My 5 Top Tips in managing a baby with reflux
Sophia has reflux and our journey up until now has been completely different to the one we had with her older sister Alyvia.
What is Reflux?
Reflux is also known as Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux and regularly occurs in newborn babies. It usually resolves within a year. A mixture of milk and stomach acid return back up the foodpipe and is expelled through the mouth in small amounts. If you have experienced heartburn, it is the baby equivalent. Reflux occurs as the baby’s digestive system is still maturing and the junction between the foodpipe and stomach isn’t fully formed hence some stomach contents can go back up the foodpipe.
Common symptoms are:-
Regular vomiting during or after feeding
Arching back during or after feeds
Fussy feeding or excessive crying during feeding
We noticed that every time I fed Sophia, she would get very fussy and scream during feeds. This in turn led to extreme anxiety and we wondered why she was behaving like this.
Every time I fed her and put her down after a small burp, she would vomit A LOT. I would then spend longer burping her but still every time I lay her flat, she would vomit. This along with her crying and fussing during feeding made putting her down to sleep on her own very difficult. She was only ever comfortable when being held by someone. Feeding took over an hour sometimes as we had to stop and start several times after burping in between. I quickly became exhausted.
I asked my friend who is a Paediatrician to come and visit us with her 2 little daughters one day. She observed Sophia’s behaviour and suggested that this looked very much like reflux. She advised to go and get some medicines from our GP to treat this. I asked her which ones would be useful and she mentioned a few, which I mentally registered.
Soon we were on 3 different medications, not to mention one having to be given during feeds, one after and the other before. All I was doing was giving her these treatments but it took some time for her symptoms to settle.
I also excluded dairy from my diet but this did not result in instant success either. After a few weeks, I weaned down the medications and realised the following steps helped her to be more comfortable. I decided I would stick to these as I wait for her digestive system to mature and eventually render her symptom-free.
Here are my 5 top tips to managing a baby with reflux
1.Feeding position- if you are breastfeeding, I found after much trial and error that the biological nurturing position was the position that would cause least discomfort. It didn’t matter where I was, I would try and feed her in that position so that gravity allowed the milk to naturally go down the foodpipe and enter the stomach. The baby is also semi-upright in this position too so it makes it easier for any wind that is gulped while feeding to be released. I found with Sophia that she would burp while feeding in that position. It made it much easier to burp her after as she had already let out some wind. If you are formula feeding, hold baby in semi-upright position while feeding or as upright as you possibly can while feeding.
2.Do not overfeed baby/feed little and often- they say you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby but in a baby with reflux you can! If I fed Sophia her too much, she would scream even louder afterwards when trying to burp her. This is because there is more milk left in the foodpipe to come back up towards the mouth. I therefore made sure I wouldn’t give her too much in one go. I would stop in between a feed to burp her and let her digest a little before continuing with the feed. I would also use the same breast for 2/3 consecutive feeds every 2 hours or so so that I knew she wasn’t getting too much at a time.
3.Burp baby during feeds- taking a break during feeds is vital. This gives them time to allow the milk to reach their stomachs and also eliminates any chance the milk and acid will come back up the foodpipe. When burping, try to keep baby as upright as possible and allow yourself up to 15 minutes in that position to burp baby properly. This can be time consuming and boring but be patient, you won’t regret it if you have burped them properly.
4.Keep baby upright after feeds for AT LEAST 30 minutes/Invest in a good baby sling- Gravity helps! This is to allow the milk to reach the stomach and stay there. Any milk still left in the foodpipe will also be encouraged to move down. My arms would get very tired holding Sophia for too long and I had a lot of things I wanted to get done. Also taking her for walks was difficult in a carrycot as she was flat and would almost always vomit. I bought the Close Caboo sling and kept her in that for most of her awake and nap times for the first 6 weeks. She fussed less, cried less, vomited less and was a lot happier. This led to ME being happier. I would strongly suggest investing in a sling for this reason.
5.Try not to feed baby to sleep- if you feed baby just before their nap, they will have milk in their foodpipe and stomach just before bed and there is more chance they will not settle or remain settled for very long when you lay them down. Reflux may be at its worst at this time. Even if you have burped thoroughly, try to leave a good amount of time between feeding and putting down for a nap.
Managing a baby with reflux is very difficult. There is lots of advice on the internet and via your GP. Having given Sophia medication for the first few weeks, I felt that I could do extra basic things to ease her discomfort. This I thought I would share with you as the amount of information available can sometimes be overwhelming. Remember, you and your baby will get through it and that you are not alone!
Also, this post is not a substitute for going and getting your baby checked and examined by a doctor. Many reflux symptoms can overlap with other illnesses.
Leave me a comment if you would like to discuss anything that I have mentioned.