How To Improve Your Baby’s Digestion

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Mercier, ND, PhD
By Shaheen Naser

Motherhood is one of the most fulfilling and joyful experiences in a woman’s life. But it’s not all smooth sailing. Seeing your little one throwing up or going through digestive issues is a cause for concern. While being a mother is not easy and you may not have all the answers to your problems, there are a few home remedies for better digestion in babies you can try. In this article, we go through some of the causes of digestive issues and how to treat them quickly. Read on to know more.

What Causes Digestion Problem In Babies?

Babies often struggle with digestion difficulties – thanks to their delicate digestive machinery. The esophageal sphincter, which is a valve that prevents food from the stomach from returning to the food pipe, is still developing in babies. This is one of the main reasons growing babies may experience difficulties in digestion. This also causes acid reflux in babies.

Other common causes of digestive issues in babies include:

  • Viral or bacterial infections. Such infections usually cause babies to throw up.
  • Babies tend to suck in a lot of air during the initial months. This can cause gas in infants, and it usually eases as they grow.
  • As babies start consuming solid foods, they may experience constipation.
  • Lactose intolerance

The symptoms exhibited by babies with poor digestion are often associated with the root cause of the issue.

Signs And Symptoms

The common signs and symptoms associated with poor digestion in babies include:

  • An unusually fussy baby
  • An infection that may also result in fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Bloating

Such symptoms are rather common in babies suffering from digestion problems.

However, if you notice any of the following signs in your infant, see a doctor immediately.

When To Visit A Doctor

Visit a doctor if your baby is exhibiting symptoms like:

  • A high fever
  • Severe episodes of diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or slow weight gain
  • Recurring hiccups
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting a green substance
  • Blood stains while vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Looking overly lethargic
  • Blood stained stools
  • Can’t pass stool at all

All of these signs call for immediate medical intervention, and you must see a doctor immediately if you notice any of them.

Diagnosis

When you visit a doctor, they might first physically examine your baby. This may be followed by a thorough analysis of your infant’s medical history.

Your doctor may ask for any of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Testing the albumin level to look for liver disorders
  • Complete blood count to look for an infection or inadequate feeding
  • Electrolyte tests to see if the baby is dehydrated
  • Fecal fat test – Your baby will be asked to be fed a high-fat diet for several days to carry out this test. The baby’s stool is then tested later to look for the fat content. Malabsorption does not allow the fat to be digested, and thus, high levels of fat will be present in the tested feces.
  • Fecal occult blood test to look for hidden blood in the stool
  • Hydrogen blood test to look for various problems like carbohydrate intolerance, bacterial overgrowth, etc.
  • Stool culture to look for bacterial infection
  • Urea breath test to look for the presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in the digestive tract.

In some cases, imaging tests may also be suggested. Such tests include:

  • Computed tomography or CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Colonoscopy

These procedures allow the doctor to look at different organs of the baby and determine if he/she is suffering from adverse digestion difficulties.

However, most of the times, digestion problems are only mild to moderate in growing babies and can be reversed with a bit of extra attention.

The following are some natural ways that can help enhance your baby’s digestive system.

How To Improve Digestion In Babies Naturally

  1. Infant Massage
  2. Warm Compress
  3. Adjust Your Feeding Position
  4. Yogurt
  5. Burping
  6. Breast Milk

Home Remedies To Improve Digestion In Babies

1. Infant Massage

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Massaging your baby can help ease many digestion problems (1). Start massaging around the belly button and move your hands clockwise, downwards. Progress from one finger to the whole palm, gently pressing down. Moving your baby’s legs in and out together in a rhythmic manner can also help.

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2. Warm Compress

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You Will Need

  • A bowl of warm water
  • A clean washcloth

What You Have To Do

  1. Soak a clean washcloth in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Wring out the excess water and place the warm compress over your baby’s tummy.
  3. Leave it on for a minute and remove.
  4. Repeat this procedure 2-3 times.

How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily until you notice an improvement in your baby’s condition.

Why This Works

A warm compress can calm and soothe your baby. It may also help with gas and bloating.

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3. Adjust Your Feeding Position

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Adjusting your feeding position while breastfeeding the baby can help in battling digestive difficulties like acid reflux. It is important that you hold your baby in an upright position while feeding so that milk doesn’t come back up. It is also recommended that you try and keep your baby in an upright position for at least 30 minutes following a feed (2).

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4. Yogurt

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You Will Need

A few teaspoons of diluted yogurt

What You Have To Do

  1. Dilute a couple of teaspoons of yogurt with distilled water.
  2. Feed your baby this mixture.

Note: It is better to consult a doctor before opting for this remedy.

How Often You Should Do This

You can do this whenever your baby exhibits any symptoms of digestive issues.

Why This Works

Fermented dairy products like yogurt were found to alleviate the symptoms of gastrointestinal problems in infants (3).

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5. Burping

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Another way to tackle digestion problems in babies is to get them to burp as often as possible between feeds. Burping up air can prevent the baby from spitting up the consumed milk (3).

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6. Breast Milk

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You must try and feed your baby breast milk exclusively until he/she is 6 months old. You should start feeding solid food to your babies only after they complete 6 months. Even then, you should try and feed the babies breast milk in combination with solid foods until they are about 2 years old (4). Consumption of breast milk also plays an important role in your baby’s digestive health.

These remedies will be quite effective in helping with gastric problems in babies.

Listed below are additional tips that can help improve digestion in toddlers.

How To Prevent Digestion Problems In Babies

  • Feed your baby more often but in small amounts – as this promotes digestion.
  • Feed your baby slowly, holding him/her in an upright position.
  • Make sure that your baby’s diaper is not too tight.
  • Handle your baby gently after feeding. Avoid rocking or shaking them too much right after feeding.
  • If your baby is lactose-intolerant, feed him/her soy-based products instead of products made of cow’s milk.

Digestive issues like constipation, loose motion, indigestion, or acidic burps are common for most newborns. While your first instinct might be to rush to a doctor, you can try out the above home remedies for digestion in babies. These not only help calm and soothe the baby, but also help fight infections and maintain the electrolyte balance. Warm compress, breastmilk, natural probiotics like yogurt, massage, and burping can all help relieve the digestive discomfort in babies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for an infant’s digestive system to mature?

An infant’s digestive system is not mature enough for complex or solid foods until they complete 6 months. That is why doctors stress on feeding your baby breast milk exclusively until they are 6 months old.

Can I lay my baby on his tummy after feeding?

Avoid putting your baby on his tummy right after feeding as it can cause his full abdomen to spit up the milk.

Why does my infant sometimes spit up after feedings?

Spitting up is very common among babies post feeding. Babies especially tend to spit up some milk while burping. Spitting up is a common infants reaction, but sometimes, it can also indicate reflux.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Effect of abdomen massage for prevention of feeding intolerance in preterm infants” Italian Journal of Pediatrics, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Breastfeeding practices: Positioning, attachment (latch-on) and effective suckling – A hospital-based study in Libya” Journal of Family and Community Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. GI Symptoms in Infants Are a Potential Target for Fermented Infant Milk Formulae: A Review” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Breastfeeding and Health Outcomes for the Mother-Infant Dyad” Pediatric Clinics of North America, US National Library of Medicine.
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author
Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology. She is a Geneticist with proficiency in Biotechnology, Immunology,... more

Dr. Jennifer Mercier

(ND, PhD)
Jennifer Mercier has been in the practice of women's health since 1999. Her practice started with Massage Therapy and Midwifery... more

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