Common worries

There are a number of minor ailments that can affect young babies and while most of them are easily treatable, they can still be a bit worrying for new parents.

Unsettled babies and colic

Many young babies have a period during the day when they are unsettled and cry with discomfort but don’t appear to be hungry. This is often referred to as colic. Colic occurs commonly in the late afternoon and evening and babies usually grow out of it by about the age of 5 months.

Because the causes of colic are unknown it can be difficult to treat and often just soothing, comforting and massaging your baby can help. For more tips on helping your baby through this difficult time, take a look at our section on Colic.

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Posseting is seen in most young babies. A small amount of milk from their stomach regurgitates back up into their mouth without any harmful effects. Babies with mild posseting will gain weight and thrive normally, and they will grow out of it

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When your baby vomits, large amounts of milk will come up. This may be because of overfeeding or an infection. If your baby projectile vomits you should seek advice from your Healthcare Professional.

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Reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux

If your baby has reflux the stomach contents will come up into their windpipe but not always into the mouth. This will cause discomfort but you may not realise that it’s reflux causing the problem.

More severe reflux/regurgitation is called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and can lead to screaming episodes in your baby. GERD usually resolves with time but does continue throughout your baby’s first year and beyond in some children.

Smaller feeds more frequently throughout the day can help with GERD, so try smaller feedings every 3 hours rather than feedings every 4 hours. In breastfed babies better positioning and attachment may help improve GERD.

Your Healthcare Professional may suggest a thicker formula if your baby is taking formula milk or prescribe a mild anti-reflux medicine.

GERD can sometimes be caused by intolerance to cows’ milk protein and a paediatrician may consider trialling a milk protein free diet.

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Diarrhoea and gastro-enteritis

Diarrhoea is common in babies, especially babies who are experiencing pain during teething.

The tummy bug gastro-enteritis is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection, and is more frequent in formula fed babies, as there is more chance of bacterial contamination of their feedings when they are made up. Babies under 6 months are particularly vulnerable to gastro-enteritis and dehydration and may require hospital admission.

Gastro-enteritis is rare in babies who are exclusively breastfed, but if they do contract it, it is important that breastfeeding is continued, as they may become dehydrated. Severe cases may require the addition of oral rehydration fluids.

Continued diarrhoea after acute gastro-enteritis may be associated with a temporary intolerance to lactose. Breastfeeding should continue but formula fed infants can change to a lactose free milk formula. Advice on excluding foods containing milk and lactose would be needed for babies who are already being weaned. This should only be undertaken under the supervision of a medical practitioner and following the advice from a dietician.

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Constipation is defined as difficulty, delay or pain on defecation (passing stools).

In the first 3 to 4 months babies should pass frequent, loose, bright yellow stools, at least 2 to 3 times a day. From 3 to 4 months, stools will become less frequent and it’s not unusual for a baby to go several days without a bowel movement. As long as the baby is well and happy, there’s no need to worry. After the introduction of solid food, stools may change in frequency and color.

Constipation is rare in breastfed babies but if your baby is constipated they may not be getting enough milk because of poor attachment or positioning. Check with your lactation consultant or pediatrician that your baby is positioned properly and that they are able to attach when breastfeeding.

Constipation is a more frequent problem in formula fed babies. Babies changing from breastfeeding to formula feeding often develop constipation. One cause may be the calcium salts in the formula that can harden stools in some babies. Other causes may be:
  • Over concentration of the formula
  • Inadequate fluid intake, including under feeding
  • Cows’ milk protein intolerance
Managing constipation in formula fed babies:
  • Make sure your baby is getting enough food
  • Check that the formula is being made up according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • A change from casein dominant (number 2 milk) to whey dominant (number 1 milk) formula may help.
  • Changing to a modified formula for minor digestive problems may help, as the fats in these formulas are different.
  • Additional drinks of cooled boiled water should be offered in hot weather
  • If your child is being weaned then make sure that they’re eating a balanced weaning diet including fruit, vegetables and cereals. Bran should not be given to babies. They should also have a drink with their meals.
If constipation continues, consult your Health Care Professional.

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Faltering Growth

If your baby is not drinking enough milk they won’t grow as expected. How can I tell if my baby is growing enough?
  • Babies lose weight in the first few days of life but should have regained it by 10 to 14 days.
  • Breastfed and formula fed infants have slightly different growth patterns during the first year of life. Breastfed infants grow more quickly in the first 3 to 4 months and then grow more slowly from about 5 months when compared with formula fed infants. When following your baby’s growth, ensure it is being plotted on a chart based on breastfeeding babies.
  • Babies should not be weighed more frequently than every 2 weeks as shorter intervals are not necessarily indicative of accurate weight gain or loss.
Signs of faltering growth are:
  • Poor and erratic weight gain or no weight gain.
  • Your baby is apathetic and cries weakly.
  • Poor muscle tone and skin distension.
  • Concentrated urine, a few times a day.
  • Infrequent bowel movements.
  • Fewer than eight short breastfeeds a day.

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Managing faltering growth in breastfed babies

  • Your baby should feed at least 8 times in 24 hours (including at night).
  • You should feed your baby until they come off the breast spontaneously. If they’re sleepy a diaper change may help to rouse them and they can then be fed on the second breast.
  • You should have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as often as possible.
  • Try to express milk from your breasts once your baby has finished feeding. If you completely empty your breast, more milk will be produced for the next feeding.
  • Different positions for feeding, such as underarm, or lying down may help your baby to feed more efficiently.
  • If your baby is sleepy or reluctant to feed it may be necessary to express your milk for a while and feed your baby with your expressed breast milk by cup or bottle until they’re passing frequent yellow stools and are more alert. Your baby can then be re-introduced to the breast.
  • Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and drinking enough.
  • Any stress or anxiety can reduce your milk production.
Managing faltering growth in formula fed babies:
  • Make sure the appropriate formula is being used and that you’re making it up correctly.
  • Make sure the size of the nipple on your baby’s bottle is appropriate
  • If your baby was premature you should continue to use a pre-term formula or high-energy formula as directed by your pediatrician or dietician.

Please be aware that the information given in these articles is only intended as general advice and should in no way be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or your family or your child is suffering from symptoms or conditions which are severe or persistent or you need specific medical advice, please seek professional medical assistance. Philips AVENT cannot be held responsible for any damages that result from the use of the information provided on this website.

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