Baby Feeding Guide Baby Feeding Guide

Baby Feeding Guide

Parents’ guide to coping with feeding problems

When your baby has a feeding problem, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and become exhausted. Fortunately, most feeding problems can be managed with some simple techniques until your baby’s digestive and immune systems mature.

Below are some hints and tips for managing some of the most common feeding problems that babies experience.

Remember – if you are concerned about your baby or you feel like you’re not able to cope, always seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

If your baby suffers from reflux, here are some suggestions to help soothe their discomfort:

  • Feed your baby in an upright position. Keep their body straight with their head higher than their stomach.
  • After a feed, try to keep your baby in an upright position for at least 30 minutes. Try to avoid an upright seated position as this can put extra pressure on their abdomen.
  • Don’t put your baby to bed straight after a feed or place them flat on their back.
  • If possible, change your baby’s nappy before a feed rather than after to avoid placing them on their back with a full tummy. Avoid lifting baby’s legs too high during a change; try rolling your baby to the side instead.
  • Try giving smaller feeds at more frequent intervals.
  • Consider offering your baby a dummy; the swallowing action may help your baby to settle.
  • Avoid bouncing your baby too hard. You may need to remind family and friends of this.
  • Avoid any tight clothing around their waist such as tight nappies or elastic waistbands.
  • Burp your baby frequently during a feed, e.g. after finishing each side in a breastfed baby, and after every 30–60 ml for formula-fed babies.
  • Massage can help soothe your baby and also help them to digest.
  • Recurrent reflux may be a sign of a food allergy or intolerance. If you have any concerns about your baby, talk to a healthcare professional.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted from trying to manage your baby’s reflux, here are some practical tips to help make things easier:

  • Dress your baby in easy to wash singlets or jumpsuits. Buy lots so you have a steady supply of clean ones. You might be able to stock up at your local op shop to get you through the first few months.
  • Pick a special sofa or chair for when you're sitting with your baby, and cover it with a sheet or towel. Have a spare cover so you can wash one while using the other.
  • Use a washable cover on your baby's car seat or pram, and again, have a spare so you can wash one and use one.
  • Put wipe-down covers on the back seat of your car to protect the upholstery.
  • Pack one or two spare tops for you, as well as clothes for your baby in your nappy bag. Take a few plastic carrier bags for soiled clothing.
  • White or pale cotton tops won't show milk stains, and can be washed with baby whites.
  • If your baby has been crying constantly, go for a walk outside if you can to help clear your head.
  • Put your voice mail on/take the phone off the hook so you can get a chance to rest.
  • Keep a portable phone/mobile beside you during your baby’s feeding times, so you don’t have to get up to answer it after you’re settled.
Learn more about Reflux

If your baby is constantly crying from colic, try some of the following techniques to help them settle:

  • If your baby seems to have a lot of gas, burp them frequently.
  • Wrapping or “swaddling” your baby can help to calm them.
  • Walking around while rocking and patting your baby can be soothing.
  • Baby slings can help keep your hands free if your baby wants to be held.
  • Many babies soothe themselves by sucking, so offer your baby a dummy.
  • Give your baby a rub on the back or a gentle massage on the tummy.
  • Try giving your baby a calming bath.
  • Check that your baby is not too hot or cold or uncomfortable in some way.
  • Some babies may find harsh lights distressing, so soft lighting may help.
  • Soft music or noise that has a beat or rhythm, such as a loud clock can help some babies.
  • Take your baby for a walk in a pram or sling or for a ride in the car.

Caring for a constantly crying baby with colic can be extremely distressing and taking care of yourself is important too. If you can feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, here are some suggestions to help you cope:

  • Put your child in a safe place, such as a cot, and leave the room. If you have a partner, take turns looking after the baby so you can each have a break.
  • Walk around the house or go outside.
  • Relax your body by dropping your shoulders, clenching and unclenching your fists and stretching your back, arms and legs.
  • Take some time out to have something to eat to refresh you.
  • Do something physical like running if you can manage it. If you have a jogging pram you can take your baby with you.
  • Ask friends or relatives for support. Let them hold your baby while your baby is crying so that you can have a break. They’ll know that it’s only for a short time and that you will be able to take over again soon.
Learn more about Colic

It’s hard to see your baby in pain from constipation. If your baby is constipated, most of the time it’s due to them not getting enough fluid. Try these tips and tricks to help your baby if they’re constipated:

  • If your baby is formula-fed, check the tin to make sure you’re making up the formula correctly. Always measure the water first and then add formula powder.
  • Offer them extra drinks of cooled boiled water, especially in hot weather. Don’t dilute formula if you are using it.
  • Perform a gentle bicycling motion with your baby’s legs to help stimulate their bowel.
  • A gentle tummy massage can help soothe your baby.
  • A warm bath may help the baby’s muscles to relax – be prepared for them to poo in the bath!

Treating constipation in babies is different to treating it in adults. For example, increasing fibre in their diet is not always possible or appropriate, especially for babies who are solely breast or formula-fed. Here are some things you should NOT do if your baby is constipated:

  • Never use a laxative or other medication for your baby’s constipation without medical advice.
  • Don’t be tempted to introduce solids too early. This is not recommended to treat constipation as your baby’s digestive system may not be fully matured.
Learn more about Constipation

Food allergies and intolerances are very common in the first year of life, as the immune and digestive systems are still developing. There is no “cure” for a food allergy, although fortunately most babies will grow out of their allergy as their digestive and immune systems mature. Here are some tips to help manage your baby’s food allergy:

  • Avoid the food. This is more easily managed when your baby is exclusively formula-fed, but once they transition to solids, you will need to take extra care, particularly if eating even tiny amounts causes a reaction.
  • Avoid any foods or cutlery that could have been contaminated with the food your baby’s allergic to.
  • Read labels on all foods. Be aware that some foods have different names, such as whey or casein for cow’s milk protein. The 10 most common allergens need to be stated on food labels by law.
  • Take extra care when you eat out. Emphasise how important it is that the food is free of the allergen. Ask questions such as the ingredients in each dish, how it was prepared, the risk of contamination etc. Many restaurants are able to cater to special dietary requirements, although be aware that sometimes they may not know all of the ingredients present in their dishes, such as sauces.

If your baby or child has severe allergic reactions to a food, it’s important to be prepared:

  • Talk to your doctor about an emergency plan to help you recognise and treat symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.
  • Make sure family, babysitters, carers and any other key people are aware of your baby’s allergy and what to do in an emergency.
  • If your baby will be spending time away from you, e.g. childcare, a medic-alert bracelet will help to alert others to their allergy.
Learn more about Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy

If your baby seems constantly hungry and often wakes up crying for another feed, try these handy hints to help settle your baby:

  • Try to make sure your baby gets plenty of sleep. This can be easier said than done when your baby is constantly waking from hunger, but resolving any underlying sleeping problem is one of the most effective ways to promote a baby’s contentment.
  • Prevent your baby from falling asleep while feeding. Babies who fall asleep during a feed are much more likely to wake up later from hunger.
  • Slow feeding time down by giving your baby breaks during the feed.
  • Offer your baby a dummy to help them satisfy their sucking needs in between feeds.
  • Try giving your baby a little water. Although formula-fed babies usually receive enough fluids from their feeds (provided formula is prepared correctly), offering your baby an extra 30–60 mL of cooled, boiled water once or twice a day may help them settle.

Having your sleep disrupted from a constantly waking baby is physically and emotionally draining, and can be particularly stressful if you or your partner has to go into work the next day. Try the following if you’re feeling sleep-deprived to help you get through the day:

  • If you can, sleep during the day when your baby does.
  • Unplug or switch off your phone.
  • Take extra care of yourself with nourishing food, gentle exercise and as much rest as possible.
  • Take turns with your partner to look after your baby in the evening, to give you each a chance to rest.
  • Ask your family or partner to help around the house and don’t worry about anything that’s not essential.
Learn more about hungry babies

In Australia, most cases of diarrhoea are relatively mild and resolve in their own in time. The important thing is to make sure your baby doesn’t become dehydrated, as this can be very serious. Here are some tips for managing diarrhoea in your baby:

  • Give your baby plenty of fluids. If your baby is formula-fed, offer your baby extra bottles of cooled, boiled water if they will take it. Do not give your baby fruit juice or sugary drinks as this will make their diarrhoea worse.
  • Your doctor may advise an alternative formula or an oral rehydration solution to help rehydrate your baby more effectively. Don’t switch your baby’s formula or use a rehydration solution without medical advice.
  • Change your baby’s nappy frequently and use a barrier cream such as Bepanthen Nappy Rash to prevent irritation.

Depending on the cause, your baby’s diarrhoea should only last between 5–14 days. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Signs of dehydration (a sunken fontanel, sunken eyes, few wet nappies, dry eyes when crying, dry mouth, or lethargy)
  • Mucus or foul smelling diarrhoea stools
  • Blood in the stool
  • Severe diarrhoea while taking antibiotics
  • Fever
Learn more about Diarrhoea