Newborn Stomach Aches: A New Mom's Guide
It’s no secret that being a mom can be tiring. When your child isn’t feeling well, parenting can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. It’s no fun to see your child experiencing discomfort, but unfortunately, the occasional tummy ache sometimes can’t be avoided. Now, you can take steps to help your little one feel better in no time.
Signs of a Newborn Stomach Ache
How will you know when your little one’s tummy is hurting? Often, you’ll feel intuitive that something is off.
Moms develop a keen sense of empathy and awareness for their little one during pregnancy (this process is documented, and involves actual changes to the structure of the brain). If your child seems uncomfortable, look for the following signs for more evidence that their stomach is bothering them.
Some of the most common signs include:
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Crying an abnormal amount
- Arching their back
Possible Causes of a Newborn’s Stomach AcheGas
Like all humans, babies rely on bacteria in their gut to help break down the food they eat. This process causes gas buildup in the intestines.
However, babies’ digestive systems are still developing. This can make it difficult for them to pass gas when they need to. If your child isn’t getting air up during burping, swallowing a lot of air during feeding, or being overly sensitive to their milk or formula, the excess gas in their system might be causing discomfort.
Acid reflux and indigestion are, unfortunately, not exclusive to adults. In fact, acid reflux (also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) can be a serious problem in infants.
If you’ve suffered from heartburn before, you know that the sensation is a difficult one to endure. Babies with GERD will likely arch their back, grimace, and may spit up more than usual.
Infant constipation is a common condition, but fortunately, it is rarely serious. Babies may become constipated when their diet or routine changes. Because babies’ digestive systems are not fully developed, passing regular bowel movements is not always to be expected.
Infant constipation can have unpleasant repercussions. Your baby may be uncomfortable and bloated or suffer from cramps and stomach discomfort. This is one of the more common causes of stomach aches in infants. If you suspect constipation, speak with your pediatrician right away.
Even in exclusively breastfed babies, food sensitivities can sometimes cause a stomach ache. This is because the chemical components of the food you eat are conveyed to your little one through your milk.
Food sensitivities can cause stomach troubles and gas. If you notice that your little one is feeling poorly consistently after eating certain foods, try eliminating those items from your diet and see if their health improves.
How To Soothe Your Newborn’s Stomach Ache
Baby Stretches for Gas Relief
When your baby’s tummy ache is caused by gas – as is often the case – the primary issue is that their immature digestive system cannot move gas through on its own. Stretching your baby is a great way to help get things moving and help them feel relief.
Be warned: these stretches can lead to one stinky baby!
One great stretch for newborn gas relief is the happy baby stretch.
In this exercise, you will lay your little one on their back and take their ankles in your hands. Gently press their knees up and back towards their elbows, mimicking the motion of a deep sumo squat.
Another beneficial stretch is the bicycle.
This exercise also begins with your baby lying on their back. With one foot in each hand, gently move their legs in a circle, mimicking the motion of a bicycle. This stretch helps promote intestinal movement and gas relief.
Turning your baby over onto their stomach can also help them stretch and relieve gas. Tummy time is essential for newborn development. Not only will time on their belly help digestion, but it also strengthens their muscles and promotes the development of motor skills.
Newborn Massage for Gas Relief
An infant massage is another way to help move things along in your baby’s tummy. Massaging your child’s abdomen can help them pass gas or relieve constipation. However, make sure that you don’t try this technique immediately after a feeding, as it could cause your child to spit up!
One of the best massage techniques to relieve gas is to rub your baby’s tummy in a clockwise motion. Ensure that you follow a clockwise pattern because this is the direction that gas needs to move to escape its belly.
The following massage pattern can help relieve your baby’s stomach ache. Begin on the left side of your baby’s belly. (Left from your perspective; to your baby, this is the right side of their belly.)
With two fingers, gently draw a line along the left side of their tummy from the pelvis to the ribs.
Next, repeat this motion, adding a left-to-right sweeping movement. This looks like you are drawing an upside-down letter L on your baby’s tummy.
After repeating this several times, move on to the next phase: add a downward sweep on the right-hand side, making an upside-down U shape. Repeat this massage technique to help relieve gas and promote healthy digestion.
During infant massage, it’s essential not to use too much pressure or do anything that causes your little one more discomfort.
Massage will not always be the answer. Pay attention to their body language and stop if you sense that your actions add more discomfort than relief.
Elimination Diet for Food Sensitivities
Suppose you suspect that a food sensitivity is causing your child’s discomfort. In that case, you may choose to eliminate food groups from your diet one at a time over a period of several weeks to see how your infant’s condition has improved.
For this strategy to be worthwhile, commit to each elimination for at least a week (ideally, two). This is because it takes a few days for foods to be eliminated from your breast milk and a week or two for your baby’s gut to recover from the sensitivity.
Suppose you notice a marked improvement in your baby’s well-being after a week or two. In that case, you may want to consider continuing with your new diet and perhaps consider food sensitivity testing before transitioning your little one to solid foods.
Boost Fiber intake
For babies who have already graduated to solid foods, constipation can be treated relatively easily by incorporating more fiber into their diet.
Consider making homemade baby food with fiber-rich foods, such as oatmeal or even pureed prunes, to help their digestive system do its thing.
When In Doubt, Consult Your Doctor
If you notice more severe signs, like blood in the stool or vomit, green vomit, hives, fever, or severe discomfort in a specific tummy area, it is time to call the doctor.
A typical tummy ache will cause your child to cry, but in most cases, you will still be able to distract them from the discomfort, even if only for a moment. However, it's always best to consult a professional where your little one’s well-being is in question.
Make sure to speak to a pediatrician before trying to remedy your baby’s stomach troubles on your own.
Diet, Massage, Stretching, and Rest Are Key
Seeing that your little one is struggling is never easy. Fortunately, in most cases, a tummy ache will eventually go away on its own. However, this doesn’t mean that you should sit back and let it pass.
Instead, following the correct steps can make a monumental difference and help your little one feel better in no time. The most common causes of baby stomach aches are gas, constipation, and food sensitivities.
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A daily routine that involves movement, tummy time, stretches, and maybe even massage can help your baby’s digestive system get its work done and lessen the chances of developing a tummy ache.
Remember during this time that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your little one. Make time to eat healthily, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated so that you and your little one can be in your best health.