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Bottle Feeding Problems

When your baby has a feeding problem, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and become exhausted. Fortunately, most feeding problems can be managed with simple techniques until your infant’s digestive system matures. Below are some hints and tips for managing some of the most common feeding problems that babies experience. Remember, if you are concerned about your baby or you feel like you’re not able to cope, always seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

REFLUX Reflux happens when some stomach contents (e.g. breastmilk or formula) pass from the stomach back up into a baby’s oesophagus (muscular tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach) and sometimes spills out her mouth. This spilling, which can be called spitting up, posseting or bringing milk up, is common in babies, especially after a feed. Babies spend a lot of time lying down, have a liquid diet and a short oesophagus. These factors make reflux more noticeable. Reflux is equally common in formula-fed and breastfed babies. It often helps to feed a baby with reflux in a more upright position than is usual. You may need to experiment with different positions.After a feed, keep baby upright and still. Many mums find putting baby on their shoulder keeps him happier.Some babies do better with smaller, more frequent feeds. (Courtesy of Australian Breastfeeding Association) COLIC Colic is excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed. Colic is very common, affecting about one in five babies, but it is still poorly understood. Crying is normal in babies. At six to eight weeks, babies normally cry for two to three hours a day. But babies with colic will cry inconsolably for several hours at a time and it’s often worse in the evenings. Colic usually begins within the first few weeks of life and peaks at around 6 to 8 weeks. It often stops by the time the baby is 4 months old, and by 6 months at the latest. You may also notice that your baby’s face becomes flushed, and they may clench their fists, draw their knees up to their tummy, or arch their back. If your baby has colic, they may appear to be in distress. However, the crying outbursts are not harmful and your baby will continue to feed and gain weight normally. There is no clear evidence that colic has any long-term effects on a baby’s health. The cause or causes of colic are unknown, but a number of theories have been suggested. These include indigestion, trapped wind or a temporary gut sensitivity to certain proteins and sugars found in breast milk and formula milk. There is no ‘best’ way to comfort your baby or reduce the symptoms of colic. Different babies respond to different methods, so you may have to see what works best for you. Remember your baby is not unwell or in pain. It is not your fault. The following suggestions may help:

  • Holding your baby during a crying episode, and wrapping them snugly in a blanket or baby sling.

  • Keep calm and talk gently to your baby.

  • Check your baby doesn’t need a feed or a nappy change.

  • Develop a regular daily pattern of feeds and sleeps.

  • Don’t overstimulate your baby.

  • Darken the room for daytime naps.

  • Try soothing techniques such as baby massage, gentle rocking or patting, or a warm bath.

  • Offer a dummy.

  • Try to soothe your baby before they become too worked up.

  • Try not to startle your baby, e.g. with quick movements.

  • Check formula is being made up correctly, if you’re using it.

  • Talk to a doctor or other health professional.

(Courtesy of CONSTIPATION Breastfed babies are hardly ever constipated, although they may not have a bowel motion for several days or up to a week. Even then, their poo will usually be soft. Many babies strain and go red in the face when doing a normal poo. This is not a sign of constipation unless the poo is hard and causes pain and discomfort. True constipation in babies is rare and should always be checked by a doctor. Causes of constipation in babies include:

  • formula is too strong – if your baby is bottle-fed, make sure the formula is made up correctly, so that there is not too much formula powder for the amount of water

  • using a different formula – changes to the milk formula (especially when swapping to ‘follow-on’ formula or cows milk)

  • not enough drinks – in warm weather, bottle-fed infants require extra fluid such as cooled, boiled water between formula feeds. Breastfed infants may require more frequent feeds

  • solids that are not right for the baby – use the correct solid foods for the age of your baby. Be aware that excessive use of legumes (peas, lentils and so on) and high fibre cereals are not appropriate for young infants

  • difficulty passing poo – sometimes a hard poo can cause a little tear or crack in the skin around the anus and this can hurt the baby. The baby seems to know that it hurts to do poo and so ‘holds on’. Then the poo becomes even harder and will be more painful to pass.

Suggestions to treat constipation in babies include:

  • If your baby is bottle-fed, check the formula tin to make sure the formula is being made correctly. Always measure the water first and then add formula powder.

  • Offer extra drinks of water.

  • Gentle tummy massage can help.

  • A warm bath may help the baby’s muscles to relax (be prepared for them to poo in the bath)

(Courtesy of Victorian Government ‘Better Health’) FOOD ALLERGY An upset tummy, a rash, or a lack of weight gain may signal that your baby has a food intolerance or even an allergy.It's not uncommon for babies to react badly to something they ate (or you ate, if you're nursing). In fact, gastrointestinal issues are among the top concerns that new parents bring up, says paediatrician Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D., founder and editor-in-chief of If your baby has frequent stomach problems after eating a particular food (gas, bloating, diarrhoea, cramping, or vomiting), they may have a food intolerance. "All that means is that his digestive system isn't able to comfortably handle it," says DrSchurgin O'Keeffe. If your baby has stomach problems or is fussy after meals, talk to your paediatrician. They'll determine whether your baby has an intolerance or if something else is going on. "I consider many issues," says Dr Schurgin O'Keeffe. "When babies don't take well to formula, incorrectly mixing the powder (not striking the right balance of water to formula) is a common cause. In a nursing infant, we look at the mother's diet to see if what she's eating could be producing extra gas. Overfeeding can cause similar symptoms."

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