Is your baby experiencing gas, spit-up, normal reflux, or colic? Is lactose intolerance an issue for your baby? Learn about common baby feeding issues with Dr. Finn, a pediatrician and pediatrics professor.
Dr. Gregory Finn
Dr. Finn is a Board Certified Pediatrician and founder of Blue Fish Pediatrics. As an Assistant Professor in Clinical Pediatrics at Washington University, Dr. Finn has conducted over 400 lectures on infant nutrition, toddler nutrition and infant care in the United States, Asia, Mexico and Canada. He was selected by his peers as one of the Best Doctors in America for ten years in a row. When not in the office, Dr. Finn enjoys spending time at home in St. Louis with his wife and their three children, Kyle, Abby and Ethan.
(Wording may vary slightly from the video.)
HOST: I'm Natalie, your host for The Inside Track: a series of videos from Enfamil that will help you learn about feeding issues that may be affecting your baby. Like you, I'm a mom, so I'm just as interested in all of this as you are. I'm with Dr. Gregory Finn, a pediatrician and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics who's here to tell us about the possible signs of a feeding issue and why they're so common. Dr. Finn, why do babies have so many feeding problems?
DR. FINN: Most common feeding issues aren't really problems as much as a normal part of your baby's development. Over 70% of babies have a feeding issue during their first year. While your pregnancy was three trimesters long, the first three months of your baby's life is kind of like a fourth trimester.
HOST: Why's that?
DR. FINN: Well, it takes a few months for a baby, once he's born, to get his digestive system working together — and that includes learning how to digest food.
HOST: That's something I didn't know, Dr. Finn. So what's the most common feeding issue you see in your practice?
DR. FINN: Fussiness and gas when a baby has bloating, a distended abdomen or pulls his legs pulled up to the chest in pain. Now, occasional gas is completely normal and it's often caused by swallowed air while feeding or crying. If the air is not burped back up, it can become trapped in the digestive tract, making your baby uncomfortable. Gas is also a natural part of the digestive process and occurs when food is broken down.
HOST: So what can we do to help?
DR. FINN: You can take a closer look at your baby's diet. Whether you're breastfeeding or using formula, two key ingredients in your baby's food are protein and lactose. As I mentioned, it can sometimes take a bit of time for a baby's digestive system to mature and work together smoothly. When that's the case, your pediatrician may recommend a gentle formula with easy-to-digest proteins that are already partially broken down or in other words—partially hydrolyzed.
HOST: I'd heard of hydrolyzed formulas but never really knew what they were. That's great information to have.
HOST: When my baby was first born, she was always spitting up. As a mom, I worried about it.
DR. FINN: Spitting up is pretty normal for a baby. In fact, when a baby spits up a lot but otherwise seems happy, we call them a "happy spitter." You know one-day old has a stomach about the size of a marble or grape. At day 10, it's only about the size of an egg. So when you feed a small stomach even an ounce or two—you may get some back. Babies also spit up due to that immature digestive tract. As the motor coordination and muscle tone strengthen, especially in the stomach and esophagus, his food will be held down better.
HOST: Sounds like feeding really is developmental.
DR. FINN: Yes, it is. Now, if your baby is arching his back, crying and clenching his fists, he may have acid reflux — a condition in which the stomach contents leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus, the tube from the mouth to the stomach. This can cause a lot of gas and pain.
HOST: How long does that usually last?
DR. FINN: By 18 months, 90% of children outgrow these digestive problems. But that's a long time for a baby to be dealing with discomfort. So your pediatrician may give you some feeding tips to help soothe your baby or may recommend a special formula that's individually tailored to ease common feeding issues while still providing the complete nourishment.
DR. FINN: Many moms have probably worried their baby's crying could be colic. But true colic only affects a small percentage.
HOST: Can it be diagnosed?
DR. FINN: While there aren't necessarily any medical guidelines, we use a really broad definition called the Rule of Threes. If your baby is crying consecutively for 3 hours at least 3 times a week for 3 straight weeks, he probably has colic. And it usually begins at around 3 weeks of age and ends at around 3 months.
HOST: When is a feeding issue more serious? For example, what if your baby is having problems with lactose?
DR. FINN: When a baby is spitting up or having trouble digesting many moms automatically think that their baby is lactose intolerant. But as much as you hear the phrase, it's incredibly rare in babies.
HOST: How can a mom tell if her baby is allergic to cow's milk?
DR. FINN: Well, when symptoms include longer periods of crying and skin problems, we frequently find out the baby has an allergy or a sensitivity to milk protein. Symptoms can include: swollen lips or tongue, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, runny nose and coughing. Symptoms can be immediate or delayed and you should see your doctor right away. There are excellent formulas that successfully treat the 3% of babies who have this condition.
HOST: Thank you Dr. Finn. It makes me feel better to know that so many of these issues are just part of a baby's development. Join me next time for Addressing the Issues with Cheri Clancy, a registered pediatric nurse and hotline expert will help you treat your baby's feeding issue with behavioral changes. Thanks for joining us at The Inside Track.