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Common Feeding Problems in Infants: Understanding the Differences

Common Feeding Problems in Infants: Understanding the Differences

 Colic. Lactose intolerance. Cow's milk allergy. Learn more about the differences in these common feeding problems, and how to help ease them.

Medically reviewed by a board-certified pediatrician

Feeding problems in infants can be confusing. Many common issues share similar traits, including fussiness, gas, and excessive crying. The first step is to know what to look for. We’ve broken down each area to help you understand what might be colic, lactose intolerance, or a cow's milk protein allergy. And, why they're so frequently misunderstood.

Common feeding problem in infants: Colic

Babies can cry for a variety of reasons. It's often their way of letting you know there’s an issue. Many times, the cause is just mild and will pass. But, when babies cry for long periods, many new parents worry about colic. If your baby cries for an extended amount of time—when they’re not hungry, tired, or in need of a diaper change—it might be colic. In reality, about 15% of babies who exhibit colic-like behaviors are actually have it.

Colic can be associated with the Rule of Threes. Does your baby cry for:

  • Three consecutive hours, usually in the evening
  • Three times a week
  • Three weeks straight, usually beginning at three weeks old and usually ending at three to four months

If you answered "yes" to most of these rules, then your baby might have colic. Your pediatrician can identify whether or not it’s colic and suggest some ways to ease your little one’s discomfort.

Common feeding problem in infants: Lactose intolerance

There's a lot of confusion between milk intolerance, commonly called lactose intolerance, and an allergic response to the protein that’s in cow's milk.

Lactose intolerance is rare and is the result of an inability to digest a natural carbohydrate in milk called lactose. Just like in adults, lactose intolerance can cause your baby’s tummy to get upset. Try giving your baby Enfamil NeuroPro™ Gentlease® which has complete nutrition and is gentle on tummies.

Common feeding problem in infants: Cow's milk protein allergy

Infants who have cow's milk allergy may react in many different ways.

Cow's milk protein allergy affects about 3% of babies and is a common food allergy in infancy. It can happen when your baby experiences allergic reactions to certain proteins naturally found in milk such as whey or casein. Ordinarily, your baby's immune system helps keep them healthy by fending off illness-causing germs. For reasons that aren't clear, the immune system of a baby with cow's milk allergy sees milk protein as a harmful invader and mistakenly reacts.

For protection, your infant's immune system releases chemicals like histamines to fight off the cow's milk protein, causing an allergic reaction like hives, breathing difficulties, or chronic runny noses and coughs. Your pediatrician might recommend switching to a formula specially designed for babies with this allergy. For example, Nutramigen® is a hypoallergenic formula specially made for infants with cow's milk allergy.

Still have a feeding concern? Make sure to talk to your pediatrician. They can identify the true cause of your baby's feeding issue. There are a lot of ways to address these issues so your baby can feel better and stay healthy.

Visit our allergy center

If you have questions about cow's milk protein allergies, or other feeding problems in infants, visit our allergy center.

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.