8 Common Baby Feeding Problems That Are Totally Normal, According To Experts
Being a parent, especially a first-time parent, can be pretty terrifying. And during those first few months, when your little cherub can't do much, the bulk of that anxiety is likely to occur during feeding time. If you've never done this whole mom thing before, separating the common baby feeding problems that are totally "normal," from larger issues that might require the care of a physician, can be difficult. Thankfully, arming yourself with a little knowledge can help ease your new-mom fears.
Can I just speak my truth here? In a judgement-free zone? Babies are so extra. And, like, I know that "pediatrics" and "medical science" won't back me up on this, but I believe it anyway! I'm pretty sure they scare us on purpose, just to mess with us. Do I have proof? I don't know, is the evil glint in my newborn's eye admissible in a court of law? If not, why not? I'm pretty sure it's part of a vast baby conspiracy.
While I'll always know my own truth, I guess it's also important to know the actual truth about what's going on with baby feeding issues, according to science. So Romper spoke with Dr. Christina J. Valentine, M.D., a physician and dietitian dedicated to maternal and infant diet and health, and Medical Director at RB Health, to see what's normal (and what's not) when it comes to our babies eating habits:
1. Losing Weight After They're Born
Seeing your little one's birth weight drop can be a point of concern for many new parents — they're very small to begin with and they're supposed to be getting bigger. But fear not, this is totally normal!
"Babies normally lose about 1/10th of their body weight due to normal fluid loss in the first week," Valentine tells Romper. You know those wet diapers you've been fastidiously tracking in a notebook? That's part of it. Losing more than about 1/10th of their weight, however, warrants a call to the pediatrician.
2. Significant Spit-Up
"Spitting up is a normal occurrence, as most all babies have reflux until they grow stronger muscles over the first six months," Valentine tells me. As long as your baby is continuing to gain weight and doesn't appear to be in pain or significant discomfort, they should be just fine. "We often call these babies “happy spitters.”"
If your baby's spit-up is green, however, Valentine says you should see your doctor to ensure there isn’t an underlying medical issue or food sensitivity. "Your doctor may recommend switching to a solutions-based formula, like Enfamil NeuroPro Sensitive or Enfamil Enspire Gentlease."
3. An Odd Poop Color
You know that song from Pocahontas, "Colors of the Wind"? There needs to be a version for new parents called, "Colors of the Poo," that explains what different colors in your child's diaper mean, because those colors just do not come out of full-grown adults. At least not out of healthy full grown adults.
But with babies? Yellow (common in breastfed babies), brown (common in formula-fed babies), green, orange, and any combination thereof are actually completely normal. Even a little bit of red blood in your baby's diaper, while it should be checked with a doctor, is probably no cause for concern —chances are they swallowed some blood from your nipple while nursing or may have strained a bit to poo.
Colors that should prompt medical attention are gray or white poops, so it's less about the color of your baby's number two and more about the lack of color
4. Weird Feeding Sounds
When my son was an infant I called him my French Bulldog Puppy, because he was rolly and adorable and made all these very bizarre grunting sounds that made him sound just like a Frenchie. Turns out, this is pretty common and not something to worry about.
"Babies can grunt and gag as they first learn to suck and swallow," Valentine tells Romper. "This should improve quickly, so if continues or if the baby turns blue, be sure to see your doctor ASAP.
5. Frequent Feeds
Yes, hello, hi! Welcome to the first couple days of my first child's life. It was a nightmare. Unfortunately, it's a pretty common nightmare, known as "cluster feeding.
"Babies often want to eat more frequently when nursing if they are about to go through a growth spurt," Valentine says, "So don't be surprised if it happens prior to crawling or walking." In other words, feel free to indulge your little one's voracious appetite — it's a sign of good developments to come! Valentine especially encourages breastfeeding parents to ensure the baby gets enough time on each breast to reach the fatty "hindmilk."
6. A Disinterest In Solids
Look, as an Italian-American mother, I understand the desire to get your baby eating with the family (food is an important part of any culture and brings people together). I understand the anxiety that can come along with your child not wanting to eat table foods (or even purees), too! But let's look at the science.
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend not introducing solids until your child is 6 months old. They also recommend continuing to breastfeed until they're 12 months (AAP), and even up to 24 months or longer (WHO). Even after you've introduced solids, breastfeeding (or formula feeding, up to 12 months) remains and important and efficient nutritional source. According to WHO,
"Breast-milk is also an important source of energy and nutrients in children aged 6–23 months. It can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months, and one third of energy needs between 12 and 24 months."
So if your kid isn't gung-ho for butternut squash right away, don't panic. Keep offering them a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains and, eventually, they'll get a taste for something other than what comes out of a breast or bottle!
7. Gagging After Eating Solids
Remember how babies can grunt when they're learning to swallow milk or formula? They graduate to gagging once they graduate to solids. It's legit terrifying, but also very normal. According to Dr. Patrick Lehman, M.D., a pediatrician with the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, there's a difference between choking and gagging.
While it certainly can be alarming, rest assured your child’s gag reflex is their body’s natural defense against choking. When you start feeding solids around 6 months, your child’s gag reflex is actually farther forward in the mouth — it’ll move farther back in the throat as they get older. Because of that, coughing and gagging and expelling food will be a common occurrence during those first few months of solids.
8. Potential Allergies
Thankfully, an increase in necessary attention is being paid to allergies. Unfortunately, this increase attention adds yet another item to the list of things parents worry about. But the fear of a potential allergy shouldn't stop you from introducing your child to a variety of foods. According to a 2008 clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, there "is no evidence that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods, including peanuts, eggs, and fish, beyond 4 to 6 months prevents atopic disease." In fact, the same report found evidence that the early introduction of peanuts can actually prevent a child from developing a peanut allergy.
Still, knowledge is power, so it's important to know some of the most common food allergens — cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat — and signs of allergic reaction. "Allergies can present as a rash, blood in stool or vomiting," Valentine says. "If any of these are happening, see your doctor to confirm."
So bon appétit, everyone!