Indigestion in Infants: Symptoms and Treatment

Indigestion in infants can occur when they overeat, eat too much, or eat too quickly. Keep reading to learn more.
Indigestion in Infants: Symptoms and Treatment
Leidy Mora Molina

Written and verified by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 17 May, 2023

Babies are prone to frequent discomfort due to their underdeveloped organs. One of the most common is indigestion, which is characterized by gastrointestinal discomfort due to poor digestion of food. But, how can we prevent indigestion in infants?

Indigestion in infants occurs when they ingest a lot of food and do it quickly, which makes it difficult for the stomach to process it. That’s why it’s normal to observe them frequently in overeaters and anxious children, especially in the first years of life. In this article, we’ll tell you how to identify when your baby suffers from indigestion, what to do to treat it, and some tips to prevent it.

What is indigestion in infants?

Indigestion in infants is caused by fast and excessive eating. This causes food to not digest completely or to digest very slowly, resulting in a stagnation of the food bolus in the digestive tract. In infants, this commonly occurs for the following reasons:

  • More food or milk is offered than the baby can digest.
  • Because of the immaturity of their gastrointestinal system to process certain foods.

In addition, some babies tend to eat with anxiety, which causes this problem to appear. The sucking reflex is also part of the problem, as it causes the baby to drink more milk to calm down and relax before sleeping.

The causes of feeding problems

There are different conditions that may affect the baby’s feeding. Among these, we can highlight the following:

  • When the baby accidentally eats non-digestible items, such as dirt, chewing gum, paper, or garbage.
  • When the baby eats foods that are difficult to digest, such as legumes, fruit peels, unripe fruits, and spoiled or undercooked foods.
  • If they eat or drink cold foods, especially milk.
  • By eating at untimely hours. When the baby hasn’t eaten for a long time and then feeds desperately or falls asleep immediately after feeding.
  • When the baby eats when crying or while irritable.
A black mother massaging her baby's belly.
It’s important not to force infants to drink more milk or to eat, as their stomach capacity is small and this could cause them to have an upset stomach.

The symptoms of feeding in infants

The symptoms of this discomfort differ according to the type of feeding the child has. Let’s look at the differences below.

Dry indigestion

In this type of indigestion in infants, there’s no diarrhea because the food remains stuck in the stomach and the intestinal reaction doesn’t occur. It’s characterized by the following:

  • Stomach pain
  • No diarrhea
  • Inflamed abdomen
  • Belching with bad odor
  • White tongue
  • There may be a fever
  • Problems with defecation and constipation
  • Irritability
  • General malaise

Moist indigestion

This type of indigestion is the most common. In this case, the baby presents both gastritis, that is, inflammation of the stomach walls, and enteritis, inflammation of the intestines. This causes abdominal pain, accompanied by constant vomiting and diarrhea. If not treated in time, it can trigger dehydration. Among the symptoms, we can highlight the following:

These signs usually disappear on their own within 24 hours. If they persist, the baby should be evaluated by the pediatrician to assess symptoms of dehydration, in addition to ruling out other digestive disorders.

The treatment of indigestion in infants

There are many popular treatments to attack this digestive problem. However, when it comes to infants, it’s vitally important that whatever is given is approved by the pediatrician. In general, indigestion doesn’t require medication, as it usually stops on its own when the cause is expelled.


In newborn babies, it’s advisable to offer breast milk on demand instead of limiting its consumption. In this way, the baby will learn to self-regulate their feedings, in addition to avoiding dehydration.

With your pediatrician’s approval, you can give them warm chamomile tea, as it’s widely known for its benefits in treating intestinal discomfort. If the indigestion is dry, you can offer oatmeal water, which due to its high fiber content, promotes digestion and intestinal transit.

A baby girl lying on her belly near a baby bottle of water.
If your baby has already begun complementary feeding, it’s important to offer plenty of fluids, such as water, fruit juices, and soup. In addition, avoid giving heavy meals and foods that are difficult to digest such as fats and sweets.

Gases and diarrhea

If the baby is distended and gassy, you can give them a gentle massage on the abdomen, with the help of some oil or cream, in a clockwise direction. It also helps to lower and raise the legs to promote the expulsion of gas and bowel movements.

If diarrhea is constant, the intestinal flora may be altered. If so, the pediatrician can prescribe probiotics. The important thing is not to administer medications or plants without medical consent.

What should we take into account to avoid indigestion in infants?

As we’ve seen, indigestion is a preventable digestive affection, as we can control some conditions that produce it. Therefore, keep these tips in mind:

  • Offer the baby feeding at the right times and avoid large meals before their sleeping hours.
  • If they’re exclusively breastfed, offer them on demand. This will prevent them from feeling very hungry and from eating anxiously.
  • If the baby has begun complementary feeding, it’s important to choose easily digestible foods and only those recommended for their age. Avoid reheated, fried, and undercooked foods, as well as fruits that are in the process of ripening.
  • Don’t force your baby to overeat or offer food when they’re irritable and stressed.

Don’t underestimate indigestion in infants

Although indigestion is common in infants, its importance shouldn’t be underestimated. First of all, dehydration should be prevented, as babies can suffer from dehydration in a short time. In addition, other consequences may appear, especially if the baby has eaten non-digestible elements such as paper.

If after 24 hours, the symptoms don’t go away, the baby should be evaluated by their pediatrician. The professional may indicate stool tests and other blood tests to rule out any infection by bacteria or parasites.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.