Tummy Aches In Breastfed Infant
Q. My six week old daughter seems to have an uncomfortable tummy much of the day and night. She is breastfeeding, growing quickly—at birth she was exactly seven pounds and at the six week doctor’s visit she weighed almost ten pounds! She’s smiling, but she squirms a lot and I don’t know what to do.
A. Most babies double their birth weights in the first 4-6 months of life and your daughter has added almost 50% of her birth weight in less than two months. I don’t know about you, but if I tried to gain about ninety pounds quickly, I think I’d squirm, too!
Babies get very full and very gassy and this is very normal.
I have had some great luck decreasing babies’ gastric distress by changing Mom’s diet: Eliminating dairy products, eggs and peanuts has made a huge difference for countless mothers I’ve known. These “big three” protein foods can make the milk a little harder to digest for many babies. As a good start, eliminate dairy from your diet and take a calcium-magnesium supplement if you’re worried that you don’t have enough calcium in your diet. (I have some great links here on my website about dairy free diets and the benefits to the nursing baby.)
Try burping a little more frequently and try switching breasts only once during a nursing session. This will slightly decrease your milk flow, ease digestion and decrease gas. Breastfeed for about five minutes on “side A” and finish the nursing on “side B” and reverse this the next time you feed. Less milk may create less gas. I have had very little luck with gas-reducing drops and am a little reluctant to recommend a teaspoon or two of chamomile tea at six weeks of age even though I think it’s safe and works just fine for somewhat older infants.
Reflux is “baby heartburn” created by stomach acid in the esophagus. It responds to diet changes and position changes but may require medication and you need to talk to your pediatrician if your baby has discomfort and is spitting up a lot.
As these growth spurts subside and as her intestinal tract matures a little more she’ll have a much easier time.