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Important notice and declaration
Breast milk is best for babies. Professional advice should be followed before using an infant formula. Introducing partial bottle feeding could negatively affect breast feeding. Good maternal nutrition is important for breast feeding and reversing a decision not to breast feed may be difficult. Infant formula should always be used as directed. Proper use of an infant formula is important to the health of the infant. Social and financial implications should be considered when selecting a method of feeding.

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Colic & Constipation in Infants

Infant Colic

Infant colic is a common problem that affects around 20% of infants. 1 Primarily identified by an infant’s irritability or repeated crying, 2 colic can have adverse impact on an infant’s feeding habits, such as the premature cessation of breastfeeding. 3

Left unresolved, colic can have additional impact on parents and babies from a family and financial perspective. 4-7

The symptoms of colic may include: 2

  • Recurrent and prolonged periods of crying, fussing or irritability without obvious cause
  • Fever, illness, or no evidence of infant failure to thrive

Other, more immediate signs include crying that: 2

  • Develops early and peaks at 6-8 weeks
  • Worsens in the afternoon or evening
  • Lasts several hours
  • Improves at 3-4 months

For a family whose baby is experiencing these symptoms, colic can lead to severe stress and, in some cases, postpartum maternal depression. 8 With this in mind, it’s best to first educate parents on the prevalence of infant colic, and reassure them an end is in sight. Often, infant colic will resolve within four months. 9

Infant Constipation

Constipation affects around 15% of infants in their first year of life.1 Diagnosing constipation can be difficult, as it requires a parent to assess what is considered normal for an infant’s stools and behavioural issues.

Infant constipation can be very stressful to witness and manage as a parent.

The challenge of diagnosing constipation surrounds what is considered normal. Symptoms can be as following:10

  • Stomach cramps (pain that comes and goes)
  • Infrequent stools
  • Holding on behaviour to avoid painful poo
  • Hard lumps of poo may be felt in the abdomen
  • Hard lumpy poos
  • Behavioural issues.

Breastfed infants should continue with breastfeeding. If a baby is formula-fed, advise parents to look out for a nutritionally complete formula that’s specifically designed for the dietary management of colic and/or constipation.

Find out more

References: 1. Vandenplas Y et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2015;61(5):531-537. 2. Benninga MA et al. Gastroenterol 2016; 150(6): 1443-1455. 3. Howard CR et al. Breastfeed Med 2006;1:146-55. 4. Keefe MR et al. Nurs Res 1996;45:4-9. 5. Atkman et al. Arch Dis Child 2006;91:417-9. 6. Rauvata et al. Paediatrics 1995;96:43-7. 7. Indrio et al. Eur J Pediatr 2015;174:841-2. 8. Keefe MR et al. Nurs Res 1996;45:4-9. 9. Vandenplas Y et al. Acta Paediatr 2016;105:244-52. 10. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Constipation. Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Constipation/ (accessed 16 March 2018).

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Last Updated: 03/04/2014

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