Many a breastfeeding mother has asked herself: “Could what I’m eating be affecting my baby’s digestion?”. The answer, quite simply is YES.
New-born babies have sensitive digestive systems that take time to mature and strengthen. Some babies will of course be more reactive than others, and more prone to digestive upsets of all kinds. For some babies, even the tiny fragments of certain digested foods that end up in mum’s breastmilk may cause reactivity and irritation.
Signs of digestive discomfort may include:
- Difficulty bringing up wind (burping)
- Visible discomfort when farting or pooing
- Reflux, spilling
- Green poo, mucousy poo, frothy poo
- Rashes, eczema
- Extra distress, crying, squirming
For formula-fed babies, it can be a matter of finding a more suitable formula. For exclusively breast-fed babies, taking a closer look at what mum is eating and drinking can be key to easing baby’s digestive distress. For babies who have both breastmilk and formula, both options need to be explored.
The most common trigger foods are:
- Cow’s milk/Dairy
- Soy (and other beans/legumes)
- Caffeine (tea/coffee)
- Nightshades (Tomato, Potato)
- Cabbage family foods (broccolli etc)
- Spicy foods
This is a looong list, and so it can be useful to have some help to do your detective work and discover what exactly your baby is reacting to. If you tried to rule out one group at a time systematically, your baby could well be at school before before you get some conclusive results!
Dairy is in our experience the most common culprit, but if in doubt, non-invasive naturopathic testing can help identify possible triggers.
Some mothers are hesitant to eliminate foods from their own diet as they feel this will increase their own stress levels. They also worry that right when they need extra food the most, and have a million other things to think about, they won’t know what to eat, or have enough to eat. These are very valid concerns, and this is why it is so important to have the right support to help identify triggers and then make a proactive eating plan. Knowing what you CAN eat, rather than focusing on what you CAN’T is really key to keeping your sanity! It also helps to have a clear time-frame to work within, so that you’re not left feeling this eating regime is going on forever.
Like digestive problems in anyone, of any age, identifying triggers is just the first step in supporting optimal digestion:
- Identify and remove/minimise triggers
- Improve digestive function, restore good gut flora (specific probiotics may be useful here), strengthen and support processes
- In time, once symptoms have fully resolved, re-introductions can be made. This is best discussed with your practitioner, who will be able to guide you as to what age your baby may be ready to be reintroduced to specific foods.
The added benefit of testing reactive foods in breastfeeding babies is that it helps guide an appropriate schedule for the introduction of solids. A baby that has shown reactivity to certain foods through mum’s breastmilk will definitely be best served by putting these foods at the bottom of the list of ‘first foods’!
Other ways to support digestive comfort in your baby:
- Massage: gentle tummy massage along the line of the colon, and also using these same principles on baby’s feet. There are some excellent how-to guides online!
- Good burping techniques
- Checking alignment with a cranial osteopath
- Epsom salt baths to help relax physical tension
- Herbal medicines are excellent support to ease digestive discomfort when given at the right dose
Important things to remember:
- Babies’ digestive tracts are developing and maturing at a great rate. What your baby reacts to at the moment is not necessarily going to be a problem long-term!
- Changing your diet may feel overwhelming at first, but with the right support it can help reduce your stress levels as your baby’s digestive comfort improves and they can settle happily into themselves and get on with the important job of being a baby: growing and discovering the wonder of this beautiful world.