Feeding problems

There are a wide range of feeding problems that can occur in breastfed and bottle fed babies


Colic is one of the most common feeding problems in babies, but normally resolves by four months of age or six months at the latest. There are several things to remember when considering colic – an infant must display all of the following symptoms from birth to four months of age:

  • Bouts of irritability, fussing or crying that starts and stops without obvious cause
  • Episodes lasting three or more hours a day and occurring at least three days per week for at least one week
  • No failure to thrive.

The exact reason for colic is not known, but the symptoms and possibilities are discussed in more detail in Coping with colic.

Practical approaches such as correct positioning and frequent winding can be very effective. Special formula milks, anti-colic teats or over-the-counter medicines such as dimeticone (e.g. Dentinox Infant Colic Drops), simeticone (e.g. Infacol) or lactase drops (e.g. Colief) may be beneficial.

Cows’ milk protein allergy

Cows’ milk protein allergy is the most common allergy in babies and can cause an immediate or delayed allergic reaction. Symptoms of an immediate reaction typically present within minutes or up to two hours following exposure to cows’ milk and include irritation and swelling of the eyes, skin, mouth and tongue, sneezing and blocked nose, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. Symptoms of a delayed reaction typically begin several hours or days after exposure to cows’ milk, often with gastrointestinal or skin-related symptoms (e.g. eczema).

The symptoms and different treatment options for cows' milk allergy are discussed in more detail in Cow's milk allergy.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance can occur in babies when there is a lack of lactase, an enzyme needed for the digestion of lactose. If the baby is formula-fed, a lactose-free formula milk could be used, or alternatively, lactase drops (e.g. Colief) may be used to break up some of the lactose.

The definition, symptoms and treatment options of lactose intolerance are discussed in more detail in Lactose intolerance.

Colic is one of the most common feeding problems in babies, but normally resolves by four months of age or six months at the latest

Reflux and regurgitation

Reflux is when the contents of the stomach come back up into the oesophagus, and it is quite a normal process in healthy babies. Winding the baby during a feed and holding them upright after feeding can help to prevent reflux. Giving smaller feeds more often may also help. Thickened feeds may also be recommended. Regurgitation (or posseting) is when the stomach contents come back up to the baby’s mouth.

The definition, symptoms and treatment options of reflux and regurgitation are discussed in more detail in Reflux.


Babies, like everyone else, differ when it comes to frequency of bowel motions, but when constipated they will pass infrequent, dry, hard stools that may be accompanied by straining and pain. It is important to check that bottles are being made up correctly, as too much powder will make the feed more concentrated, which may lead to constipation.

The definition, symptoms and treatment options of constipation are discussed in more detail in Constipation.

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