Poor Feeding in Infants
in infants is used to describe an infant with little interest in feeding. It
can also refer to an infant who is not feeding enough to receive the necessary
nutrition required for adequate growth. Poor growth associated with lack of
feeding can lead to a separate condition called failure to thrive.
is caused by a variety of incidents. It is different from picky eating, in
which a baby may reject one form of milk for another, or a toddler may refuse
certain foods. No matter what the precise cause of poor feeding, undernutrition
is a top concern. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 45 percent
of child deaths are related to undernutrition.
important not to dismiss poor feeding as something that will improve over time.
This is a critical point in your child’s life, and missing key nutrients can
lead to physical and cognitive problems.
Causes of Poor Feeding in Infants
One of the
most common causes of poor feeding is premature birth. Premature babies are
typically poor feeders because they often have not yet developed the skills
needed to suck and swallow milk. Still, feeding usually increases as the baby
grows. If your baby was born prematurely but still has feeding issues after
leaving the hospital, it’s important to call your pediatrician right away.
include congenital conditions such as herpes and jaundice, and infections such
as viral gastroenteritis. Once these conditions are treated, poor feeding
can also be caused by serious conditions, such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
This is an overgrowth syndrome that causes infants to be particularly large and
grow at a considerably fast pace. It affects an estimated 1 in 13,700 newborns worldwide. Other serious conditions
- congenital hypothyroidism: occurs when the thyroid fails
to develop or function properly
- hypoplastic left heart: rare condition that occurs when the left
side of the heart fails to develop properly, and is unable to pump blood to the
- infant botulism: can occur when an infant ingests the Clostridium
botulinum bacteria, which produce a dangerous toxin in the body that can
affect breathing and eating
Less Serious Conditions
of poor feeding aren’t related to a congenital condition at all. Temporary
illnesses can make feeding uncomfortable (and even painful) for infants. Common
ailments that get in the way of feeding include:
- ear infections
- coughs and colds
When in doubt,
it’s always best to double check with a pediatrician. You don’t want to assume
a minor illness when in fact there could be a serious underlying condition.
difficulty is a serious matter. When accompanied with other symptoms, emergency
care may be required. Seek immediate medical attention if your baby is showing
any of the following signs:
not fed in over four hours
a fever of over 100 degrees F
vomiting after feeding
a persistent and worsening cough
becoming unresponsive to touch
of Poor Feeding in Infants
that is caused by an infection will normally stop when the infection is
the same for other causes of poor feeding. This can involve changing the
feeding schedule to consist of smaller, more frequent meals. It can also
involve switching feeding methods from breast to bottle. If a milk-based
intolerance is suspected, your doctor will work closely with you to find a
formula that suits your baby. If you have been formula feeding your baby, your
doctor may ask you to try breast-feeding to see if your baby feeds better.
serious cases of poor feeding require prompt medical care, other cases can be
resolved at home with the advice of a pediatrician.
If your baby
is breast-feeding, try to avoid:
- exercise right before feedings
(this can lead to a buildup of lactic acid in your milk)
- eating a lot of different foods
you don’t normally eat — these can show up in your milk and turn your baby off
- medications that can enter breast
- applying lotions and other skin
products to your breasts
- high levels of stress — this may
also make your milk taste differently
considerations may concern formula feeding as well as infants who have started
is the preferable method of nutrition for infants recommended by health
agencies such as WHO, it is a fact that not all
babies are successful with this method. If your infant doesn’t seem to latch on
despite repeated attempts, you may consider talking to your doctor about
feeding with formula, you may still be able to try breast-feeding. The key is
that your baby gets adequate nutrition.
months of age, your pediatrician may encourage you to introduce solids to your
baby. While solids shouldn’t replace breast milk at this phase of your child’s
life, most infants require additional nutrients around the 6-month mark.
Examples include rice cereal, pureed fruits and vegetables, and infant yogurt
solid foods can be exciting for both parent and child. However, some infants
don’t take to solids as readily as other babies. This can be alarming, but the
issue may be solved by:
- mixing cereal with solid foods
- offering solids in small
- only giving solids two to three
times a day
- starting with one food at a time,
and then introducing others as your baby gets used to solids
infant doesn’t like solids, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that they are a
“picky eater.” However, this phase doesn’t usually start until your baby
becomes a toddler.
baby is eating poorly, it’s easy to get stressed out. This is especially true
for new mothers who may not yet know the differences between serious conditions
and minor feeding problems. Remember that stress can worsen feeding problems;
not only does stress cause breast milk to taste bad, but your infant is also
unlikely to respond to your attempts at feeding if they sense something is
your stress won’t treat all causes of poor feeding, but it can help in many
cases. It’s difficult to find time for yourself during this busy stage of your
life — even a few minutes a day can help. When you feel stress coming on during
feedings, take a moment for some deep breathing beforehand.
in infants can lead to serious issues such as malnutrition and stunted growth.
It is essential that babies feed and digest the necessary nutrients to thrive
and develop. Any infant who is feeding poorly should be taken to a pediatrician
for evaluation. After a proper diagnosis, treatment may be necessary. In other
cases, poor feeding can be resolved through refined techniques and perseverance
at home. If you suspect feeding difficulties may be causing other issues, call
a doctor right away.