Feeding problems in infants

When a child is not feeding as well as expected it can be a cause of anxiety and frustration to the nursing mother. There may be worry if the baby wakes often or cries during the night.

Poor feeding in infants can lead to serious issues such as dehydration, malnutrition and poor growth.

What is causing my baby not to feed?

If a baby is premature (that is, born before 38 weeks) it may have feeding problems because it is yet to fully develop the sucking and swallowing movements and proper coordination.

The baby may not be getting enough breastmilk either because the mother is not producing enough or the baby is not latching well enough to suck enough milk. This can make them seem hungry.

Temporary illnesses like diarrhoea, ear infections,common colds may make it uncomfortable or even painful to feed. If you suspect that your child has an illness check with your doctor to make sure it’s not serious and get treatment if needed.

Sores in the infant’s mouth are most commonly caused by yeasts in babies. Look for white spots or patches on the inside of the cheeks. There are other causes of sores in the mouth particularly in older children. Sore cause discomfort of pain when feeding or sucking which can lead to less interest in feeding. Check with your doctor for the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Does the child appear to have a lot of gas and tummy pain or discomfort? Does he cry intensely after meals? Does he seem to have little interest in food or have slow weight gain? Does he have diarrhea after feeds? These may be symptoms of an allergy or intolerance to certain ingredients the child is taking. Common problems include lactose intolerance,in which the body has reduced ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. Cow’s milk allergy occurs when the body reacts one or more proteins in cow’s milk. Check with your doctor if your child develops the problems described.

The breastfeeding mother herself may have have problems with her breast and nipples that make nursing difficult,uncomfortable or even painful. It may be a sore, cracked or bleeding nipple. When the breasts are engorged they may feel feel hard, swollen, painful, and uncomfortably full. Talk to your doctor or nurse when you experience these problems.

A child may have problems with feeding and growth if they have an underlying condition. This may include a problem with the heart, liver, brain, muscles, level of thyroid hormones, genetic or inherited conditions. A thorough history and physical examination by the child’s doctor will be required to identify such underlying disorders.

How will I know if my child is not getting enough?

A baby may not have wet diapers as often. Fewer than 6 wet diapers in a 24 hour period may be the sign that the baby is not getting enough.

The baby’s urine may look dark or more concentrated than usual.

The baby may wake up easily for feeding.

The baby may look sick or weak.

Your baby just doesn’t seem satisfied even after breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time.

A baby may be falling asleep soon after beginning feeding but become fussy when you take him off the breast.

Your baby may be losing weight or feeling lighter.

What will I observe if an underlying problem is causing my baby to have trouble feeding?

The baby may  the back and body while feeding.

The child may be fussy or seem not to focus while feeding.

The child may refuse to eat or drink.

The child may reject foods with certain textures.

Coughing,gagging or vomiting during feeding times.

Excessive drooling.

Taking too long to eat a relatively small amount of food.

Frequent spitting up or vomiting after feeds;

Concerns about the child’s growth or weight gain.

If you notice these problems get the child to be checked by the doctor.

When to see your child’s doctor immediately

Immediate medical attention may be required for the baby who has feeding difficulty and has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Has gone more than 4 hours without feeding.
  • has a fever.
  • is vomiting after feeding
  • is vomiting blood
  • has a cough that is persistent or getting worse.
  • is crying unusually.
  • Blood stools
  • Is breathing noisily
  • is becoming weak and unresponsive to touch