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Tips for Dealing with Digestive Problems

During the first few months, the baby's digestive system is not fully developed. This is why many babies — especially those who are bottle fed — experience issues such as flatulence, three-month colics caused by lactose, or constipation.


Talk to your paediatrician to make sure these normally harmless digestive problems aren't symptomatic of something more serious. The following tips can help with simple digestive problems:

What causes digestive problems?

Bottlefed babies are particularly susceptible to digestive problems, but breastfed babies aren't immune to them.

Most digestive problems are the result of the baby's metabolic system not being fully developed during the first few months of life. It takes time for babies to get used to eating and metabolising food. Sometimes food doesn't move through the digestive tract at the right pace. Or the baby's system only partially digests food, leading to a build-up of gas in the lower parts of the intestines.

Simple measures like tea or gently massaging your baby’s stomach usually help to alleviate these problems, but if you don't see an improvement talk to your paediatrician.

Wind

Gas plays a role in all digestive processes. Flatulence is caused when too much gas builds up in the digestive tract. When your baby drinks or cries, air can enter the stomach. This can cause your baby to feel full, even if he or she has not eaten enough. But also undigested food (e.g. lactose) can produce gases when being metabolized by bacteria in the colon.

Trusted tips for dealing with flatulence

Herbal teas such as fennel can help to alleviate stomach pains. The so-called "flying baby position" can also offer relief.  In this position, the baby lies belly down on your forearm with its head near the crook of your arm and is gently rocked. If your child is already too big or too heavy to be held with one arm, you can also perform the flying baby position with two arms.

Warmth can also help: Lay a warm cherry stone bag on your child's stomach; give them a warm bath or carefully massage their stomach clockwise with warm caraway oil.


When putting your baby's nappy on, try gently pushing their legs upwards towards the stomach and then stretch them out again. Doing this will often release trapped wind.

if you do not see any improvement from using the tips offered here talk to your baby's pediatrician. He or she will be able to prescribe special food for your baby.

Expert tips

Things you can do to alleviate flatulence:

If you are breastfeeding:

  • Be sure to watch what you are eating. Avoid foods such as cabbage, onions, legumes and coffee, since these often cause flatulence.
  • Regularly drinking caraway or fennel tea can also help.
  • If your baby  is experiencing flatulence, you should only eliminate one possible cause at a time and wait to see if it helps. It's important that breastfeeding mothers not make too many dietary sacrifices.
  • Be sure to breastfeed in an environment which is quiet and stress-free for both you and your baby.
  • Make sure your baby is also sucking on the areola, and not just on the nipple. Doing this reduces the amount of air swallowed.
  • Be sure to breastfeed in an environment which is quiet and stress-free for both you and your baby.
  • Make sure your baby is also sucking on the areola, and not just on the nipple. Doing this reduces the amount of air swallowed.

If you aren't breastfeeding or aren't breastfeeding exclusively:

  • Make sure there is a minimal amount of foam in your baby's bottle when you prepare it. You should also let the bottle sit for a short period of time to let the foam dissipate.
  • Give your baby plenty of opportunities to burp when feeding.
  • Use an appropriately sized bottle nipple with a nipple hole which is not too big. Doing this will ensure that your baby drinks slowly and doesn't swallow too much air.
  • Feed your baby in an upright position and make sure the bottle is held at an appropriate angle. The milk should completely push the air out of the nipple.
  • If needed, prepare your baby's food with fennel or caraway tea, or offer it to your baby after feeding.
  • Comfort milk, which helps regulate digestion, can be helpful.  Talk to your pediatrician.

Three-month colics caused by Lactose

Some baby's have no digestive problems at all when it comes to digestion, and some experience a few problems such as belly aches caused by flatulence or constipation. Others still go through pain so great on account of flatulence that it leads to colic. If your baby constantly experiences stomach aches around the same time of day, especially in the evening and at night, and cannot be calmed down with loving attention, this is a good indication of a three-month colic caused by lactose Their stomach is often swollen and hard; and they will be inconsolable or extremely restless, often tucking their legs up close to their body and then stretching them out.

Did you know?

Up to 29 percent of all infants suffer from three-month colics caused by lactose.

Children with colic are in pain — and this is naturally very difficult for you as a parent. It's important to realize that there is nothing you can do to alleviate your baby's stomach pains. This is simply a temporary phase in your child's development. The calmer you are, the better chance you'll have at being able to calm your child down.

Our checklist for three-month Colics caused by Lactose

Talk to your pediatrician if:

  • Your baby is restless, crying or "inconsolable" and cannot settle down.
  • Your baby's belly is swollen and hard.
  • Your baby is tucking its legs up into its body and then stretching out.
  • Symptoms always arise at the same time of day (e.g. in the evening).

Constipation

Constipation is when a baby's bowel movements are irregular or excessively hard. It can be difficult to tell if your baby is constipated, since not all babies have bowel movements once, let alone multiple times, a day. However, if your baby hasn't had a bowel movement for several days and is crying due to stomach pains, then constipation is likely the cause. If this is the case, you will often find so-called soapy stools in the baby's diaper. These are very dry and crumbly, and are the source of the baby's discomfort. A loss in appetite can also result from constipation.

Expert tips

Things you can do to alleviate constipation:

  • Avoid using water containing lime to prepare bottled food, tea or pureed foods. You can normally find out how much lime your drinking water contains (water hardness) by looking on the Internet. If your water contains too much lime, you should switch to using still mineral water to prepare infant formula.
  • Be sure to use the right amount of formula powder.
  • Make sure your baby is getting enough extra fluids in the form of unsweetened tea and water.
  • If your baby is already eating baby food, laxative varieties such as plum, pear and apricot can be helpful.
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