Feeding Problems in Infants and Children

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Feeding problems are often frustrating, especially if the baby wakes often or cries during the night. Follow this chart for information and care suggestions.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
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1. Does your baby always seem hungry?


No

Go to Question 7.*

Yes

2. Is your baby breast-fed?


Yes

If your baby still seems hungry despite frequent feedings, he or she may not be attaching to the breast correctly. When a baby does not latch on properly, he or she may not get enough milk during each feeding. Sometimes, the mother's milk supply may be insufficient for the baby or the baby's mouth may be sore.

Get tips on how to position your baby for breast-feeding. If your baby is still having problems latching on, talk to your doctor or to a lactation consultant. Frequent feedings or pumping may help increase your milk supply. Drinking plenty of fluids may also help. Talk with your doctor about your concerns and keep a close watch on your baby's weight. If there are sores or white patches in or around the baby's mouth, see your baby's doctor.

No

3. Is your baby bottle-fed, or does the baby have a sore mouth?


Yes

The bottle's nipple may be CLOGGED or TOO SMALL, or the baby's mouth may be SORE.

A proper bottle nipple should drip 1 drop per second when the bottle is turned upside down. If you think the nipple is clogged, unscrew the cap to release pressure. If your baby's mouth is sore, see your baby's doctor.

No

4. Does your baby fall asleep soon after starting to feed from the breast or bottle?


Yes

It's not unusual for younger babies to fall asleep while nursing. This should occur less often as your baby grows. Sometimes, babies who don't latch on correctly also fall alseep while nursing.

Talk with your baby's doctor to make sure there are no other contributing causes. Your baby's doctor will probably check your baby for growth and weight gain. If your baby is not latching on properly, carefully break the suction and try repositioning your baby.

No

5. Does your child cry after feeding?


No

Go to Question 9.**

Yes

6. Is your baby throwing up large amounts of milk with forceful vomiting?


Yes

Your baby may have PYLORIC STENOSIS, a condition in which the lower part of the stomach becomes enlarged and prevents food from passing to the intestines. This makes the baby throw up.

Contact your baby's doctor right away.

No

*7. Does your child seem to have a lot of gas and stomach discomfort?


Yes

These symptoms may be a sign of LACTOSE INTOLERANCE, the inability to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.

Ask your baby's doctor if you should switch to a soy formula. Toddlers may also have soy or rice milk.

No

8. Does your baby cry intensely after meals, sometimes for hours at a time?


Yes

This may be COLIC.

See your baby's doctor. Rubbing your baby's stomach gently, or rocking your baby in a rocking chair or cradle may help relieve the pain.

No

**9. Does your child seem to have little interest in food or have a slow weight gain?


Yes

This may be from a DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEM.

See your baby's doctor.

No

10. Does your child have diarrhea after the feedings?


Yes

If you are feeding the child formula or cereal, these symptoms may represent an allergy or more severe intolerance to cow's milk (LACTOSE INTOLERANCE) or wheat (CELIAC DISEASE).

See your baby's doctor. Infants who are lactose intolerant may benefit from switching to a soy formula. Toddlers may also have soy or rice milk. Children who have celiac disease should avoid cereals that contain gluten.

No

For more information, please talk ot your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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