Breastfeeding A Baby With Health Problems

Breastfeeding is indeed a challenge for new moms. It becomes all the more difficult if your baby has a health problem. Even if he/she suffers from a minor health condition, you need to make sure that your baby receives breast milk, which is the natural first food for babies. When direct breastfeeding is not possible, you need to resort to other ways to provide breast milk to your baby. Know more about a few health conditions that may give you a tough time feeding your baby and understand what to do about it.


This is very common among newborns. Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, occurs when bilirubin builds up in the newborn’s bloodstream. The liver will not be able to break down the excess bilirubin and excrete it through the baby’s stool. This leads to jaundice. If your baby has severe jaundice, the doctor may suggest a special treatment with the light called phototherapy.


Sometimes, due to inadequate milk intake jaundice may happen. However, it is rare and occurs in about 1 in 200 babies. Whatever be the reason for jaundice, you need not stop nursing your baby. Make sure that you breastfeed your baby or give him/her expressed breast milk.


The inconsolable crying in an infant that lasts many hours a day is often described as colic. It usually starts between 2 – 4 weeks of age and and lasts until about 3 months of age. Even though the reasons for colic is not known, it is found that the mother’s diet can be a culprit. Some babies are sensitive to certain foods that their mothers eat. Studies have shown that there is an association between colic and cow’s milk in the mothers’ diet.


If your kid shows signs of colic and breastfeeding becomes difficult because of that, consult your doctor. Making a few changes in your diet may help your baby. Also, ensure that your baby gets lots of ‘hindmilk’ at each feeding and not just ‘foremilk.’ For that, finish one breast before offering the other.

Low Birth Weight

Premature babies often have low birth weight and mothers will have a tough time breastfeeding the baby. In most cases, preemies will have to stay in the NICU for special care, which makes breastfeeding hard. However, you cannot skip nursing him/her because breast milk can provide your little love all the required nutrients to stay strong. Exclusive breastfeeding results in adequate growth in low birth weight babies including preterms.


Breastfeeding may not be possible for premature babies. You can hand express or pump colostrum in the hospital. Talk to your medical team about the best ways to feed the baby your breast milk. You can also explore the possibilities of using an electric pump. Try to pump milk as often as possible. A baby with normal weight needs feeding every three hours. Follow the same schedule to pump your milk.

Once the baby is ready for direct breastfeeding, ensure skin-to-skin contact. Finding a comfortable position may take some time. Be patient. If required, seek help from a lactation consultant. More importantly, family and friends should support mothers of premature babies so that maternal stress and anxiety will be less. As you know, too much stress and strain could affect the production of breast milk.


Reflux Disease

With a small esophagus and weaker muscle tone, the babies are susceptible to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). As the valve that guards the lower end of the esophagus opens at wrong times, the ingested milk come back up the esophagus to the throat. Spitting up after every feeding or hours after feeding or projectile vomiting can be a symptom of GERD. Sometimes, kids may cry or wake up at night often. Slow weight gain is also not a good sign. GERD may also cause coughing, gagging, and choking on the baby.

If your baby vomits or spits up frequently after feeding along with other symptoms, it is best to talk to your doctor. Some babies may not vomit. But they will have other symptoms and may not gain weight. It is important to treat GERD. However, you can continue breastfeeding the baby because any other food like infant formula will be hard to digest for your baby.