Feeding problems


feeding problems

What it is: Not being able to breastfeed or bottlefeed right away. A baby may have feeding problems if:

  • He’s born before he’s able to coordinate the suck, swallow and breathe pattern.
  • He’s too weak or sick
  • He has a birth defect (a health condition present at birth that changes the shape or function of one or more parts of the baby’s body) that makes it hard to breastfeed or bottlefeed.

Treatment: Treatment includes giving liquids and nutrients (like vitamins and minerals, that help the body stay healthy) through a tiny needle placed in a vein (a blood vessel that brings blood back to the heart) in the baby’s hand, foot, arm or scalp. The baby may also be fed through an umbilical catheter (a thin tube that goes into the baby’s umbilical cord and into the belly button). When a baby gets food through a tube like this, it’s called intravenous feeding.

As soon as the baby is strong enough, he is fed breast milk or formula through a feeding tube. The tube is placed through the nose or mouth into the baby’s stomach or intestines (parts of the body that digest food and absorb liquids and salts). This is called gavage feeding. The tube may be left in place or put in at each feeding. The baby is fed this way until he can breastfeed or bottlefeed. A speech and language therapist or occupational therapist can help the baby learn to breastfeed or bottlefeed.

If the baby can’t breastfeed or bottlefeed for a long time, a surgeon (a doctor who has special medical training in doing surgery and other procedures) may need to put a gastrostomy tube into the stomach. The baby can get breast milk, formula and medicine through this tube.

gastroesophageal reflux (gass-troh-ee-sof-uh-JEE-uhl REE-fluks)

What it is: Also called GER or reflux. A feeding problem that happens when food in a baby’s stomach (an organ that aids in digestion) comes back up during or after feeding. Most babies spit up once in a while, but some do it a lot. It often happens to babies who were born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

Treatment: Most babies outgrow this condition in a few months. To lower the chances of spitting up, the baby can be held upright during feedings and for a short time after feedings. Sometimes a baby may get medicine.