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The Basics of Your Baby’s Digestion

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Let’s talk about bowel movements and gassiness in infants, those are important topics. Sometimes parents lose sleep, literally, over these issues. What’s a normal gassy belly and what can you do to help?

An infant’s body systems, such as digestions and excretion, are still maturing, especially in the first four months. It does seem like having a bowel movement is a big effort. For babies, it probably is. Two things that help with digestion are breast milk and sucking.

• Breast milk is easily digested. It’s also laxative which keeps the bowels moving. Sucking is an action that releases digestive enzymes in the baby’s gut and also relaxes the bowels. In the first six to eight weeks, your baby should have yellowy loose bowel movements on a daily basis. That’s a good thing.

After a good feed, babies sometimes linger for ‘comfort sucking’. That’s just plain nice and it helps with digestion. If your baby is bottle fed, use a “paced bottle feeding” method. Allowing pauses to suck, swallow and breathe will help your baby digest more easily. Extra time to just suck, on your finger or a pacifier, can be beneficial.

• “Wearing” your baby and walking around while he or she sucks on your finger is convenient. This combination of upright posture, comfort sucking and patience can calm a fussy baby. At any rate, you can move about for a change of scenery and get some fresh air.

• If your baby likes it, infant massage can be a calming activity to share.

• Sometimes during nursing, in their sleep or other random moments, a baby will fuss, wiggle, come off the nipple and grimace. Once they’ve had a good fart or poop, they are content again. That’s normal; you’ll learn the cues.

Most babies have periods when they are fussier and need more attention. Your best strategy is to plan for this. Take a nap when your baby naps so you’ll be rested enough to deal with it. With experience, you can anticipate ‘melt down’ times and learn ways to handle them. ‘Gassiness’ and ‘fussiness’ are common concerns for parents of new babies. Rest assured, all the nursing you’re doing is good for nutrition, digestion and elimination.

It’s a serious concern if your baby is inconsolable most of the time, is continually fussy and not latching well. It’s especially concerning if your baby is not having enough diapers or is not gaining weight. As you learn about your baby’s digestion, listen to what your own gut instincts are telling you, too.