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Easing Tummy Troubles

Stomach aches and spitting up are usually just a normal part of babyhood. Here's how to handle the common problems and know when to call your pediatrician.

• Burp your baby. During the first few months, most babies will spit up small amounts of breast milk or formula after feedings. This can be messy, but it isn't harmful and doesn't interfere with weight gain. Spitting up typically ends by age 1, but burping your baby in the middle of and after feedings can help control it.

• Avoid overfeeding. Smaller, more frequent feedings may be easier for your baby to digest. If he's letting go of the nipple or looking away, it may be time to stop.

• Rest after meals. Limiting active play and keeping your child upright for about 30 minutes after feedings can help him keep his food down. If spitting up appears to occur all the time—not only after meals—or if feeding causes distress, your child may have gastroesophageal reflux, which occurs when certain digestive muscles relax, allowing the stomach contents to back up. Your baby's doctor can recommend treatment.

• Don't discount fussiness. Since many babies don't even seem to notice spitting up, your baby's mood can be a clue to his condition. If he's upset, or if spitting up is forceful or produces a greater volume than normal, he may be vomiting. After the first few months of life, the most common cause of vomiting is a viral stomach or intestinal infection. Call his doctor and give him extra fluids (such as breast milk or formula) to prevent dehydration, a potentially serious condition. Signs of dehydration include a lack of tears or urine or a depression of the 'soft spot' on the top of the head. In most cases, vomiting will stop on its own—don't use any type of remedy without talking to your pediatrician first.

• Watch for warning signs. Call your baby's doctor right away if your child has any of these symptoms: blood or bile (a green fluid) in her vomit; strenuous, repeated vomiting; a swollen abdomen; lethargy or severe irritability; dehydration; or inability to drink enough fluid.