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2 Gastric Issues That Can Impact Infant Sleep and How to Help

Tummy troubles in infants can often manifest in trouble sleeping. From constipation to acid reflux in babies, we’re breaking down the most common stomach issues and how to relieve your little one’s discomfort. 

In This Article 


Acid Reflux in Babies

Baby Constipation

Common Questions from New Parents

Baby sitting up on couch in Zen Footie PJ.

There’s a reason that a spit up cloth is basically glued to the shoulder of new parents, and they always pack a spare outfit for baby every time they leave the house. Spit up happens, constipation happens, babies have some digestive system upsets that have come to be expected. These stomach issues may be common in infants, but that doesn’t mean your baby (or you) have to live with the repercussions of them at bedtime. We have some tips and tricks to help ease your baby's discomfort when these tummy problems arise.

As always, if you're worried about your baby's gastrointestinal health in any way contact your pediatrician. These recommendations are thoroughly researched, but only your baby's doctor can provide you thorough medical advice and chart the best course of action based on their symptoms and unique health information. 

Acid Reflux in Babies

When stomach acid comes back up the esophagus it causes acid reflux and stomach upset. Acid reflux in babies is normally caused by overfeeding, slow digestion, as well as because the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach is not yet fully developed. Signs of acid reflux in babies most commonly include spitting up and passing gas. 

More severe acid reflux is called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD comes along with more intense symptoms like weight loss and can indicate that your baby has a food allergy or a more severe stomach ailment. Contact your doctor if you’re concerned that your baby’s reflux is more severe than normal. 

The options for treating acid reflux in your baby depend on their age and the severity of the problem. Lifestyle changes and home care can sometimes work well. But always keep your baby’s doctor in the know.  - Healthline

In most cases, though reflux is to be expected and nothing to worry about! Acid reflux is common for everyone - babies to adults and everyone in between - but even more so for babies because of their developmental stage. It happens with perfectly healthy babies several times a day on average. But it can sometimes cause disrupted baby sleep, so we’re sharing some tips to combat acid reflux in babies.

How To Help

  • 30 Minute Magic

Acid reflux can become worse when your baby’s laying down to sleep or have tummy time. So, since babies can’t keep themselves upright, try holding them or keeping them in an upright position for about 30 minutes after mealtime to help mitigate the effects of reflux.

  • Give a Little Extra Time Before Sleep

That goes for sleeping too! Mealtime is a definite trigger for acid reflux in babies, so be sure to factor in extra time between meals and naps or bedtime. Another bedtime tip for when your little one’s reflux is acting up is to rock them upright until they’re just about sound asleep. If they’re having tummy trouble, the less time on their back the better!

Baby in high chair eating baby food. 

Baby Constipation 

As a new parent, you likely talk about poop more than you ever thought you would. Everybody does it, and it is a sign of healthy digestion in people of all ages. But what happens when your baby is showing signs of constipation? As mentioned above, discomfort often becomes less bearable for your little one when it’s time to rest. Constipation, and the tummy trouble that comes along with it, can often lead to a fussy baby and disrupted sleep for them and you! So we’re sharing how to help a constipated baby to help your little one get sound sleep. 

Before we break down how to help your baby, we have to cover what symptoms and causes of baby constipation to look out for. Constipation in infants tends to be described as two or less bowel movements per week. But, some other common symptoms can be visible discomfort while pooping, bloating, abdominal pain, and (TMI but we’re all parents here) dry, hard poop. 

Now let's get to the root of the issue. Often dietary issues are at play, such as your little one not drinking enough liquid throughout the day or lack of fiber. Or, if your baby has recently switched from breast milk or formula to solids, this can often play a part in tummy troubles while their system adjusts.  

How to Help

  • Liquids, Liquids, and More Liquids

Try to provide lots of water between breastfeeding or bottle feeding. If your little one is over two months old, adding in a small portion of juice a couple times per day is even better! Juice can help the colon receive even more water.

  • Food to Help Regularity 

If your baby has begun transitioning to solids, regularly incorporating food that has a high fiber content can help avoid constipation. Baby food that contains things like beans, leafy green vegetables, and prunes are great for not only fiber but a myriad of other vitamins and health benefits for your little one!

Baby being bottle fed by mother.

Even if you follow all the recommendations found here and all the people that will no doubt offer their opinions, your baby might still struggle with these common tummy troubles. Just like perfectly healthy adults still struggle with occasional stomach ailments. It’s totally normal and nothing to have parent guilt over! If you have any questions or concerns, always contact your pediatrician.


Common questions about infant's gastric issues

Do Most Babies Deal With These Stomach Issues?

Every baby’s different, some may be predisposed to digestion issues and some may never show symptoms of constipation or acid reflux. Parents should just be aware of the symptoms and address them if they arise.

How Can I Help My Baby Struggling With Acid Reflux?

A key to avoiding acid reflux in babies is to not lay them down directly after eating. Wait for at least 30 minutes after eating for sleep or tummy time.

How Can I Help My Baby Struggling With Constipation?

Try to provide baby with water, or juice if they’re above two months of age, between breastfeeding or bottle feeding. If they are eating solids, be sure to use baby food with fibrous ingredients.

If My Baby’s Struggling to Sleep Due to Gastrointestinal Issues Can Zen Sleepwear™ Help?

Zen Sleepwear™ can aid in sound sleep but does not address any stomach discomfort. Zen Sleepwear™ is safely weighted in key areas to mimic a parent’s touch on their chest to soothe them into sleep faster and help them stay asleep longer. Over one million parents who have introduced Zen Sleepwear to their baby’s daily routine have seen improvements in sleep. The Zen Swaddle or Zen One offer the perfect size for newborn babies, and the Zen Sack is perfect for older infants to grow into. If your baby is having trouble sleeping, you can also check out some of our blogs on other sleep troubles:8 Solutions to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night and Baby Sleep Simplified.

Will Burping My Baby Help?

You certainly want to ensure that you burp your little one after every feeding. It is an integral part of their feeding routine because it gets rid of some of the air that they swallow while eating. However, these gastrointestinal abnormalities might occur even when you burp after every feed.


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Other Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics: SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths

Nationwide Children’s: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants

Healthychildren.Org: What is the safest sleep solution for my baby with reflux?

Athena S.

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