When I wrote my post about milk allergies in infants I got many questions from worried mothers. They shared symptoms they saw in their baby and asked me if it was a sign of feeding issues in babies such as a milk or lactose intolerance. Although I have gone through similar experiences with my baby, I am no medical expert in this field. So, one advise I gave all these concerned mothers was that they consult their paediatrician, an allergist or an infant nutritional expert to check for feeding issues in babies. Today, I want to talk about some of the common feeding issues in babies and what they imply.
I know it can be terrifying to think that your baby has a feeding issue. But always remember that only a doctor is qualified to advise you about the right course of action. Whether you should move to formula or switch to a lactose-free formula is something that your doctor will tell you to do. Self-diagnosis by reading up online is a complete no.
Most babies will go through one or more of these symptoms in their early feeding days. Infant gut and digestive systems are still developing and so it is common that they display these behaviours in their newborn days. But not all of these are serious and demand a change in feeding norms.
Common feeding issues in babies
Babies tend to spit up a small quantity of milk after feeds. The appearance of this milk is curdy, runny and may even smell mildly of vomit. Spit up is always white in colour. If the incidence of this happening is low and the quantity of spit-up is small then you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Just make sure you are burping the baby after every feed in a comfortable manner. Even if this takes you a good 15 minutes or more, keep at it. Get that burp out.
Also, remember not to bounce or pat the baby vigorously in order to burp him or put him to nap after a feed. These actions are not comforting and will only force milk up and out of the food pipe.
Some babies also vomit after feeds. I know this can be alarming to watch and it is even more disturbing for the baby to go through. In most cases, this occurs because the baby has fed too much or has fed too fast. While you can discuss this with your medical expert, don’t go assuming the worst case scenario that vomiting means feeding issues in babies.
If I can share my own example, despite being allergic to dairy my baby did not puke even once when he was an infant. So vomiting is not the sole indicator of an intolerance. It was only a blood work which eventually showed us that he had a proven cow’s milk protein allergy. Until then breastmilk was our elixir.
When should you be worried about vomiting?
If your baby is vomiting frequently or the vomiting is forceful and projectile then it is a cause for concern. The colour of the vomit is also something you should note. Green or yellowish-green vomit is an indicator that something is not right in the stomach or intestine of the infant. In such cases, don’t waste any time before you consult your doctor.
Do not attempt to correct the situation yourself by choosing to adopt a formula which is meant for intolerant babies. A proper diagnosis by an expert will be necessary before you are advised if you need to switch to formula and which type your baby will need. For example, a lactose-free formula will still not suit a baby with milk allergy, so it is not up to you to diagnose and choose an alternative course of action.
Colic is a mystery. A lot of research has been done on this subject and it is difficult to come to a conclusion as to why colic occurs. But truth is that ALL babies have at least one episode of colic in their lives.
Doctors have defined colic as prolonged crying in an infant who is otherwise well. The crying is usually loud and can last for several hours on end. Some experts believe that stomach cramps or gas cause colic. But not all babies with colic see relief with interventions to eliminate gas.
While it is rare that colic is caused due to milk or lactose allergy, some infants may not be able to stand the milk component in regular formula. In such cases, doctors may advise you to switch to a Hydrolysed protein-based formula such as Isomil.
Colic usually subsides by the time the child is 3 to 6 months of age. Babies have a hundred reasons why they cry and at times it is only something simple like the growing awareness of the world around them with its bright lights, loud sounds and smells.
Breastfed babies have yellow, seedy, curd-like stools. No one tells you this about newborn babies but in the early days, breastfed babies tend to poop a lot. Breastfed babies can actually pass poop after every feed. Their poop continues to be soft and unformed at least until they start solid foods. Formula fed babies, on the other hand, have formed poop and with a frequency of 1 or 2 times in a day.
Diarrhoea is when the stools are watery, runny, contain mucous and smell really funny. They also are much more frequent and usually accompanied with stomach cramps. It can be a sign of intolerances or illness from bacteria. This is a condition which must be discussed with your child specialist doctor immediately. Diarrhoea if unchecked can lead to dehydration and can pose a serious health risk for infants.
Usually, diarrhoea is a sign of feeding issues in babies (unless it is a bacterial infection) and in most cases may require intervention in the form of a specialized formula. Doctors may prescribe a formula like Similac Total Comfort which has partially hydrolysed proteins and meant for babies with sensitive tummies.
Seek professional help
Again I would like to reiterate that these formulas are to be administered to babies only when a medical practitioner deems it fit to be given. Giving formula, especially those meant for intolerances is not the easy way out.
A doctor makes an informed choice based on complete medical history and a physical check-up. He or she will also advise on other care and precautions you need to take if the baby is to be formula fed.
Giving sensitive formulas slows down babies’ gut development rate. While there is nothing alarming about this, it may mean that baby spend some more time receiving nutrition solely from (formula) milk and that you delay the introduction of solids. Hence your doctor will be the right person to advise on whether you need to give formula and whats the right time to introduce other foods.