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Feeding Problems in Infants and Children

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

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Does your baby always seem hungry? You might be able to tell this if your baby is constantly crying and sucking at the air or smacking his or her lips despite being fed  recently.

  • Does your infant or child seem to have a lot of gas, bloating, stomach discomfort, and/or distension?

  • Is your baby breast-fed?

  • Is your baby bottle-fed, or does the baby seem to be in pain when drinking from the bottle?

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

  • Does your baby cry after feeding?

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

  • Is your baby throwing up large amounts of milk with forceful (projectile) vomiting? Can you feel a round mass that feels like an olive with a pit in it in the baby’s upper abdomen?

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

  • Does your child have diarrhea after the feedings?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    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. In children older than 1 year, this can also be related to CONSTIPATION.


    Self Care

    For LACTOSE INTOLERANCE: Ask your baby’s doctor if you should switch to a soy formula. Toddlers may also drink soy or rice milk.

    For CONSTIPATION: Drink plenty of water and increase the amount of fiber in your child’s diet.


  • Diagnosis

    If your baby still seems hungry despite frequent feedings, he or she may not be latching on 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 tongue or mouth may not allow for appropriate latching.


    Self Care

    Get tips on how to position your baby for breastfeeding. 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.


  • Diagnosis

    The bottle’s nipple may be clogged, the opening may be too small, or the baby’s mouth may be sore. If the formula or milk is running out around the nipple while the baby is eating, the nipple opening may be too large.


    Self Care

    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 and be sure to clean the nipples in between feeds. If there are sores or white patches in, or around the baby’s mouth, see your baby’s doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    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 asleep while nursing.


    Self Care

    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 (slide your finger in along the skin between your baby’s mouth and the nipple) and try repositioning your baby.


  • Diagnosis

    Your baby may have an issue with their stomach or intestines or has COLIC.


    Self Care

    Gentle, frequent massage to your baby’s abdomen, as well as frequent “burping” during feeding can help offset crying during or immediately after feeding. Comforting your baby can help with COLIC, and over-the-counter simethicone drops can help if your baby is experiencing abdominal bloating or distension after eating.


  • Diagnosis

    This may be from a DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEM.


    Self Care

    Your baby’s doctor will be checking your baby’s weight at each visit. Talk with your doctor regularly about this issue.


  • Diagnosis

    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.


    Self Care

    Contact your baby’s doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    This may be COLIC.


    Self Care

    See your baby’s doctor. Providing comfort by rubbing your baby’s stomach gently, or rocking your baby in a rocking chair or cradle may help relieve the pain.


  • Diagnosis

    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).


    Self Care

    See your baby’s doctor. Infants who are LACTOSE INTOLERANCE may benefit from switching to a soy formula. Toddlers may also drink soy or rice milk. Children who have CELIAC DISEASE should avoid cereals that contain gluten.


  • Self Care

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


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