We are frequently consulted about how to handle babies who seem to have digestive challenges. They are spitting up frequently, fussy after or between meals, are “colicky” or refluxing. Handling it appropriately can make a difference in their lives for years to come.

Knowing what’s “normal” or a medical condition is important. It is not unusual for a baby to spit up for up to 1-2 hours after eating, especially from newborn to 4 months old. Generally, this stops by a year old. Spitting up can be caused by getting too much milk (breast or bottle) too fast. This is easy to remedy by changing the bottle nipple or for breastfeeding women to nurse one side fully (until baby stops) before starting to the other side.

Food allergies or sensitivities could also be the cause. The best way to handle this is for a nursing mom to consume a food group a lot for a few days and see if the spitting up has diminished or worsened. If it worsens, mom will need to change her diet. If bottle fed, change formulas until you find one the baby agrees with. You can find some super healthy, non-commercial/prepackaged recipes at www.westonaprice.org, or if you must use a commercial product, get a healthier one at the health food store – find one that does not upset the babies digestion. Food groups to watch out for include wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, high fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners or additives.

Mom also needs to see if she is taking any herbal preparations, vitamins, or medications that may be affecting a nursing baby. A baby could also be swallowing too much air, either because of poor latching on to bottle or breast, or because s/he is restless.

If the baby is on solids when s/he starts spitting up, perhaps the solids were introduced too early, they are a food the baby is sensitive to, the baby is being fed too rapidly, or if going through a growth spurt is guzzling too much too fast.

The baby may also have GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). This is more common in premature births, whether medically induced or spontaneous, because their digestive systems are less mature. Doctors generally reassure parents that the baby will outgrow this by 12-24 months, and many parents just let the baby suffer through it, or give them acid-reducing medications. Well, I’m here to tell you, they don’t have to suffer or take medications.

How do you know if this is GERD? If baby is continually inconsolable, has poor weight gain, weight loss, or failure to thrive, has difficulty swallowing, sore throat or hoarseness, spits up blood or “postures” (arches the neck and back to relieve the stomach pain), chokes a lot, or develops breathing problems while trying to feed, it is suspect.

How to relieve GERD or a fussy stomach is simple. Take a pancreatic enzyme formula (such as Multizyme from Standard Process), put it on a wet finger, and let the baby suck it off. This can be done with each meal, or when fussy. It’s amazing how well it works! Contact a competent natural health practitioner for dosing and recommendations appropriate for your child.


Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with over 36 years of experience. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic. Visit Dr. Carling’s website at www.VitalHealthCDA.com to learn more about Dr. Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Dr. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.