Digestive Problems in Infants

Common Baby Digestive Problems That You Need To Know

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” – Linda Wooten

With great power comes great responsibility. Who would know this better than a mother who sacrifices all her comforts for her little one? When your baby’s health is on priority, you will go to any extent to ensure everything is right in the place where it is supposed to be. Therefore, whether it is the feeding, sleep, potty or bathing schedules, or even timely burping, there’s nothing that can divert a dedicated mother. However, some health problems, like digestive problems, might suddenly show signs unexpectedly. This article guides you through a few tips to overcome some commonly-faced digestive problems in tiny tots.

Video: 6 Common Digestive Problems in Babies

Digestive Problems In Infants

1. Reflux

Newborns have delicate machinery for digestion which evolves with time and growth. The oesophageal sphincter, which is the valve that prevents food from the stomach to return into the food pipe, is still developing in babies, making spit-ups and reflux a common digestive problem. Although it can cause quite some anguish to new parents, a known fact is that acid reflux subsides on its own between 4 to 12 months. In extreme cases, medical intervention is needed.

What Can You do?

  • Feed the baby in an upright position.
  • Try making the baby burp as frequently as possible during feeds.
  • Feed smaller portions of formula or breast milk. Increase the frequency of feeding sessions to ensure adequate nutrition is still being provided. Remember, you would rather have your child finish the bottle in two sittings than throw up the entire feed in one.
  • Try to keep the baby in an upright position for at least half an hour after feeds.

When to Call a Doctor?

Reflux is common in newborns, and not to be worried about. However, reflux disease that has the signs mentioned below needs immediate medical attention as it can deter the regular feeds, and in turn, hinder satisfactory meals for your baby.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow weight gain
  • Breathing problems

2. Vomiting

Vomiting is stressful for adults and naturally, traumatic for babies. Most common causes of vomiting in babies are viral or bacterial infections. While you can continue feeding milk or formula to your child to help her cope with the loss of fluids, here are a few additional things you can do to comfort her.

What Can You do?

Continue to feed your baby but in shorter feeds rather than long ones. This will keep her hydrated through the day. If she starts refusing feeds, consult your paediatrician, and offer her oral rehydration remedies.

When to call a doctor?

Call your paediatrician if –

  • Smaller feeds and electrolyte supplements don’t seem to give any respite, and your baby continues to look uneasy or dehydrated.
  • Vomit carries bile stains which are greenish in colour.
  • Vomit has bloodstains.
  • Baby has repeated, projectile or forceful vomits.
  • Vomiting is accompanied by diarrhoea, indicating a viral or bacterial infection.

3. Gas

It is natural for a baby to suck in a lot of air during the initial months of feeding. With time and evolved expertise, the amount of air intake goes down. However, for an infant who hasn’t started moving about yet, the trapped-in air doesn’t find a straightforward way for elimination.

What Can You do?

It has been observed that gas troubles ease as the baby turns about 3-4 months old or starts turning on her own. This development helps naturally get rid of any trapped gas in her bowels. It also helps if you:

  • Massage your baby’s tummy.
  • Bicycle her legs gently to help release any trapped air.
  • Ensure tummy time under your supervision. However, give ample gap between feeds and tummy time to avoid any spit-ups.
  • If you are feeding from the bottle, ensure you use the right nipple size to reduce the quantity of air sucked in.

When to call a doctor?

If your baby appears uneasy despite trying out all the remedies you know, it would be wise to consult your doctor for any required check-ups.

4. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is one of the most dreaded yet most common paediatric gastrointestinal disorders. It can cause babies to have frequent watery or loose motions, which can quickly lead to severe dehydration and should be addressed immediately. Rotavirus is the most common culprit for this ailment and hence, is advised as one of the vaccinations for babies in their initial months.

What Can You do?

Ensure that your baby stays hydrated by continuing to offer small but frequent feeds of milk or formula. Try to cut down on solids temporarily until her stomach gets some rest.

When to Call a Doctor?

If diarrhoea doesn’t seem to stop after a few days, you would need to consult a paediatrician for medication. However, do not wait to consult if you see the following signs in your baby:

  • The child seems uneasy.
  • Seems dehydrated with indications of dry skin and a dry mouth.
  • Has sunken eyes.
  • Is overall lethargic.

5. Colic

Colic is a term for unexplained cranky behaviour in infants. Contrary to common belief, there is no concrete evidence that colic is related to gas or indigestion. Medically, a child that goes into inconsolable crying bouts of up to 3 or 4 hours, three or more times a week, typically in the evenings; is believed to be colicky.

What Can You do?

  • Baby-Wearing: The most natural way of comforting your infant is to keep her close to you. Baby-wearing is found to be one of the most helpful ways for a parent to keep a distressed baby close to you while you can get some work done through the day.
  • Physical Touch: Studies have indicated that colic cries may also be the child’s way of expressing extreme distress or the simple need for attention. Research shows that crying children have calmed down much more quickly when in direct contact with a parent.
  • Daily Routine: Colicky babies benefit a great deal from a timely routine which helps them deal with the new world and atmosphere in a more predictable way.

When to Call a Doctor?

If you feel that your child’s colicky behaviour isn’t going away even after 3 months of age, it would be good to consult your doctor to discuss any investigative procedures to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

6. Constipation

Hard stools at an early stage are caused when digestive systems work hard to absorb nutrients and excrete waste. Indigestion in babies can sometimes become worse when babies start solids.

What Can You do?

  • Ensure that your baby is getting plenty of fluids in the form of milk or formula.
  • Cut down on cereals until the situation eases.
  • Offer some natural laxatives such as prune juice.

When to Call a Doctor?

Constipation may need to be treated if:

  • Your baby seems very uncomfortable while passing stools.
  • Stools are blood-streaked
  • Your baby can’t pass stools.

7. Digestive System Abnormalities

Sometimes babies may be born with genetic abnormalities in their digestive systems which may need medical intervention and even corrective surgeries.

What Can You do?

While these abnormalities are rare, they need to be checked if you observe unexplained digestive issues with your little one.

When to Call a Doctor?

  • Gastroesophageal reflux can sometimes be caused due to abnormalities of the oesophagus, which causes the stomach contents to flow back into the oesophagus. Hence, this should be ruled out if the baby has repeated reflux issues.
  • If severe vomiting is observed in the baby despite medication, a medical investigation may be needed to rule out any abnormalities of the stomach.
  • If you observe your infant’s vomit to be bile stained, i.e. Greenish, it must immediately be reported to your doctor for verification of any abnormalities of the intestines known as Malrotation with Volvulus.

While there is always scope for the unexpected, it is best to always be prepared. The joy of becoming a parent is soon overcome by all the minute troubles your little one faces. Right from indigestion in babies to paediatric gastrointestinal disorders, we hope we’ve helped you understand the most common digestive problems in babies and how to tackle them.

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