When you bring your little one home from the hospital, it may seem like all the baby does is eat and sleep. You, in the meantime, are feeding, burping, and changing diapers. You're well aware of how much your baby is eating, and how much is coming out.
Unfortunately, sometimes trouble arises. Newborns may have sensitive tummies. Older kids may become picky eaters or have potty training trouble. And at some point, your kid will probably come to you, clutching their stomach, complaining of a stomach ache. What can you do?
We're going to take a look at common infant digestive issues, foods that can cause tummy trouble, and what you can do to help your little one if they've got a bellyache!
15 Check Your Diet
Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby and make sure that he or she is getting all of the nutrients and antibodies that he or she needs. But if you're breastfeeding, some of the foods in your diet could be to blame for your baby's digestive issues.
Problems can surface in your baby within a few hours of his or her last feeding but it can take two or three days before a food is completely out of your system. If your little one is having trouble, think about what you've eaten over the past few days and see if you can pinpoint any gas-causing foods.
It can be really difficult to find the cause of stomach problems in your little one. It's also hard to adjust your diet or eliminate certain foods from your diet if you aren't sure what the problem is, so don't attempt to make any dietary changes unless you discuss them with your doctor first. You need all of the calories and nutrients you can get to keep your milk supply up and to give you the energy you need to take care of that baby.
A lot of foods will have the same effect on your baby as they do on you. For example, caffeine is passed from your system to the baby. Limit your caffeine intake before you nurse--this means watch your coffee, soda, and chocolate intake.
Also, keep in mind that your baby might have gas or stomach issues if they're gulping a lot of air while they are nursing. Check to make sure that your baby has a proper latch.
14 Starting Solids Too Soon
At some point, you may have a well-meaning but old school relative tell you that your baby will feel fuller and sleep better at night if you thicken his milk or formula with some rice cereal in his bottle. This was done in the past, and perhaps babies did go longer between feedings, but there's no real proof that it will help a baby sleep through the night any quicker than a baby who's not eating rice cereal.
In fact, studies have shown that introducing solids into a baby's diet before four months can cause problems, such as allergies, obesity, and even pulmonary issues. A tiny baby's sucking and swallowing motions aren't necessarily coordinated enough to take in bigger particles of rice cereal, so sometimes those particles may get inhaled into the baby's lungs.
Giving a baby juice before the age of six months isn't a good idea, either. Too much can cause diarrhea, bellyaches, and tooth decay. Limit your baby to only 4-6 ounces of juice a day. Some parents even dilute it or water it down to cut the sweetness.
13 Start Smart!
Starting your baby on solids is an exciting step, but it's not one that should be rushed. Some pediatricians give the okay to start solids at four months, but other suggest waiting until your baby is 6 months old. Here are some other signs your baby is ready for solids:
- Can sit upright and control head
- Can move and control tongue
- Is aware of what's going on around him
- Watches you when you eat and seems interested in food
- Seems like he might still be hungry after eating a full day's worth of milk
Many people start off by feeding their baby a single-grain cereal such as rice or oatmeal. Prepare the cereal according to the package directions, using formula or breast milk to mix it. Start off by making the cereal liquidy and runny. It will be messy but it will help your baby adjust to the new texture. As your baby gets used to eating cereal, you can gradually add less liquid so the cereal isn't so thin.
Some people suggest introducing lots of vegetables to your baby first so that he or she doesn't get accustomed to the sweet taste of fruits. There isn't a whole lot of research to back this theory up but it does kind of make sense.
When you introduce solids, it is best to introduce one food at a time, and wait 3-4 days before you introduce a new food. That way, if your baby has some sort of reaction, you can easily figure out what caused it. If you're feeding baby multiple new foods at once, you might not be able to tell what the issue was.
Some great first foods to start with are avocados and bananas; all you have to do is mash these foods with a fork! Some foods you definitely want to hold off include citrus (it can cause a diaper rash) and honey, which can contain botulism-causing bacteria.
12 Common Culprits
Once your baby starts eating solids, you want to make sure you offer them a variety of fruits and vegetables. Some of these might not necessarily agree with your little one's tummy. Foods that break down more slowly in the digestive tract tend to cause gas. A lot of green vegetables, beans, and fruits are gas-causing culprits. Here are some to watch out for:
You also need to watch out for sugars and sweeteners, such as lactose, fructose, and the artificial sweetener sorbitol. If lactose is not digested properly, it can cause gas, bloating, and stomach pain. Fructose is the main ingredient in high-fructose corn syrup, which is an ingredient in many soft drinks, snacks, and condiments. People with fructose intolerance have difficulty digesting fructose, and end up with stomach pain, gas, and diarrhea.
Sorbitol also takes a long time to be metabolized, and any sorbitol lingering in your system can speed up the fermentation of bacteria in the gut, which will cause cramping, bloating, and gas. Sorbitol occurs in small amounts in fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and prunes but is used more widely as a sugar substitute for sugar-free products like chewing gum, candies, and ice cream.
11 Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit
The sugars and fiber found in most beans are what tend to cause gas. Some beans seem to cause more gas in people than others. In a 2011 Nutrition Journal study, 50% of participants reported having more gas after eating baked beans or pinto beans than when they ate black-eyed peas.
Some beans tend to be harder to digest than others, and everyone is different. Try different beans to see which ones best agree with your baby. Navy beans, soybeans, kidney beans, chick peas, and green peas may be harder to digest for some people. Pinto beans, lentils, and black beans are usually easier to digest.
How you prepare the beans may help you get rid of some gas. Rinsing and soaking your raw beans in hot water for a few hours can cause some of the sugars to be released into the water, which you'll end up tossing out.
People who don't produce enough of the enzyme lactase cannot properly digest the sugar lactose that is found in milk and dairy products. If your baby has a watery, frothy stool, then it could be due to a lactose overload from breastmilk or formula. This doesn't necessarily harm your baby but it can be uncomfortable.
Lactose is naturally produced in breastmilk and is not affected by what the mother eats or drinks. It's okay for a breastfeeding mother to drink cow's milk. Sometimes, however, the baby could have an allergy to cow's milk, which can cause similar problems. Talk to your doctor about your baby's symptoms and to come up with a plan for feeding your baby.
If your baby is bottle-fed and showing symptoms of a possible lactose overload or cow's milk allergy, you can talk to your doctor about switching to a lactose-free formula or a soy formula.
9 The Ps
Ever had trouble pooping? What's the first thing you think of that might help you out? Prunes? Prunes contain a concentrated amount of fiber, which can help you go to the bathroom. They also contain sorbitol, which can have a laxative effect as the bacteria in your gut ferments.
If your baby is constipated, a lot of people swear by the P foods: prunes, plums, peaches, and pears. Plum Organics even makes a squeezable pouch specially formulated to help with tummy trouble that contains all of those P foods.
Unfortunately, where there's poop, there's gas. These foods might help with constipation but they can also cause gas!
8 Avoid Constipation
While the P foods can help with constipation, the ABC foods can cause it. The ABC foods are applesauce, bananas, and cereal. Low-fiber foods like white rice, white bread, and pasta can also stop up your baby's system.
Read baby food labels carefully! Apple puree is a common "filler" in store-bought baby food. For example, the first ingredient in Plum Organics' Raspberry, Spinach, and Greek Yogurt pouch is apple puree. Because it's listed as the first ingredient, that's what the pouch contains the most of--even though apple isn't included in the name of that flavor.
Besides the previously mentioned P foods that can help with constipation, there are a few other foods you can try if your little one is constipated. Anything high in fiber helps. Whole wheat pasta and bran are great, as well as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other vegetables.
If old enough, encourage them to drink extra water to stay hydrated. The water helps move things through the digestive tract more smoothly. You can also mix prune juice or pear juice in water or add it to your baby's formula.
7 What Can You Do About Diarrhea?
Depending on what your baby is eating, their stool can be soft and mushy or firmer and formed. Soft, watery stool isn't anything to be concerned about if that's typically what you'd find in your baby's diaper. However, if you notice that your baby suddenly changes to a watery consistency or if your baby is frequently making larger than usual or more watery poos, he probably has diarrhea. A lot of things can cause diarrhea in babies: infection, too much fruit juice, an allergy, or a reaction to medication.
Help your little one by making sure you offer more liquids like breast milk, formula, or if he's old enough, water. Don't offer sugary drinks or juice because that may exacerbate the symptoms. If your baby is eating solids, offer healthy food choices like yogurt, lean meats, and oatmeal.
Also, make sure you take care of your baby's bottom. Change diapers frequently, pat or air dry your baby's skin and apply a coating of diaper ointment to ward off any rash or discomfort.
6 Don't Eliminate Foods
If your baby has some tummy trouble after eating certain foods, it may be tempting to eliminate them altogether, but don't do that! Try reintroducing the food at a later time to see if your baby is better able to tolerate it. Sometimes, babies have to try a food multiple times before they can handle it.
And don't be surprised if your baby turns her nose up at certain foods. Just be patient and offer it to her again some other time. It's important to introduce your baby to all kinds of different foods, flavors, textures, and combinations. Making sure that your little one eats a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will help ensure that they are getting a well-balanced diet and all of the nutrients that they need.
5 Is It Colic?
What exactly is colic? It's pretty much the name for an inexplicably fussy but otherwise healthy baby. Sometimes a colicky baby has stomach pain and is irritable for no obvious reason. If your baby is younger than five months old and cries uncontrollably for more than three hours in a row, three or more days a week, for at least three weeks with no clear cause, he's colicky.
Colic isn't a disease or an illness; it's just a temporary behavior, and it's quite common. 1 in 5 babies is colicky. This inexplicable crying may begin abruptly, carry on for quite some time, and then stop just as abruptly as it started. Many people see the colicky crying peak around six weeks, and then it eventually goes away around the time the baby is three-months-old.
Some doctors think babies suffer from colic when they are overstimulated and their senses are overloaded. Others think it has something to do with the baby's developing digestive system, perhaps caused by food sensitivities, acid reflux, or gas.
No matter what soothing techniques you try, your colicky baby will be inconsolable. Try to keep your baby calm and relaxed. Play soft music or white noise. Swaddle your baby or offer her a pacifier. If you suspect that her stomach hurts, apply gentle pressure to her tummy or give her belly a little massage. You can also ask your pediatrician about the use of probiotic drops, gas drops, or gripe water.
4 Spit Up or Something Else?
Spitting up is quite common in babies. You can blame their immature digestive system. If they eat too much too fast, it's likely they will spit up. Some babies spit up more than others. It's nothing to worry about if the baby seems fine afterward. A lot of times, babies don't seem to be bothered by spitting up.
A more severe form of spitting up or reflux is GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Instead of just a little spit up, a baby with GERD may cough, choke, gag, projectile vomit, or even turn blue. A baby with GERD may have trouble gaining weight. If that's the case, you should take your baby to the pediatrician immediately.
You can help your baby be more comfortable by keeping them in a more upright position after feedings. You can also try elevating the head of their crib or bassinet with a wedge or by rolling up towels or placing books underneath the mattress.
3 Over-The-Counter Help
There are several over-the-counter remedies that can help your baby feel better. Check with your doctor before trying any of them, and make sure you follow the directions and dosage amounts carefully.
Many parents swear by gripe water. Gripe water is an herbal liquid supplement that can help soothe a colicky baby's tummy. It can also help with discomfort related to teething, gas. Some people use gripe water as a cure for their baby's hiccups!
Simethicone infant gas drops are basically Gas-X for babies. These drops are available under many brand names and are considered safe to use up to twelve times a day. The drops pop the bubbles in your baby's belly, getting rid of excess gas.
If your baby has been very constipated, your doctor may suggest inserting a glycerin suppository or adding prune juice to a bottle.
2 Natural Remedies for Tummy Trouble
Whether your baby is breastfed, bottle fed, or eating solids, gas and tummy aches are bound to happen. One of the things that you can try that may help you avoid tummy trouble is feeding your baby less during a feeding, and feeding them more often.
You can also try to fight off these stomach problems before they arise. Burp your baby frequently during and after feedings to get rid of the gas in her belly.
Be careful if you bottle feed. If you use powdered formula, you have to shake the bottle a lot to mix it up, and the shaking creates lots of bubbles. Let those bubbles settle before you start feeding. Make sure you are holding the bottle at an angle that allows the entire nipple to fill with milk; otherwise, your baby will end up sucking in extra air. Extra air means extra gas!
If your baby seems to have gas or stomach pains, put them on your shoulder and rub their back. You can also try massaging their tummy and bicycling their legs. This movement can help release gas that is trapped in your baby's stomach. You can also give an older kid a hot water bottle or heating pad to hold against her stomach. Older kids may also benefit from sipping ginger ale or ginger, chamomile, or peppermint teas.
1 When to Talk to the Doctor
Whether your newborn is crying inconsolably after feedings or your toddler is afraid to poop--if you're really concerned, trust your gut and call your pediatrician.
Other times you should call the doctor:
- When your child has vomited more than once or has vomited blood, especially if he has a fever or dehydrated.
- When your child has severe abdominal pain, or abdominal pain that lasts for two weeks.
- If you see blood in your child's stool, or if an infant's stool is red, streaked with red, or chalky-white.
Kids aren't exactly sure how to express how they're feeling, or might not understand why they're feeling the way they do, so if there is any concern for their health, pick up the phone and call the pediatrician.