Babies usually express their feelings, be it happiness or any type of discomfort. They laugh or smile if they are happy and find you interacting with them and cry if they are uncomfortable or have any pain. If you are a first-time mom, then you may be anxious about your newborn baby’s health, and this is common as every mom cares for her baby’s health, including his ability to eat and digest food, as it plays a very vital role in his growth and happiness. However, some common digestion problems in babies may occur unexpectedly, leaving you at a loss of the best course of action to take or when to visit a doctor.
What Causes Digestion Problems in Babies?
Digestive system problems are most common with little infants, kids, and babies, and it may have potential causes varying from viral and bacterial infections, gas, indigestion, bloating, and Constipation. Although most of them may not necessarily result in a dangerous situation, some digestion problems in babies may be life-threatening if not monitored closely or treated with the utmost care. Below are some of the common digestive problems in babies, their signs and symptoms, and the best ways of managing them.
Reflux is also known as heartburn disease. Stomach problems in infants are most common and get better as they grow in age. Reflux occurs when acidic stomach contents slide upwards into the esophagus (food pipe), causing irritation and a burning sensation. It is caused by a decreased strength of the esophageal sphincter valve that closes the esophagus off from the stomach. Others may be caused due to acidic and fatty diets, which may increase stomach pressure.
–Signs and Symptoms of Reflux
The common signs of Reflux include vomiting, loss of weight, rattling sound in the baby’s chest and back, loss of appetite or low feeding, breathing difficulty when feeding, and choking spells.
–When to Visit a Doctor
Before resorting to medication, you may try the below:
- Avoid the intake of acidic and fatty foods
- Feed smaller amounts regularly
- Burp your baby after every feed
- Avoid tying the baby’s diaper too tight
- Encouraging your child not to lie down immediately after a meal. Elevate your baby’s head when lying down, as it may decrease the flow of stomach contents into the esophagus
- Losing weight may resolve the problem.
When the above ways of managing Reflux seem to fail, you may consult the doctor for medical guidance.
Vomiting means spitting up and dribbling milk with burps or after feedings. This is most common in newborn babies because the sphincter muscle is not yet strong enough. Vomiting can happen due to overfeeding and may result in large amounts of milk or feeds being spitted-out, it can be a sign of a baby stomach issues such as viral infection or a reaction to something your baby ate through your breast milk. When your baby has a digestion problems, you should always ensure that you keep him cool and give him enough milk to prevent dehydration. To reduce the amount of spit ups and dribbling, ensure you feed your baby before he becomes frantically hungry. You must hold your baby upright after each feeding, burp him a couple of times during feedings to rid the stomach of any air, avoid tight diapers that may put pressure on his tummy, and minimize distractions while feeding him. Also, ensure the bottle nipple is neither too large nor too small and feed him smaller amounts of the bottle milk.
-Signs and Symptoms of Vomiting
- Spitting up and dribbling milk during and after feedings.
- loss of appetite.
- vomiting accompanied by fever and diarrhea.
-When to Visit a Doctor
Since vomiting can cause dehydration in babies, it is crucial to talk to a doctor when the baby vomits forcefully or often, vomits green bile or blood, becomes lethargic, loses weight, chokes, or has any sign of distress.
Gastro problems mostly affect newborns and young infants between one and four months of age due to their developing guts. This may occur due to incorrect feeding techniques, too much crying before a meal that leads to swallowing of air, immature digestive system, constipation, food allergies, overfeeding, introduction to new foods, and too much lactose in the breast milk due to hyper lactation syndrome.
-Signs and Symptoms of Gas
The following symptoms may indicate newborn stomach gas
- Too much burping and belching to expel built-up gas in the stomach. You should always encourage your baby to burp during and after meals.
- Spitting up during and after meals.
- Restlessness or insomnia.
- Too much flatulence.
- Excessive fussiness of the baby.
-When to Visit a Doctor
Before visiting a doctor, baby digestive problems and gas may be minimized by feeding the baby at an angle, ensuring his head and neck are elevated above his stomach. Also, burping your baby during and after feeding and performing physical therapy such as tummy massage and swaddling. However, if the above attempts yield no result, and the baby is still upset from a gaseous stomach, you should consult a doctor for medication guidance.
Diarrhea in babies is usually caused by a virus called Rotavirus. This virus often shows up during the winter in babies aged 6 to 24 months old. When babies have diarrhea, they have a watery, very loose bowel movement that happens very often, leading to dehydration.
-Signs and Symptoms of Diarrhea
- Watery-loose bowel movements
- Possible signs of cramping with the diarrhea
- Small amounts of blood and mucus in the stool
-When to Visit a Doctor
You should always make sure the baby is hydrated and consult a doctor when diarrhea persists or if there is blood in the stool. The doctor will then perform a test on the stool to make a definite diagnosis.
Colic is a digestion problem that mostly occurs to about one-fifth of newborn babies. It usually starts at the age of 3 weeks, gets worse at 6 weeks, and then gets better at about 3 months of age. It is defined as a prolonged or excessive loud crying in healthy babies that lasts for several hours in a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks in a row. Although experts aren’t sure what causes colic, some possible reasons may include temperament and surrounding adjustments. This may include lights, loud noises, various other stimulations around them, milk allergy, especially cow-based milk, acid Reflux causing discomfort, developing digestive system causing discomfort, and over sensitivity to gas.
-Signs and Symptoms of Colic
- Arching back while crying
- Flails arms and legs while crying
- Clenched fists while crying
- Seems to be in pain sometimes
- Passes a lot of gas and has a distended stomach
- Extends legs or pulls them up to his tummy
-When to Visit a Doctor
Some techniques may be helpful to prevent the colic such as carrying your baby and allowing plenty of skin-on-skin contact in the first few weeks of his life. Also, properly feed your baby when hungry and give him a toy to help soothe him before any colic kicks. When the baby is already in colic, you may rock to soothe him, put him in a swing or a bassinet to comfort him, place him on your lap and rub his back, give him a warm bath, or give him a little space. When the above soothing techniques don’t work, then you may consult a doctor who may diagnose any colic or other problems.
Constipation (hard stool) is also prevalent in babies when they start eating solid foods. Constipation may be caused by a developing digestive system, dairy food in mom’s diet that’s passed through breast milk, or if your baby has milk-protein allergy or intolerance.
-Signs and Symptoms of Constipation
- Hard or pellet-like bowel movements
- difficulty in passing stools causing the baby to cry
- A small streak of bright-red blood in the stool
- Firm belly painful to the touch
- Baby not digesting food vomiting
- Infrequent or less frequent bowel movements
-When to Visit a Doctor
Some simple dietary changes may help in treating Constipation. This may include water or fruit juice given daily to help in proper digestion. However, when the symptoms persist, consulting a doctor should be necessary.
Tips to Improve Your Baby’s Digestion
- Digestion problems in babies may be improved by burping the baby correctly. Your baby may ingest a lot of air while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. This may cause tummy aches, gas and bloating to the baby. Burping involves holding your baby in an upright position with one of your hands supporting his back and the other his neck or you may also place him in a lying position on his tummy on your lap and gently stroke his back.
- Feeding your baby on only the breast milk during his first six months is ideal as he has an immature digestive system.
- Apart from feeding him solely on breast milk, the feeding position is also important for a smooth flow of the digestive system. Holding your baby in an upright position while feeding may prevent acid reflux.
- If your baby is suffering from diarrhea, Constipation, or Vomiting, giving him yogurt may be helpful as it contains good bacteria and probiotics beneficial for his digestive health.
- Massaging your baby may improve your baby’s digestive system as it eases any discomfort due to digestive problems. Using massaging oil, massage around his belly button area, moving your hand in a clockwise direction (to release any newborn baby stomach gas trapped in his tummy) and press his legs gently against his belly.
- Another way to improve digestion in babies is to take a soft washcloth or towel and a bowl of warm water. Soak the towel in the warm water, ring to squeeze any extra water, then gently place it over your baby’s belly for 2 to 3 minutes for a couple of times in a day. This will help relieve any symptoms and improve his digestion system.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Digestion Problems in Babies
When does a baby’s digestive system mature?
Answer: At six months, the baby’s digestive system is mature enough to digest more complex and solid food substances, like protein, starch, and fats.
2. Which enzyme is responsible for the digestion of milk in infants?
Answer: The breast milk contains enzymes such as amylase, lipase, and protease, all of which are helpful in the digestion of milk in infants. This is important because infants’ digestive enzymes are not present at the levels found in adults until six months of age.
3. How do I know if my baby has digestive problems?
Answer: Your baby may have digestive problems if you find symptoms such as problems gaining weight, Vomiting or projectile Vomiting, hard stools, blood in stools, loss of appetite, bloating, excessive fussiness and breathing difficulty when feeding.
4. Is the baby’s stomach gurgling normal?
Answer: The noise that breast or formula milk makes in a baby’s stomach can be a bit disconcerting, but they are normal, harmless, and lifelong. Often it is the functioning of the lower digestive system, the small and large intestines that make the gurgling, grumbling and growling noises.
5. How do I know if my child has irritable bowel syndrome?
Answer: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not a disease; instead, it is a group of symptoms that occur together due to a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. These may include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Changes in bowel habits
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Passing mucus (a clear liquid made by the intestines that coats and protects the tissues in the GI tract) in stools.
The symptoms must occur at least once per week for at least 2 months to be concluded as a bowel syndrome, and the pain or discomfort should also be associated with two of the following symptoms:
- Start with bowel movements that occur more or less often than usual,
- Start with a stool that appears looser and more watery or harder and more lumpy than usual
Digestion problems in babies or infants are common, and it can be treated with some techniques. So I hope the solution for each type of digestive problem has helped you or might help you in treating your baby’s digestive issues.
If you know any other solution, then do share it with other moms in the comment section below.