Congenital Heart Disease: Helping your baby grow
Some infants with congenital heart disease have problems eating and growing due to pulmonary
overcirculation. This term describes a problem that results from too much blood flowing to your
child’s lungs. To better understand this let us review normal blood flow in the heart and lungs.
Blood flows from the right side of the heart to the lungs. It flows from the left side of the heart
to the body. Both the left and the right side of the heart fill and pump blood at the same time.
Blood flows from places of high pressure to places of low pressure. After your baby is two or
three weeks old, the pressure on the right side of the heart is lower than the pressure on the left.
If there is an opening between the left and right pumping chambers, some of the blood from the
left will go to the right side. It then flows to the lungs. The amount of blood that flows across
the hole will depend on the size of the hole and the pressure in the lungs. The lungs act like a
sponge and when too much blood flows into them they do not work as well.
Concerns and Symptoms
You may notice it takes your infant longer to eat. The baby may breathe faster, eat less, need to
take frequent breaks, or get sweaty while eating. All babies vary feeding to feeding in how much
and how well they eat. If you notice a steady change in your baby’s eating patterns or if
you are uncomfortable with how your baby is eating please call us at (608) 263-6420.
Sometimes we use medicines to lessen the effects of pulmonary overcirculation.
Lasix removes unneeded water from the blood making it easier for the lungs to work.
Digoxin helps the heart be a stronger pump.
Enalapril lessens resistance to blood flow making it easier for the heart to pump blood to
Sometimes we use formula with a higher calorie concentration. A concentrated formula will
allow your baby to receive more calories with less work. If this is needed, we will teach you
how to mix the formula or enrich your breast milk. We will follow your baby’s weight gain as
will your baby’s pediatrician.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6858