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Feeding Problems in Babies

Feeding difficulties experienced during the first years of life

  • More common in early infancy
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle as risk factors depend on the cause

Problems with feeding are common in young babies until a routine is established, but if a baby is gaining weight there is usually no need to worry. However, when a baby who normally feeds well becomes reluctant to feed or vomits, there may be an underlying illness.

What are the causes?

Breast-feeding may not come naturally to mother or baby and takes time to be learned. Problems with bottle-feeding are less common but may be due to the brand of milk or teat size used. A minor illness may cause temporary difficulties. Most babies regurgitate after each feed, but in some babies regurgitation is persistent (see Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in infants). A few babies vomit forcefully after feeds, which may indicate that the outlet of the stomach is narrowed or blocked (see Pyloric stenosis in infants).

What might be done?

If you bottle-feed, you should avoid frequently changing the brands of milk or the teats because such changes may make the problem worse. Wind your baby after a feed and, if he or she tends to vomit, try propping him or her up after feeds. If you are worried, weigh your baby to make sure that he or she is gaining weight. You should seek medical advice if you are still concerned or have problems with breast-feeding.

Your doctor will be able to exclude problems that require treatment, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or pyloric stenosis, and will give you advice on breast-feeding. Your child may need to have regular weight and measurement checks to assess his or her growth. With time, most feeding problems disappear.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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