As a parent, nothing is more frightening than seeing your baby refuse to eat. The fact that they cannot explicitly tell us what is wrong only adds to the worry. You know they are in distress, but you don’t know why.
The tension around food refusal has many implications. A study by Bradley, Fine, et al. showed that maternal stress has the potential to impact the behavioral development of your infant.
Food refusal can also become a serious issue as it leads to malnutrition. In many cases, this can be extremely dangerous for your infant.
In this article, we will explore some of the possible reasons for food refusal and how you can address them.
1. Refusal to Eat May Be a Symptom of Digestive Tract Disease
If there’s one thing you want to watch out for, it’s the symptoms of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC can be fatal and typically occurs in premature infants. It’s a disease that infects the intestines and causes tissue death and inflammation.
While it is relatively rare, occurring in only 2% to 5% of premature babies, prevention is of utmost importance. Refusal to eat is one of the symptoms that you should be aware of.
One step that you can take is switching back to breastmilk instead of formula feeding. Why? Well, there is evidence that baby formula based on cow milk can increase the risk of NEC. TorHoerman Law states that brands like Enfamil and their parent companies are facing potential lawsuits due to this connection.
The primary reason? An infant’s digestive system is still maturing, and breast milk is the safest nourishment source. Cow milk is hard on your baby’s still-maturing digestive system. However, formula companies knew of these risks but still marketed their products as healthy alternatives to breast milk.
Enfamil lawsuit cases highlight the importance of choosing breastmilk over baby formula. With more than half of all mothers using formula, stopping its use is a step that you can immediately take. It’s important to note that not all baby formulas are risky. (Just the ones that are based on cow milk.)
2. Constipation Can Trigger a Reluctance To Eat
Sometimes, your baby can refuse to eat if they are constipated. Thus, understanding how a baby’s digestive system works is essential. As we already learned, infants have immature digestive systems that continue to develop over the first few months of life. This immaturity often leads to difficulty passing stools.
Even healthy adults aren’t in the mood to eat when they need to go to the bathroom. The only way your baby can communicate constipation is by crying and refusing to eat. This is why it is so important to be vigilant and constantly monitor each aspect of your infant’s health. Sleep, stools, behavior, and feeding habits are just some of the common ways you can identify issues.
As for why the constipation may be occurring, one explanation is dehydration. Babies can become constipated if they don’t receive enough fluids when they begin to consume solids. Dehydration can cause the stool to become hard and difficult to pass.
To remedy this, consult your doctor. They may recommend dietary changes, such as increasing fiber intake and fluids. They may also focus on toilet habits and a regular schedule around bathroom breaks. This is because predictable routines can help make bowel movements easier.
3. Allergies Can Also Be A Factor
Food allergies can potentially cause infants to refuse eating due to discomfort or negative associations with eating. Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts abnormally to specific proteins in foods.
Allergic reactions to certain foods can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain. Other times, infants may experience oral allergy syndrome, which can cause itching in the mouth and throat. This discomfort can make them reluctant to eat.
Remember, infants are highly impressionable, and negative experiences with certain foods can lead to aversion. They may become fearful of eating in general if they associate eating with allergic reactions.
Even if you have a slight suspicion that something is wrong with your infant, start noting down the symptoms.
Never force-feed your baby if they appear to be in distress. This is because the reasons for food refusal need to be understood and addressed first. At the same time, there’s no need to fear irrationally. In many cases, the situation isn’t a life-threatening problem.
Almost every mother has seen their baby refuse to eat for any number of reasons. However, with some investigation and a talk with your pediatrician, the issue almost always resolves quickly.