Why do babies get upset stomachs?
Tummy troubles are common during your baby’s first year.
Although baby can’t tell you when they’re uncomfortable, you may notice that they are extra fussy and/or squirmy, spitting up more, have a change in their bowel movements, or that their sleeping and eating patterns have changed.
Some common causes of tummy troubles include:
- excess gas
- baby constipationmilk allergy or other intolerances
- mild diarrhea (common in children taking antibiotics)
- Spitting up or reflux
How will I know if my baby has an upset tummy?
You know your baby—you can read your baby’s signs when they are in discomfort. But sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why, as they’re too young to tell you.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your baby’s gut health or tummy troubles.
What can I do to improve my baby’s gut health?
Here are some ways to support your toddler’s gut health:
Breast milk contains gut friendly prebiotics (human milk oligosaccharides; HMOs) and probiotics.
As well, prebiotics and probiotics in foods and supplements can be beneficial to your baby’s gut health. Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria, which can help restore or balance your baby’s healthy gut microbiota and provide relief from an upset stomach.
If your little one is taking antibiotics, your doctor may recommend a probiotic supplement to help protect your baby’s gut microbiota and reduce the likelihood of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends a probiotic called LGG to help manage certain types of diarrhea.
Prebiotics are a special type of dietary fibre that helps the growth of ‘friendly’ bacteria that support good gut health and, because they are dietary fibre, prebiotics can also help to soften poop. They are naturally found in foods like fruit, legumes, and certain nuts.
Prebiotics called FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides) can help gently relieve baby constipation.
What’s the link between antibiotics and gut health for my baby?
Your baby has beneficial, or “friendly”, bacteria in their gut, but also “bad” bacteria. The balance between these two is important for a healthy digestive system and to help support their developing immune system.
Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of your baby’s gut microbiota. When antibiotics kill the bad bacteria that cause infection, they also kill the friendly bacteria in the gut microbiota. This disruption may cause diarrhea.
Which nutrients are important for my baby’s diet?
By the age of one, toddlers should have a regular schedule of meals and snacks that generally follows Canada’s Food Guide. It’s important your baby has a balanced diet when it comes to gut health and overall health. Having a healthy diet is step one to preventing an upset stomach in your baby.
The following are nutrients important for your baby’s diet:
Macronutrients, such as protein, fat, and carbohydrates are essential nutrients for your baby. Proteins are vital your child’s muscle and organ growth, fats are important for their brain and nervous system development, and carbohydrates are your baby’s main source of energy.
- Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are important for your baby’s healthy growth and development. For example, iron helps reduce the risk of anemia and supports brain function.
DHA, a type of omega-3 fat, contributes to your baby’s normal brain and eye development. Breast milk’s DHA levels will depend on how much DHA-rich foods mom eats, and it may take time for your baby to learn to like DHA-rich foods such as fish and seafood, and to eat enough of it. So you may want to consider a supplement containing DHA too.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a key role in healthy bone development and in normal immune function. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, but it’s important to protect your baby from getting your baby from the sun. Breast milk is naturally low in vitamin D. Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend that all breastfed and partially breastfed infants and toddlers in Canada get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D every day.
Consider a daily supplement like Gerber® Supplements for Baby Vit D + DHA for your baby that contains vitamin D to help build strong bones and teeth, plus DHA to support normal brain function.
Abdominal Pain in Infants : 8 Possible Reasons Your Baby’s Tummy Hurts. Abdominal Pain in Infants: 8 Possible Reasons Your Baby’s Tummy Hurts - HealthyChildren.org Accessed May 2023.
Antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (aboutkidshealth.ca) Accessed May 2023.
Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, & Breastfeeding committee for Canada. Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. 2014. Accessed May 2023.
Last revised: August 2023
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