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Feeding problems

An upset stomach? What to do?
How to handle them
Feeding time can be an amazing experience you share with your baby, but it can also have its share of challenges. Concerns like fussiness, gas or frequent spit-up are common whether you’re breastfeeding or formula-feeding, especially during your baby’s first 3 or 4 months when their digestive system is still developing. More often than not, there is nothing to be overly worried about. Here are some tips that might help ease your baby’s common feeding challenges, but please talk to your baby’s doctor if you have concerns. A guide for dealing with common feeding time challenges including fussiness, spitting-up and colic.
How to identify common feeding issues
How to help baby with gas
Fussiness and gas
Give them smaller and more frequent feedings.
Burp them to expel air from their tummy.
Make feedings as calm and relaxed as possible.
If your baby is swallowing air during feeding, make sure the nipple isn’t clogged; if it’s not, they may be ready for a faster-flow nipple.
Check how you’re holding the bottle during feeding. Always tip it downward into your baby’s mouth at a 45° angle with the nipple full of milk, not air.
What can you do?
Here’s how to help ease your baby's fussiness and gas:
What causes it?
Your baby may be fussy or gassy as their digestive system is still developing. Your baby may be swallowing large amounts of air when they feed or cry; if this air is not burped back up, it can become trapped in your baby's digestive tract, making them really uncomfortable.
Signs to look for
Your baby's stomach looks bloated or is hard to the touch. They pull up their legs (or lock them out straight), clenche their fists and pass gas.
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Baby spit up
Frequent spit up
Why do babies spit up?
What causes it?
A tiny stomach and still-maturing digestive system that lets stomach contents back up during or shortly after feedings.
Signs to look for
The spitting up of one or two mouthfuls of breast milk or formula. Larger spit-ups can occur after overfeeding. Normal spitting up usually does not cause any crying.
What can you do?
Spitting up is very common. A little spit-up is harmless, but if you feel it is causing your baby some discomfort, you can try these tips:
Keep your baby in an upright position for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding.
Burp them frequently—about every five minutes throughout feeding time. This will keep air from building up in their digestive tract.
Avoid activity after feeding that might keep food from settling in their stomach.
Check the flow of the bottle. It should be coming out one drop at a time, not in a steady stream. You can adjust the tightness of the bottle-top screw ring, or change to a slower flow nipple.
Reduce pacifier time. Your baby might be swallowing too much air.
Calm your baby down before feeding. If they're frantic, stressed or rushed, it may contribute to spitting up.
Give smaller feedings more often to reduce the chances of spit-up.
If you are concerned, talk to your baby’s doctor.
Switching formulas
If your baby's doctor suggests changing to another formula, here's how to make the transition:
You don't have to introduce the new formula gradually
by either alternating or combining it with the old formula—you can switch over to the new formula right away.
Mixing formulas is not recommended
, because if your baby does not do well on a feeding, you don't be able to tell which formula or ingredient is causing the problem. Also, the formulas may not mix well.
Make sure you give your baby enough time to try the new formula
, usually 3 to 5 days. Some babies will adjust right away. Others may have slight changes in stool pattern, gas and/or spitting up until they become accustomed to the new formula. If you have questions or concerns, check with your baby's doctor.
Colic in babies
Should I talk to my baby’s doctor?
Your baby’s doctor can diagnose colic. More importantly, they can rule out a more serious condition. For example, colic can be a sign of cow’s milk protein allergy, especially if your baby has other symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, or a skin rash. To prepare for your doctor visit, keep track of when your baby’s symptoms occur, list what they're eating plus any medications they're taking, and make a list of questions you have for the doctor.
Colic concerns
What can you do?
Having a baby who is constantly in tears is enough to make any parent cry, too. Here are some techniques that might help soothe your baby:
Swaddle them, especially if they're a newborn. The feeling resembles the tight embrace they felt in the womb.
Walk with your baby in your arms while patting or rubbing their back.
Soothe your baby with the motion of a vibrating chair or infant swing.
What is it?
All newborn babies cry—it’s how babies communicate. But some newborns cry louder and longer than others and are much more difficult to soothe. If this is true of your baby, you’re not alone. Many infants suffer from colic; a pattern of excessive and prolonged crying with no known cause. Colic is generally defined by the rule of 3: your baby cries uncontrollably at least 3 hours a day,
3 days a week, for 3 weeks or more.
Signs to look for
If your baby has colic, they may pull their legs up to their belly, arch their back, stiffen their limbs, pass gas, and have a tense, bloated belly. These symptoms—punctuated by inconsolable crying—typically start a few weeks after birth, peak around week six, and mercifully go away on their own by month three or four.
Food allergies in babies
Food allergies
What is it?
About 6.7% of Canadian children (less than 18 yrs) have a food allergy*. A food allergy is a hypersensitivity of the body’s immune system to the protein found in the offending food. This then manifests as an allergic reaction in different parts of the body. The most common food allergens are cow's milk protein, tree nuts, peanut, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish and sesame.
*Clarke et al. J ALLERGY CLIN IMMUNOL PRACT. 2020;8(4):1428-1430.
Signs to look for
Signs of an allergy can include hives, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, and blood in the stools.
What can you do?
Food allergies can be serious, so discuss any concerns you have with your baby’s doctor.
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