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6 Common Bottle Feeding Difficulties & Issues

6 Common Bottle Feeding Difficulties & Issues

Infant feeding issues are not uncommon, and many times it has nothing to do with the parents. Even after babies are born, their digestive systems are still developing, which is one reason why feeding problems in newborns are so common.

That said, it’s always good to have a sense of indicators that your baby could be having trouble with a particular formula, or some sort of underlying issue to speak to your doctor about.In this article we’ll go over six common feeding difficulties in infants.

For breastfeeding tips check out our tutorial!

1. For hiccups, try burping or a different bottle

Hiccups are very common in babies. Sometimes your baby can get the hiccups after eating quickly or swallowing air. Hiccups are generally harmless and go away on their own, but if you’re noticing frequent or persistent, or if they are accompanied by vomiting or difficulty breathing, contact your pediatrician right away.

Tips for easing hiccups:

  • To help your baby get rid of the hiccups, try burping and helping them sit upright, as this can help them get the air out.
  • To help avoid the hiccups, many parents like to help their babies eat more slowly.
  • Make sure your bottle is tilted at a 45 degree angle to help your baby avoid sucking in air.
  • Calming your baby down before feeding can help, and so can trying different bottles or breast latching techniques that help them eat more comfortably.

2. For spitting up, try soothing techniques and ask about thickened formula

Spitting up after meals is also common in babies, and sometimes this can happen because their body is getting used to food and they’ll age out of it as their tummies mature and grow stronger.. Your baby could also be spitting up from swallowing air while feeding, being overstimulated, overfed, rushing through a feeding, or from responding to a change in formula or environment.

The texture of formula can also make a difference–in general, thicker formulas are easier to keep down and can help reduce spit-up.

Tips for reducing spit up:

  • Help your baby’s tummy get used to digestion at an easier pace by offering smaller, more frequent feedings.
  • Make sure your bottle is tilted at a 45 degree angle to help your baby avoid sucking in air.
  • Make feeding time as calm and relaxed as possible, avoiding interruptions.
  • Plan some low-key time after feedings to help food settle.
  • If spitting up continues or seems excessive, ask your doctor about thickened formulas designed to reduce spit up, such as Enfamil A.R.®

3. For fussiness and gas, try burping and ask about gentle formulas

Fussiness and gas go hand-in-hand with feeding difficulties because when a baby feels bloated or uncomfortable, they may not want to eat. Gas can be normal while your baby’s digestive system is in its early development, and it’s also common for swallowing air to lead to gas.

When air becomes trapped in the digestive tract, it can build up before it starts passing through, and that can be uncomfortable, but it’s not necessarily harmful. Burping your baby often can help air escape “upstairs” before it builds up and escapes “downstairs.”

However, gas can also come from food sensitivities like lactose intolerance or a cow’s milk protein allergy. In these cases, burping won’t help as much, because the gas doesn’t start building up until it’s already well past the stomach. It’s also probably going to be more foul-smelling than just trapped air passing through. If you suspect a food sensitivity may be causing gas, it’s time to talk to your pediatrician about trying a different formula.

Tips for reducing fussiness and gas:

  • Burping can help release trapped air before it gets stuck and goes out the other end.
  • Offer smaller, more frequent feedings.
  • Make sure your bottle is tilted at a 45 degree angle.
  • Make feeding time as calm and relaxed as possible, avoiding interruptions.
  • Ask your doctor about special formulas designed for easing gas or fussiness, such as Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease®.

4. For colic, try soothing and ask about hypoallergenic or easy-to-digest formula

Inconsolable crying for long stretches of time for no apparent reason is a common indicator of colic, which can keep babies (and you) up for hours into the night. Many babies will outgrow colic on their own by about three to four months old, but some colic may be caused by a feeding issue such as a protein allergy. Be sure to talk with your baby’s pediatrician to get to the bottom of it and explore formula options that are designed to help with colic.

Tips to soothe a crying baby:

  • Try soothing your baby by swaddling and/or gently rocking them.
  • Some babies like to be in motion: walk around with them in your arms, or put them in a car seat and take them for a relaxing drive.
  • Play soothing music
  • Ask your doctor about hypoallergenic formula options for babies with colic due to cow's milk protein allergy, such as Nutramigen®.

5. For pooping difficulties, try soothing and ask about gentle formula

Formula-fed babies generally have at least one bowel movement a day. The color you find in their diaper can range from yellow to brown to green, and can have the consistency of putty or thick paint.

Your baby’s stool color may not always indicate a problem–for example, sometimes a formula that has iron can turn poop green, but if you’re ever seeing something unusual and/or blood in their stool, don’t hesitate to speak with your pediatrician right away.

Grunting noises and strained faces are common, but if your little one seems to be having trouble, if their stool is irregular and/or uncharacteristically dry, hard, or pebble-like, let your pediatrician know, and ask them about formula options that can help soften the stool.

Tips for stool issues:

  • Try soothing your baby and avoid environments or ambiance that makes them anxious.
  • warm bath can help your little one’s digestive system relax .
  • Ask your doctor about special formulas designed to gently help your baby's digestive system by promoting soft, comfortable stools, such as Enfamil® Reguline®.

6. For sleepiness and indicators of poor feeding in newborns

Sometimes babies have trouble staying awake even when there’s food involved. This is especially common in all babies during the first few days after birth, and also among babies who were born prematurely and/or have other medical conditions.

Many babies have trouble staying awake especially if they haven’t been eating very much or are sick. This can indicate that they need to fuel up, so try to encourage them to eat as much as your doctor recommends as best you can, keeping in mind that this can be a challenge for anyone.

It’s important to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat, so definitely speak with your pediatrician if you’re noticing your little one is falling asleep in the middle of breastfeeding or bottle feeding and not eating enough.

Tips to help your stay awake while eating:

  • Make sure your baby is getting a good latch on the bottle or breast so that they stay engaged with eating.
  • Look, touch, and talk to your baby in varying tones to help them understand that feeding is fun!
  • Gently rub the sole of their foot.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns.

Bottle feeding tips for infant feeding difficulties

Bottle feeding can take some practice and getting used to–even if this isn’t your first baby! Every child is different, so difficulties feeding one baby could be completely different from another. That means in addition to general best practices for bottle feeding, there might be some trial-and-error involved with things like finding a bottle that your baby likes.

Here are some rhyming reminders that can help with your bottle feeding journey:

Make sure bottle flow is good to go

  • To check the flow, turn the bottle upside down. It should come out one drop at a time, not a steady stream. To change the flow, adjust the tightness of the bottle-top screw ring or switch to a slower-flow nipple.

Keep baby upright and feeling alright

  • Hold or safely position your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding to help their food travel in the right direction.

Clear the air because you care

  • If your baby tends to swallow too much air during feeding, check the bottle nipple to see if it’s clogged. You could also try a faster-flow nipple.
  • If you’re using powder formula, try giving it an extra stir with a clean fork to help get rid of air bubbles.

Angle the bottle at 45 for the best feeding vibe

  • Feeding from a flat-leveled bottle is what can give a lot of babies trouble with sucking in too much air. It’s best to tip the bottle downward at an approximate 45 degree angle so that the nipple fills with liquid rather than air.
  • As your baby gets down towards the bottom of the bottle, you may need to adjust your angle again–the key is to make sure the nipple area is full of liquid.
  • It can help to sit down in a comfy chair so that you can rest your arm while you keep the bottle angled.

Finding more support and information about feeding difficulties

Keep in mind that feeding difficulties can happen with any baby, but we’re all in this together. If you love getting helpful tips, access to extra support, and exclusive offers for free samples of baby formula, and other goodies, we encourage you to sign up for Enfamil Family Beginnings and join the conversations we have about babies and parenting on social media. We always love to hear about happy babies and what’s been working for you!

If you’re considering switching to a new formula, check out our family of formulas to see all of our options, and our formula comparison guide can help you narrow down your search. Remember to check with your pediatrician before you make the switch!

Once you’re ready, you can find Enfamil products at most major retailers both online and in-store. Use our formula finder to locate the closest options to you.

Happy feeding!

All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.