Every carefully observing mother knows that if she changes her diet or if she is neglected in caring for it, her baby can easily develop diarrhea and show insufficient weight gain. The reason for this is that in infancy the burden on the organism from switching to nutrition – and to all other required services – is significantly greater than in later years, which means that the corresponding functions can quickly fail.
What are eating disorders in babies?
This is especially true for the work of the digestive system, so that the so-called nutritional disorder is the most common consequence of all damage to the baby organism.
According to usvsukenglish.com, an eating disorder is not only a bowel disease that is associated with diarrhea, but also a chronic growth disorder in the child, which is expressed in insufficient weight gain or weight loss. In addition to the failure of digestion in the gastrointestinal tract, the essence of the nutritional disorder in babies lies in the poor functioning of the entire metabolism. The triggering causes of this disorder can be varied.
However, they all lead to a more or less uniform, characteristic clinical picture that should be described in more detail so that every mother or carer notices the initial symptoms of this disorder and can get medical advice at the right moment. Because here, too, the principle applies that treatment in the early stages of the disease may help avert serious dangers for the child.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
We must always consider the onset of a nutritional disorder when the child’s mood changes obviously. The otherwise lively child becomes tearful, restless and does not sleep as soundly and for as long as before. If the baby’s rosy complexion disappears and there is also a loss of appetite, or if the child suddenly refuses food altogether, there is certainly a risk of an eating disorder.
The earlier these disorders are recognized and diagnosed, the better this affects the further course of the disease. Due to the eating disorders and loss of appetite in babies and toddlers, children lose weight and lose important nutrients and vitamins. This leads to various deficiency symptoms and a significantly delayed development.
The growth of the child is also greatly delayed by these disorders, so that various complaints and complications can arise in later life. The child’s metabolism is also disturbed by the symptoms, which can also lead to severe poisoning and vomiting. In the worst case, the child dies from the consequences of these eating disorders.
However, not every child who suddenly refuses food does not have to have a gastrointestinal disorder. Sometimes an infant can have a blocked nose from a runny nose, which prevents them from drinking. Other illnesses and complaints, such as pain in the stomach or intestines, can also be the reason for a temporary loss of appetite. This does not require direct treatment of the eating disorders, but rather that of the underlying disease.
Another very serious sign of a nutritional disorder is when the child vomits several times. His condition can change in a life-threatening manner within a few hours because the vomiting removes fluids and salts from the body. A lack of fluids and salts, in turn, causes a disruption of all metabolic functions, and so prolonged vomiting can lead to severe poisoning. The infant becomes very dull, sometimes even unconscious, and its general well-being is considerably disturbed.
The same can be caused by diarrhea occurring at the height of an acute nutritional disorder. While the normal bottle-fed child empties one or two firm, shaped, brownish-colored stools a day, a diarrhea-disturbed baby develops thin, foul-smelling, sometimes even watery stools several times a day, in which the solid components float unbound as granular pea-sized particles.
In addition, the color of the stool is no longer brown, but is getting lighter, brownish-yellow to yellow, and possibly even green. The evacuations can also be purulent and mucous and contain blood, which is always due to an inflammation of the intestinal mucosa.
If the child’s vomiting and diarrhea cannot be stopped by appropriate measures, a significant growth disorder sets in. The baby is no longer gaining weight, but is losing weight rapidly, the skin becomes dry and pale, and the occasional fever may occur.
Most serious and life-threatening nutritional disorders, however, proceed without a fever, which is why we should not be guided solely by the increase in body temperature when assessing the state of health of our child. So it would be wrong if a mother, despite the signs of an eating disorder just mentioned, does not go to the pediatrician’s office just because the child does not have a fever.
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Let us now ask ourselves what causes the nutritional disorder and whether we can avoid it with proper care. The opinion is still very widespread that eating disorders can always only be a result of incorrect feeding or are caused by the milk formula itself. How little this is can be seen from the fact that breast children can also develop nutritional disorders, although breast milk is never made inappropriately and is always supplied to the child in a fresh and unspoilt form, so that it in no way triggers an eating disorder in the infant can.
If a nutritional disorder does occur in a breast infant that is fully breastfed, this is due either to overeating or malnutrition of the baby or to errors in the care of the child. Overfeeding of the breast infant can occur if it is applied too often or if a very small child is breastfed on a breast that is too milk-rich. In these cases, all the signs that point to an incipient nutritional disorder can appear. The toddler becomes pale and restless, vomits, and sometimes diarrhea occurs as well.
Overeating should be avoided if, at the slightest sign of disturbance, the child is weighed for several days before and after each meal in order to control the amount consumed. If it turns out that a baby who is older than a week drinks far more than 1/5 of its body weight in milk per day, it is advisable to breastfeed it less or to shorten the breastfeeding period.
Much more often than overeating, however, malnutrition is observed in the breast child, that is, the child is no longer gaining enough weight and the normal weight gain per day, which is around 20-30 grams, cannot be achieved. The cause for this is usually a lack of functionality of the mother’s breast. In such cases, laying the baby on frequently, possibly on both sides, can improve milk production. All other so-called milking agents, such as malt beer, high altitude solar radiation and the like, have no safe effect.
Abnormal bowel movements
In this context, it must be emphasized that the stool is usually a little thinner in breast infants than in infants artificially fed with cow’s milk. The healthy breast infant empties three to four golden-yellow, sour, aromatic smelling and sometimes greenish-colored stools with a little mucus content every day.
Often the golden yellow color of the stool only changes to greenish some time after it has been emptied due to changes in the color of the stool due to the ingress of oxygen from the air. This green color does not matter as long as the baby is gaining weight, cheerful, and looking pink.
If the nursing mother is a heavy smoker or eats foods containing laxatives, such as rhubarb, the infant may temporarily lose stools. These disturbances can be remedied immediately by a sensible lifestyle of the mother. A real eating disorder is only present in babies if the stool is evacuated more than five times a day and all of the above symptoms, such as diarrhea, loss of appetite and vomiting, occur.
Many mothers are also concerned that their breastfed child does not defecate enough, even every other day. Let me tell you that this is a harmless phenomenon that does not require treatment in a breast infant that is growing well in spite of everything. Sometimes, however, it is also an expression of the fact that the child is not really being fed from the breast. In stubborn cases, intestinal activity can be stimulated by adding one to two teaspoons of malt extract or organic malt.
In general, however, this phenomenon occurs as soon as fruit juice or vegetables are fed in the third to fourth month of life. In no case is it advisable – as it happens again and again – to insert soap suppositories or to insert small enemas every day, since tears and inflammations can easily occur in this area as a result of mechanical irritation of the rectal mucosa.
When should you go to the doctor?
If the child has no appetite, this does not always have to be clarified by a doctor. In the case of an infection or a mere cold, babies and toddlers usually feel less hungry – after recovery, they compensate for the deficits on their own. However, if the eating disorder persists for a long time, the child must be taken to a doctor. This is especially true if further complaints arise. If the loss of appetite is accompanied by gastrointestinal complaints or fever, for example, a doctor should be consulted.
If the child also stops drinking, it is best to consult a doctor immediately. A doctor should also be called in if the loss of appetite persists for more than a week or if the child generally looks tired. Children with previous illnesses should see their pediatrician quickly with eating disorders and loss of appetite. If there are signs of dehydration or deficiency symptoms, a visit to the nearest clinic is recommended. Close medical supervision is then absolutely necessary.
Overheating & heat stroke as the cause
Among the damage caused by care, the risk of overheating of the child in the summer months should be emphasized. Prolonged stays in the blazing sun and excessive clothing on warm days can very quickly lead to overheating in the baby and thus to a disturbance of the general condition, which often triggers a serious eating disorder.
It is an old pediatrician experience that around 2/3 of all children are too warm and only a few percent are too lightly clothed. Over-anxious mothers should therefore bear in mind that overheating in summer due to unsuitable clothing is at least as harmful as hypothermia due to too light clothing during the cold season. Both of these can lead to significant growth disorders in the child, which is why this advice should be heeded by every mother.
We can therefore state that a nutritional disorder in the baby, be it acute or chronic, is never an expression of the fact that the baby is not getting the breast milk, but that the cause is always to be found in the baby itself. There is no such thing as incompatible breast milk, and weaning the child off of breast milk does not make sense in these cases.
Outlook & forecast
The prognosis of eating disorders and loss of appetite in babies and toddlers depends on professional help and how parents deal with the offspring. The more pressure exerted on the child to eat, the greater the consequential damage.
Most premature babies have problems changing their diet. They are initially fed with a tube and are therefore not used to ingesting food by mouth. It takes patience, ease and a playful understanding in dealing with the children in order to cure the eating disorders. The more understanding the parents are in everyday life, the better the prognosis.
When using mental health care, the prognosis improves immensely. The children should be able to touch the food. Temporary food ingestion with your fingers can be helpful in improving the eating disorder. With strict handling, excessive cleanliness and rigid rules, the state of health worsens.
An unfavorable prognosis is to be expected as soon as the food is forcefully transported into the child’s mouth. The goal is achieved in the short term, but the vulnerability to consequential damage and a permanent eating disorder remains. In addition, other mental illnesses can develop, which make the prospect of a cure even more difficult.
If a child has an eating disorder or anorexia, specific follow-up care should be followed. Particularly in childhood, it is important to ensure that children are properly fed. If there are already problems in this area during this time, it is essential to ensure that the child is shown a healthy and regular diet after successful therapy.
Even if the child previously suffered from loss of appetite, healthy foods should be made palatable to the child. A professionally put together nutrition plan can help. It is also difficult for parents to design the perfect aftercare for their child. This is exactly why there are trained people who can be a real support for the family in the areas of nutrition.
If the child is on the mend, further care should be taken to ensure that they eat regularly and do not suffer from setbacks. Parents or other caregivers play a major role in this. If these guidelines are followed, the child will soon be on the mend.
You can do that yourself
As diverse as the causes of eating disorders and loss of appetite in babies and toddlers are, as diverse are the measures that the parents of the affected children in particular can take.
First of all, it is important that affected children are not forced to eat, provided that no health damage has occurred due to the inadequate intake of nutrients. The focus should be on offering well-taken meals in portions that are manageable. Snacks between meals and small snacks should be suspended – regardless of whether they are raw vegetables or sweets.
The administration of bitter substances can also be helpful. Plants that contain these in sufficient quantities should be sweetened a little (honey) and given as juice or tea. Bitter orange syrup is also suitable as a home remedy for loss of appetite.
Food can also be given in a playful way to motivate young children to eat. Eating together with the child can lead to imitation behavior. If parents and child also eat the same thing, the child’s motivation to eat can be strengthened because it adheres to a role model.
If, on the other hand, the causes of eating disorders and loss of appetite are disease-related, they must be treated. In any case of reduced food intake, care must be taken to ensure that enough fluid is taken in and that no significant weight loss occurs.