby’s ability to digest their food plays a major role in their growth and development. Because your baby is growing at a rapid rate, temporary digestive issues may occur from time to time. Below are some of the more long-term digestive problems your baby may experience and what you can do to help alleviate any discomfort.
Vomiting must not be confused with spitting up or dribbling once a baby is burped after feeding. Spitting up is common in infants below the age of one because the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and the stomach isn’t strong enough to keep all food down.
Vomiting is a lot more forceful than a spit up and can even launch milk or formula several inches across the room. If your baby is formula-fed, this may be a sign that they are being overfed. For both formula and breastfed babies, it can be a sign of a more pressing problem that requires medical attention. Your healthcare provider should be contacted if:
- Your baby is vomiting on a regular basis
- The vomit is green (bile) or contains blood
- Your baby becomes lethargic after feedings
- Your baby has fewer wet diapers
- Your baby has a dry mouth (no saliva)
Frequent feeds are essential to help keep your little one hydrated. Your healthcare provider may also recommend offering your child a spoonful of an electrolyte product (like Pedialyte) every 15 minutes or so.
Much like vomiting, reflux is the result of the esophageal sphincter not yet being developed enough to keep the contents of your baby’s stomach where it belongs. While not usually serious, medical attention is necessary if your baby has little to no appetite, if they aren’t steadily gaining weight, or if they are experiencing breathing problems.
Here are some tips for keeping your baby more comfortable:
- Burp your baby often
- Feed your baby slowly and in smaller quantities more frequently
- Feed your baby in an upright position and keep them upright for several minutes after feeds
While common, constipation can make your baby cranky and uncomfortable. It most often occurs once babies start on solid foods or if you are switching your baby from breast milk to formula.
Constipation is seldom a serious health issue, but it is important to reach out for help if your baby is showing significant signs of discomfort, if they are crying during bowel movements, or if there is blood in the stool.
To help your baby get relief from constipation, you can:
- Change the diet (remove dairy, reduce rice cereal intake, etc.)
- Try giving baby 100 percent prune, apple, or pear juice
- Offer water or juice frequently
A breastfed baby’s stool will naturally be less thick than that of a formula-fed baby, so don’t be surprised if your breastfed newborn’s bowel movements are softer and yellow or greenish in color.
Parents should only be alarmed if their baby’s bowel movements are regularly watery, if diarrhea persists for several days, if there is blood in the stool or if it’s accompanied by a rash. Many babies will also show signs of discomfort, including crying and fussing during bowel movements. In these instances, parents should seek medical attention as soon as possible as newborns can quickly become dehydrated.