Your Baby's Digestive Health

What to look for -- and what to ignore -- in your baby's diaper.


New parents are often worried about the contents of their baby's diaper and whether or not she's keeping her food down. While all babies will spit up or produce a strange-looking stool from time to time, in most cases it's nothing to be concerned about. But some symptoms can indicate trouble. Here's the scoop on common digestive problems your child may encounter and what you can do about it.

The emptying of baby's stomach isn't yet coordinated. Sometimes it takes weeks for the normal squeezing pattern of the stomach to get into rhythm. Until that happens, milk can sit in her stomach longer than normal and then come back up. This is called reflux.

Most cases of reflux disappear once baby is between 4 and 12 months old. However, the following symptoms may indicate that your child is having problems:

  • Poor feeding: Reflux can cause burning and irritation of the esophagus (also called heartburn) which makes a baby lose her appetite and act irritable. Babies with these symptoms will often arch and pull off the nipple soon after starting a feeding.
  • Frequent hiccups: It's normal for all babies to hiccup, but infants with reflux do it a lot. This is caused by the extra air in his stomach and by the spasms of his esophagus irritated by refluxed stomach acid.
  • Congestion and breathing problems: Chronic acid reflux can irritate the upper airways, causing baby to cough, wheeze, and be congested. These symptoms tend to worsen at night, when baby lies flat.

If your baby shows any of the above symptoms, her pediatrician may recommend treating her with medication. Otherwise, you can greatly help matters by burping baby often (after every ounce of formula or after every couple of minutes of breastfeeding) and keeping her upright for 20 minutes after each feeding.

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