Some of the common digestive problems that babies experience are:
Most babies vomit, or ‘spit up,’ from time to time—usually in relatively small amounts just after being fed. This kind of vomiting generally does not mean anything—not even if it happens daily—provided the baby is obviously healthy and gaining weight. If your baby does not seem well to you, if he vomits a large amount more often than once a day, or above all if he vomits with great force (projectile vomiting), be sure to consult your doctor or clinic. In some cases, vomiting accompanied by mild indigestion can be helped by a change in formula.
The regular, painful attacks of colic that plague many strong, healthy babies until the age of three or four months are also very hard on parents, who may be quite upset when their efforts to soothe the baby do not help. During a colic attack, the baby’s abdomen is distended and the pain makes her pull up her leg and scream loudly.
She may also expel gas by rectum. Some babies have colicky periods at the same time each day. Attacks usually come soon after a feeding, yet most colicky babies eat and gain very well, and changing the formula seems to make little difference. If you have a colicky baby—or one who is unusually tense, or cries irritably without definite signs of pain—experiment with various ways of comforting him. A pacifier helps with some babies.
Simply being placed on their stomachs and given a back rub quiets others. You can also try rocking the baby in his cradle or carriage. Keep in close touch with your doctor, who will help manage the attack and determine if it has a more serious cause. In some rare instances, he may prescribe a sedative.
The kind of stool a healthy baby has, even if it seems strange to you at first, is less important than a sudden or drastic change in his bowel habits. Consult your doctor or clinic immediately if the number of movements increases greatly, or if the stool smells different, becomes unusually watery or greenish, or are expelled suddenly or explosively. Do not be alarmed, however, if the color of the stool changes after you have given the baby a new vegetable—beets or spinach, for example. Also, a stool that has been in the baby’s diaper for some time may become greenish from exposure to air
A breast-fed baby is almost never constipated. If he should be, give him a little strained prune juice. Try a teaspoonful at first, increasing the amount to two teaspoonful the next day if the first dose has not been effective.
A bottle-fed baby who is badly constipated—that is, one whose movements are hard, formed, and perhaps painful as well as infrequent—should also be given prune juice. Do not do anything else about constipation without your doctor’s advice
Most authorities recommend that you begin weaning a baby before the age of one year. But this change of feeding should take place gradually, so that the infant does not feel that he is being deprived of anything essential. (Delay the process if the baby is not feeling well or the weather is very hot.) Praise your baby’s efforts with the cup, do not get upset by his resistance and spilling, and do not be afraid of forcing the issue. Reluctance on your part will encourage the baby to cling to his bottle
Teething can be uncomfortable, and some babies are quite upset by it, losing their appetite or suffering from digestive disturbances. Teething may cause a slight fever, but not over 38°C. You can help your baby by giving him something hard and safe to chew on, such as a clean rubber ring—but nothing that might crack or splinter
Thumb-Sucking and Genital Play
Thumb-sucking and handling of the genitals (sometimes referred to as infant masturbation) are nothing to be disturbed about in infants.
Your child will need certain immunizations to protect him against diseases. Be sure to follow the schedule your doctor or clinic recommends, and keep a record of immunization at home. The following is a standard schedule:
At two months, four months, and again at six months, babies are given the DTP, or DPT, immunization, which protects them against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whopping cough). At these times they are also given the TOPV (trivalent oral polio virus vaccine). Measles vaccine is given at or shortly after the age of one year, and may be combined with rubella (German measles) vaccine or with both rubella and mumps vaccines.
A tuberculin test is also made at one year. The DTP and TOPV immunizations are given again at one and half years and at four to six years (school age), and an adult-type TD (tetanus-diphtheria) inoculation is given at 14 to 16 years. Doctors no longer recommend routine smallpox vaccinations, and extra tetanus boosters need rarely be given.
AS YOUR BABY GROWS OLDER
The following list includes a very few of the things the ‘average’ baby does at certain ages. It is intended only to give you some idea of what you can anticipate and be prepared for:
Sources and References
Reader’s Digest Family Health Guide and Medical Encyclopedia
Timing of the Infancy-Childhood Growth Transition in Rural Gambia by Robin M Bernstein, Nabeel Affara, Saikou Drammeh et al
Infant Colic: Mechanisms and Management by Marc Benninga, Pamela D Browne, Monique L’Hoir et al
Weaning of Infants by K D Foote and L D Marriott
Maternal Immunization by Helen Chu and Janet Englund