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Common Baby Feeding Problems: constipation, colic and reflux

Reflux, colic and constipation are three of the most common baby feeding conditions. Get the lowdown on how to help both you and your baby cope.

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Common Baby Feeding Problems: constipation, colic and reflux

Reflux, colic and constipation are three of the most common baby feeding conditions. Get the lowdown on how to help both you and your baby cope.

As a parent, much of your day, and night, is likely to revolve around feeding routines. Making sure your baby is feeding well is therefore bound to be one of your top priorities. If you do come across something that disrupts this, it's entirely normal to want to understand it better, so you can help soothe your baby.

Colic, reflux and constipation are three of the most common feeding conditions babies may experience and it can be as distressing for parents as it may be for baby.

While these symptoms can pass relatively quickly, we know it can be difficult at the time, so understanding more about why baby's feeding is not going smoothly, and where you can turn to for support, might just give you some peace of mind.

To help, we've put together some information on each of these conditions, plus some tips that may be worth trying.

Colic

Is my baby's crying colic?

Colic is defined as excessive, high-pitched bouts of inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. This tends to start in the first few weeks of life but you'll be glad to hear it usually resolves itself by four to six months of age.

Obviously babies do cry. But if your baby is crying excessively, always speak to a health professional like your local Boots pharmacist, GP, health visitor or midwife, in case there is an underlying reason which needs medical attention.

So what does "excessive" crying mean? It can be defined as the '333 rule':

  • Three episodes per week
  • For three hours or more
  • Lasting for at least three weeks' duration

What are the symptoms of colic?

There are other symptoms which may be associated with the persistent excessive crying. These can appear subtle when your baby's not in an established routine, so don't worry if you don't pick up on them straight away.

For example, you may notice baby having difficulty sleeping and crying inconsolably, often in the late afternoon or evenings. Other symptoms to look out for include flatulence, a flushed face, clenched fists and drawing knees up to the chest. But babies with colic are otherwise healthy and continue to gain weight normally.

What causes colic?

Although the reasons behind colic are not fully understood, the latest evidence shows there might be a number of possible explanations for it, which include:

  • Excess gas
  • An immature digestive system
  • Smoking during pregnancy: women who smoke during pregnancy increase their chances of having a baby who develops colic

How common is colic?

Around one in five babies have colic, so chances are, you will know other parents who will have been through the same.

We know that looking after a baby with colic can be tiring and upsetting for parents too, so maybe try sharing your experience - you might find it comforting, especially if it's your first baby.

Carrie, mum to Charlie says

"My little boy had colic - 5-7pm was always the worst time for him. We found that winding him on our shoulders worked best and doing it for five minutes longer than we thought he really needed helped work it all through."

What tips can I follow to soothe my baby?

Coping with colic can get stressful but remember it won't last forever, the symptoms will pass and it usually gets better on its own, after a few months.

Nonetheless, a constantly crying baby can be frustrating, so you may want to try some of these commonly used comforting techniques:

  • Try comforting them in a dark room, so as not to over stimulate baby, or use the background noise of a washing machine, or vacuum cleaner
  • Try to prevent them from swallowing air while feeding by ensuring correct latching on for breastfeeding. Your midwife or health visitor may be able to help with this
  • If you are expressing milk or bottle feeding, try using fast flow teats which have a larger hole or several holes
  • There are anti-colic bottles and teats you can consider and drops which can be added to your baby's feed. Your Boots pharmacist will happily help you with this.
  • There are also specialist formula milks you may wish to consider if you are bottle feeding but these must only be used under medical supervision and once the baby has been diagnosed with the condition.
  • Gentle tummy and back rubs and burping after feeding may also help give baby some relief. Perhaps try winding your baby for longer than usual to really try and move any wind through their bodies
  • You can also try sitting baby upright when feeding
  • If you are breastfeeding, try and avoid caffeine and spicy foods to see if that helps

Need some extra support? The national charity Cry-Sis (www.cry-sis.org.uk) runs a helpline seven days a week from 9am to 10pm available on 08451 228 669.

*Please note: this is based on a personal experience and the advice will not necessarily work for everyone.

Constipation

How can I tell if my baby might be constipated?

Constipation is abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of stools - less than three times a week. Look out for stools which are hard and dry and often look like rabbit droppings or large sausages.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

You may notice baby has foul smelling wind and stools and is frequently flatulent. When they do pass stools it may often appear strained and painful.

Your baby may also seem irritable, angry or unhappy, with a lack of energy or appetite.

What causes constipation?

Every child is different, so the exact cause can be hard to identify.

There may be several contributing factors such as:

  • An immature digestive system.
  • Dehydration
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Diet
  • Medicines
  • Bottle-feeding: bottle-fed babies are more likely to get constipation than breast-fed ones and constipation may be experienced during the transition from breast to bottle feeding

What tips can I follow?

Early diagnosis and treatment is important to avoid complications. So, if you are worried about your baby's constipation, speak to a healthcare professional, such as your local Boots pharmacist, GP or health visitor.

How common is it?

Constipation is common in childhood and is thought to occur in five to 30 per cent of children.

IMPORTANT: Consult a GP or health visitor if a baby is less than eight weeks old and has not passed a stool for several days.

The following tips may help prevent your baby getting constipated in the first instance:

  • If your baby has not yet been weaned, try giving them extra-cooled boiled water between feeds
  • Although breast feeding is best for baby, if you are using formula milk, it is important to make it up exactly as directed by the manufacturer, to avoid diluting or concentrating it
  • Try giving weaned babies fluid frequently and encourage them to eat fruit
  • Do not force them to eat when they do not want to
  • Remember, you can always turn to your Boots pharmacist, health visitor or GP, who may offer dietary and behavioural tips to support baby and manage their constipation. These may include fluid intake, eating enough fibre and reassuring them when they are using a potty for instance
  • There are also specialist formula milks you may wish to consider if you are bottle feeding but these must only be used under medical supervision and once the baby has been diagnosed with the condition
  • If you think your baby may be constipated, try lying them on their backs and circling their legs to help encourage bowel movement

Reflux

What is reflux?

Reflux is the passage of stomach contents into the food pipe. It is an entirely normal physiological process which occurs several times a day, even in healthy babies, with few or no symptoms.

The refluxed stomach contents can pass up to the pharynx (top part of the throat) or mouth, leading to vomiting or effortless regurgitation, also known as 'posseting' or 'spitting up'. However, for some babies the symptoms can be troublesome.

What are the symptoms of reflux?

You may notice baby's crying is constant or sudden. You may also notice:

  • Irritability
  • Poor sleeping habits with frequent waking
  • Arching of the back during and after eating
  • Regurgitation or vomiting after feeds
  • Wet burps or frequent hiccups

What causes reflux?

When food is eaten, a valve-like mechanism prevents the stomach's contents from leaving and rising up the food pipe.

Naturally, your baby's digestive system is still maturing, so the valve mechanism is not yet strong, which means contents may leave the stomach and travel back towards the mouth.

How common is reflux?

Reflux is common in infants because of the immaturity of their digestive system and 18 per cent of infants have symptomatic reflux.

Until what age does it last?

Reflux symptoms in babies typically peak at around four-six months of age and resolve after 12 to 14 months.

What tips can I follow to soothe my baby?

Of course it can be upsetting when your baby has reflux, so if you are worried about it, or if they are vomiting large amounts of their feeds regularly, speak to a healthcare professional like a Boots pharmacist or your GP.

You can also consider following practical steps such as:

  • Feeding smaller amounts more frequently to avoid unintentionally overfeeding
  • Sitting baby upright after a feed and burping before, during and after feeding may also help
  • When bottle feeding, make sure the hole in the teat is not too large, as this may cause baby to gulp large amounts
  • There are also specialist formula milks you may wish to consider if you are bottle feeding but these must only be used under medical supervision and once the baby has been diagnosed with the condition
  • A health professional may also recommend dietary changes such as thickeners to add to baby's milk
  • For further information you can also visit: www.livingwithreflux.org

Other feeding problems your baby may experience include Lactose intolerance or Cows' Milk Protein Allergy.

Lactose intolerance

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is where the body is unable to digest the milk sugar lactose, found in milk and dairy products. This is due to a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase.

There are 3 main types of lactose intolerance: congenital, primary and secondary.

  • Congenital lactose intolerance is a rare genetic condition and is found in newborn babies.
  • Primary lactose intolerance is a genetically inherited condition.
  • Secondary lactose intolerance is a shortage of lactose caused by a problem in the small intestine. It can occur at any age, and may be the result of another condition such as following gastroenteritis or surgery to the small intestine.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence

If your baby displays any of these symptoms you should speak to your health visitor or GP.

What causes lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk (including breast, formula and cow's milk) that needs to be broken down by an enzyme called lactase to be digested in the gut. Lactose intolerance occurs when there is not enough lactase or an absence of lactase in the gut, meaning that the lactose cannot be completely digested.

What tips can I follow?

If you are worried about your baby may be suffering from lactose intolerance, speak to a healthcare professional, such as your local Boots pharmacist, GP or health visitor.

What is Cows' Milk Protein Allergy?

Cows' milk protein allergy is an adverse immune response to one or more proteins in cow's milk.

What are the symptoms of Cows' Milk Protein Allergy?

Symptoms of Cows' Milk Protein Allergy may include:

  • Skin, e.g. rashes, eczema
  • Gastrointestinal, e.g. vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea
  • Respiratory, e.g. wheezing, sneezing

If your baby displays any of these symptoms you should speak to your health visitor or GP.

If your baby has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), it's important to get EMERGENCY treatment. Symptoms are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the throat or choking
  • Becoming floppy or faint and rapidly deteriorating

How common is it?

Cows' milk protein allergy is the most common food allergy in infants, effecting approximately 2.5%-7% of infants in the UK. [ 1 ]

What causes Cows' Milk Protein Allergy?

Normally food proteins are broken down by the body and digested in the gut. In some cases, they can cause an allergic reaction as there is a problem with the immune tolerance. Infants are thought to be more prone to allergic reactions because their immune system is still immature and their gut is more sensitive during the early months of life.

What tips can I follow?

So, if you are worried about your baby, speak to a healthcare professional, such as your local Boots pharmacist, GP or health visitor.

1: Hill DJ et al. J Pediatr 1986; 109; 270-276.

Read more like this at BootsWebMD.com

Children's Nutrition
Colic
Baby Bowels & Constipation
Reflux

Related categories

Mother Baby
Baby Feeding

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Common Baby Feeding Problems: constipation, colic and reflux

Reflux, colic and constipation are three of the most common baby feeding conditions. Get the lowdown on how to help both you and your baby cope.

As a parent, much of your day, and night, is likely to revolve around feeding routines. Making sure your baby is feeding well is therefore bound to be one of your top priorities. If you do come across something that disrupts this, it's entirely normal to want to understand it better, so you can help soothe your baby.

Colic, reflux and constipation are three of the most common feeding conditions babies may experience and it can be as distressing for parents as it may be for baby.

While these symptoms can pass relatively quickly, we know it can be difficult at the time, so understanding more about why baby's feeding is not going smoothly, and where you can turn to for support, might just give you some peace of mind.

To help, we've put together some information on each of these conditions, plus some tips that may be worth trying.

Colic

Is my baby's crying colic?

Colic is defined as excessive, high-pitched bouts of inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. This tends to start in the first few weeks of life but you'll be glad to hear it usually resolves itself by four to six months of age.

Obviously babies do cry. But if your baby is crying excessively, always speak to a health professional like your local Boots pharmacist, GP, health visitor or midwife, in case there is an underlying reason which needs medical attention.

So what does "excessive" crying mean? It can be defined as the '333 rule':

  • Three episodes per week
  • For three hours or more
  • Lasting for at least three weeks' duration

What are the symptoms of colic?

There are other symptoms which may be associated with the persistent excessive crying. These can appear subtle when your baby's not in an established routine, so don't worry if you don't pick up on them straight away.

For example, you may notice baby having difficulty sleeping and crying inconsolably, often in the late afternoon or evenings. Other symptoms to look out for include flatulence, a flushed face, clenched fists and drawing knees up to the chest. But babies with colic are otherwise healthy and continue to gain weight normally.

What causes colic?

Although the reasons behind colic are not fully understood, the latest evidence shows there might be a number of possible explanations for it, which include:

  • Excess gas
  • An immature digestive system
  • Smoking during pregnancy: women who smoke during pregnancy increase their chances of having a baby who develops colic

How common is colic?

Around one in five babies have colic, so chances are, you will know other parents who will have been through the same.

We know that looking after a baby with colic can be tiring and upsetting for parents too, so maybe try sharing your experience - you might find it comforting, especially if it's your first baby.

What tips can I follow to soothe my baby?

Coping with colic can get stressful but remember it won't last forever, the symptoms will pass and it usually gets better on its own, after a few months.

Nonetheless, a constantly crying baby can be frustrating, so you may want to try some of these commonly used comforting techniques:

  • Try comforting them in a dark room, so as not to over stimulate baby, or use the background noise of a washing machine, or vacuum cleaner
  • Try to prevent them from swallowing air while feeding by ensuring correct latching on for breastfeeding. Your midwife or health visitor may be able to help with this
  • If you are expressing milk or bottle feeding, try using fast flow teats which have a larger hole or several holes
  • There are anti-colic bottles and teats you can consider and drops which can be added to your baby's feed. Your Boots pharmacist will happily help you with this.
  • There are also specialist formula milks you may wish to consider if you are bottle feeding but these must only be used under medical supervision and once the baby has been diagnosed with the condition.
  • Gentle tummy and back rubs and burping after feeding may also help give baby some relief. Perhaps try winding your baby for longer than usual to really try and move any wind through their bodies
  • You can also try sitting baby upright when feeding
  • If you are breastfeeding, try and avoid caffeine and spicy foods to see if that helps

Need some extra support? The national charity Cry-Sis (www.cry-sis.org.uk) runs a helpline seven days a week from 9am to 10pm available on 08451 228 669.

*Please note: this is based on a personal experience and the advice will not necessarily work for everyone.

Constipation

How can I tell if my baby might be constipated?

Constipation is abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of stools - less than three times a week. Look out for stools which are hard and dry and often look like rabbit droppings or large sausages.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

You may notice baby has foul smelling wind and stools and is frequently flatulent. When they do pass stools it may often appear strained and painful.

Your baby may also seem irritable, angry or unhappy, with a lack of energy or appetite.

What causes constipation?

Every child is different, so the exact cause can be hard to identify.

There may be several contributing factors such as:

  • An immature digestive system.
  • Dehydration
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Diet
  • Medicines
  • Bottle-feeding: bottle-fed babies are more likely to get constipation than breast-fed ones and constipation may be experienced during the transition from breast to bottle feeding

What tips can I follow?

Early diagnosis and treatment is important to avoid complications. So, if you are worried about your baby's constipation, speak to a healthcare professional, such as your local Boots pharmacist, GP or health visitor.

How common is it?

Constipation is common in childhood and is thought to occur in five to 30 per cent of children.

IMPORTANT: Consult a GP or health visitor if a baby is less than eight weeks old and has not passed a stool for several days.

The following tips may help prevent your baby getting constipated in the first instance:

  • If your baby has not yet been weaned, try giving them extra-cooled boiled water between feeds
  • Although breast feeding is best for baby, if you are using formula milk, it is important to make it up exactly as directed by the manufacturer, to avoid diluting or concentrating it
  • Try giving weaned babies fluid frequently and encourage them to eat fruit
  • Do not force them to eat when they do not want to
  • Remember, you can always turn to your Boots pharmacist, health visitor or GP, who may offer dietary and behavioural tips to support baby and manage their constipation. These may include fluid intake, eating enough fibre and reassuring them when they are using a potty for instance
  • There are also specialist formula milks you may wish to consider if you are bottle feeding but these must only be used under medical supervision and once the baby has been diagnosed with the condition
  • If you think your baby may be constipated, try lying them on their backs and circling their legs to help encourage bowel movement

Reflux

What is reflux?

Reflux is the passage of stomach contents into the food pipe. It is an entirely normal physiological process which occurs several times a day, even in healthy babies, with few or no symptoms.

The refluxed stomach contents can pass up to the pharynx (top part of the throat) or mouth, leading to vomiting or effortless regurgitation, also known as 'posseting' or 'spitting up'. However, for some babies the symptoms can be troublesome.

What are the symptoms of reflux?

You may notice baby's crying is constant or sudden. You may also notice:

  • Irritability
  • Poor sleeping habits with frequent waking
  • Arching of the back during and after eating
  • Regurgitation or vomiting after feeds
  • Wet burps or frequent hiccups

What causes reflux?

When food is eaten, a valve-like mechanism prevents the stomach's contents from leaving and rising up the food pipe.

Naturally, your baby's digestive system is still maturing, so the valve mechanism is not yet strong, which means contents may leave the stomach and travel back towards the mouth.

How common is reflux?

Reflux is common in infants because of the immaturity of their digestive system and 18 per cent of infants have symptomatic reflux.

Until what age does it last?

Reflux symptoms in babies typically peak at around four-six months of age and resolve after 12 to 14 months.

What tips can I follow to soothe my baby?

Of course it can be upsetting when your baby has reflux, so if you are worried about it, or if they are vomiting large amounts of their feeds regularly, speak to a healthcare professional like a Boots pharmacist or your GP.

You can also consider following practical steps such as:

  • Feeding smaller amounts more frequently to avoid unintentionally overfeeding
  • Sitting baby upright after a feed and burping before, during and after feeding may also help
  • When bottle feeding, make sure the hole in the teat is not too large, as this may cause baby to gulp large amounts
  • There are also specialist formula milks you may wish to consider if you are bottle feeding but these must only be used under medical supervision and once the baby has been diagnosed with the condition
  • A health professional may also recommend dietary changes such as thickeners to add to baby's milk
  • For further information you can also visit: www.livingwithreflux.org
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Lactose intolerance

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is where the body is unable to digest the milk sugar lactose, found in milk and dairy products. This is due to a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase.

There are 3 main types of lactose intolerance: congenital, primary and secondary.

  • Congenital lactose intolerance is a rare genetic condition and is found in newborn babies.
  • Primary lactose intolerance is a genetically inherited condition.
  • Secondary lactose intolerance is a shortage of lactose caused by a problem in the small intestine. It can occur at any age, and may be the result of another condition such as following gastroenteritis or surgery to the small intestine.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence

If your baby displays any of these symptoms you should speak to your health visitor or GP.

What causes lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk (including breast, formula and cow's milk) that needs to be broken down by an enzyme called lactase to be digested in the gut. Lactose intolerance occurs when there is not enough lactase or an absence of lactase in the gut, meaning that the lactose cannot be completely digested.

What tips can I follow?

If you are worried about your baby may be suffering from lactose intolerance, speak to a healthcare professional, such as your local Boots pharmacist, GP or health visitor.

What is Cows' Milk Protein Allergy?

Cows' milk protein allergy is an adverse immune response to one or more proteins in cow's milk.

What are the symptoms of Cows' Milk Protein Allergy?

Symptoms of Cows' Milk Protein Allergy may include:

  • Skin, e.g. rashes, eczema
  • Gastrointestinal, e.g. vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea
  • Respiratory, e.g. wheezing, sneezing

If your baby displays any of these symptoms you should speak to your health visitor or GP.

If your baby has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), it's important to get EMERGENCY treatment. Symptoms are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the throat or choking
  • Becoming floppy or faint and rapidly deteriorating

How common is it?

Cows' milk protein allergy is the most common food allergy in infants, effecting approximately 2.5%-7% of infants in the UK. [ 1 ]

What causes Cows' Milk Protein Allergy?

Normally food proteins are broken down by the body and digested in the gut. In some cases, they can cause an allergic reaction as there is a problem with the immune tolerance. Infants are thought to be more prone to allergic reactions because their immune system is still immature and their gut is more sensitive during the early months of life.

What tips can I follow?

So, if you are worried about your baby, speak to a healthcare professional, such as your local Boots pharmacist, GP or health visitor.

1: Hill DJ et al. J Pediatr 1986; 109; 270-276.

ots-Accordian -->

Read more like this at BootsWebMD.com

Children's Nutrition
Colic
Baby Bowels & Constipation
Reflux

Related categories

Mother Baby
Baby Feeding

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