Supporting your baby’s digestion

Supporting your baby’s digestion

What is normal?

Your baby’s digestive system is extremely sensitive when they are young and it takes a while for their gut to mature and become more robust to different food sources. It can also be very normal for your baby to vomit or posset small amounts of milk after feeding throughout the day and night. This is because the muscles at the top of your baby’s stomach (sphincter), which hold the milk inside, are still maturing at an early age, and are therefore not as toned as an adult sphincter.  If your baby does bring up some milk and is content and comfortable afterwards, there is no need for concern. 

What mum can do to support a baby’s digestive discomfort?

Understanding digestive discomfort when it comes to your baby can be very challenging. There are a few avenues to explore, and firstly we want to look at issues with breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding. If your baby is drinking very fast at the breast or bottle this can lead to an accumulation of wind which can cause great discomfort to your baby. If your baby is swallowing very fast at the breast due to your breastmilk flow being very fast, wind discomfort can set in early, making continuing the rest of the feed challenging. If your baby has developed some wind from fast swallowing you may notice they are fussing, back arching, pulling away from the breast, or taking a brief suck and then pulling on and off. All of these are potential signs you may need to get help with managing a fast flow. Seeing an IBCLC Lactation Consultant or a GP Lactation Consultant is an excellent place to start. If you are bottle feeding, make sure you are using the Paced Bottle Feeding Method, which allows your baby to take pauses when they need to and drink the milk at a pace that works for them. 

Supporting your baby when they have digestive discomfort

There are various burping techniques, but the most important is that your baby is relaxed and that their torso is elongated comfortably. It isn’t really possible to pat or rub the wind out of a baby. All you can do is try to respond to their cues and clues about what positions they feel most comfortable in so that they can then relax and pass the wind as they can. Motion, rocking, and being upright all really help. Adults need movement to keep the bowel regular each day, and babies are no different. Taking your baby for a walk in a carrier, using a bouncer and time on the play mat in different positions will all help incorporate movement into your baby’s day to keep their digestive system moving along nicely. 

Is there a history of allergies in the mother's or father's family?

Once any breastfeeding or bottle-feeding issues have been ruled out as the cause of the wind and digestive discomfort, exploring the maternal diet may be the next step. Is there a history of allergies in either parent's family? If there is a history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Celiac disease, or intolerances such as dairy, soy and gluten for instance?  Steering clear of the triggering foods would be a wise idea not only for the parent's health but also for the chance that the baby may be more susceptible to these conditions. 

The top foods to consider removing from your diet if you suspect your baby may have a sensitivity to a certain food are; 

  • Dairy (all forms of cow's milk, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Elimination diets require the guidance of a health professional such as a GP, naturopath, paediatrician, paediatric nutritionist or another qualified professional who specialises in infant allergies and nutrition. It is important that when one food group is removed, you are taking steps to replace those nutrients that the group is high in, such as dairy products and calcium for instance. After a period of time, certain foods may be introduced back into the mother’s diet under the guidance of a health professional. 

More information can be found here:

Joelleen Winduss Paye, IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Midwife & Naturopath

JWP Holistic Lactation Consultant  @jwp.ibclc

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