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Does Your Baby Have Reflux?
According to pediatrician, Dr. William Sears, 25 percent of babies experience some form of acid reflux. That means one in four babies may suffer from this condition. If you notice that your baby is particularly fussy following feedings, it is something to consider.
What is Infant Reflux?
Infant (acid) reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is one of the most common infant feeding problems. It is marked by various degrees of symptoms ranging from mild, painless spitting up after feedings, to more severe symptoms of abdominal pain, sleeplessness and severe crying episodes. In fact, GER is one of the most common causes of so-called colic. If you have ever had acid reflux yourself, you understand the pain, discomfort and “heartburn” feeling that babies probably feel as well. Not fun!
Many babies with reflux will spit up…. sometimes A LOT, but not all reflux babies spit up. Some babies suffer with what is often referred to as “silent reflux”, making it more difficult to diagnose.
Fortunately, the condition is not usually serious. It is believed to be due to an immature lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus. As babies grow and mature, this usually corrects itself and babies “outgrow” the condition. Babies that are born prematurely are at greater risk for GER.
Are there Drug-Free Solutions for Helping your Baby?
Many parents are looking for ways to avoid medications. There are DEFINITELY some things parents can try first before resorting to medication. Most pediatricians are very supportive of this, too. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and they will most likely have lots of suggestions as well!
Reflux Feeding Tips:
- Feed Your Baby More Often! Since smaller, more frequent feedings are digested faster, that means less milk to come back up!
- Slow Down the Feeding with Plenty of “Burp Breaks”. Burp often and try to slow down the feeding with plenty of breaks. If you are bottle feeding your baby, take a break after every .5 – 1 ounce and try to give you baby a 5-10 minute break between each feeding session. Meanwhile, hold her upright while burping. Breastfeeding mothers can also take burp breaks after a few minutes of nursing.
- Hold your baby in an upright position after a feeding! If your baby suffers from reflux, it’s really important that she remains in an upright position after a feeding. Why? Simply put… gravity helps! Holding baby upright for about 20-30 minutes post-feeding will go a long way in helping her to keep her meal down. Hold off diaper changes until that amount of time has passed as well.
- Paced-Bottle Feeding This is a method of bottle-feeding that helps to slow down a baby’s feeding. When the feeding is paced, the baby is less likely to eat too fast or over-eat. Paced-bottle feeding very closely mimics breastfeeding, where the baby is in control of the flow of milk. Like breastfeeding, the baby needs to initiate the flow of milk by sucking. Here is a informative video which explains this technique. If your bottle-fed baby has reflux, I encourage you to use this feeding method!
- Feed your baby in a upright position! If your baby seems unusually sensitive to changing positions while burping, there is a way you can feed him and burp him in the same position. Try laying back slightly, holding your baby tummy-to-tummy. Then slide the bottle into your baby’s mouth while your baby remains in that position. Essentially, the baby is on top. This works well for both bottle or breast feedings, so give it a try! Here is what that position looks like for a bottle-feeding.
Reflux Sleeping Tips
Since your baby will most likely fall asleep after a feeding, you might wish to consider sleeping him in a slightly inclined position for about 20-30 minutes. If you have a swing or inclined infant seat, they are great for short-term sleep. Once baby is in a deep sleep, it’s recommended to transfer him to a firm, flat surface of either a bassinet or crib.
Health care professionals recommend that most babies, even those with reflux, be placed on their backs to sleep. If your baby has become dependent on sleeping in a swing or inclined chair, make it your goal to gradually transition him to a flat sleeping surface, especially for night sleep.
Crib Solutions for Reflux Babies
One way to make your crib more comfortable for your baby is to elevate the head of the crib about 30 degrees. This slight incline is often enough to lessen nighttime regurgitation.
Some doctors will also recommend a Danny Sling for the crib, which can hold your baby in place and keep him in that upright position without him sliding down in the crib. Danny Slings are only available through medical supply companies, so talk to your doctor to find out more information. This video shows how to safely raise your crib mattress to a 30 degree angle and also demonstrates the safe use of a Danny Sling.
Natural Remedies for Infant Reflux
In addition to special feeding and sleeping techniques mentioned above, there are also some natural remedies you might wish to try for relieving infant reflux symptoms. My favorite all-natural remedy is homemade gripe water. Most over-the-counter gripe water products have ingredients that I would not want to give to my baby. Read about the benefits of gripe water and check out my easy DIY recipe in this post.
If you would prefer the convenience of a store-bought product, I have several recommendations for great all-natural products that I would highly recommend as well. Here are some of my favorites!
Other Tips and Tricks!
- Try a pacifier! A recent study shows that using a pacifier may be extremely helpful for babies with reflux. Why? Because the pacifier stimulates the flow of saliva and encourages swallowing, which are both believed to help quickly move the stomach acid back down where it belongs! Some also believe that the extra saliva generated by sucking on a pacifier, coats and soothes the digestive tract.
- Diet changes -If you are breastfeeding, consider your diet. Some babies are extremely sensitive to what their mamas eat. There are several foods such as dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, etc. that you might consider avoiding. Pasteurized dairy is known for being especially problematic. Many doctors recommend that breastfeeding moms remove dairy from their diets if they have an especially fussy baby.
I’d like to make a distinction here between pasteurized and unpasteurized (raw) milk. Farm-fresh unpasteurized milk (I call “real” milk) retains the naturally occurring digestive enzymes and beneficial probiotics, making the milk easier to digest and allowing many mamas to continue drinking milk while breastfeeding. People who are lactose intolerant, are often able to tolerate this milk! If you are interested in learning more about buying real milk in your community, you can find information on real milk here.
- Changing nipple size – For bottle feeding, consider the size of the nipple. If the nipple is too small, the baby could be sucking too much air. If it’s too large, she may be gulping or drinking too fast. You can experiment with the size a bit to see if a change is helpful. One way to know is by observing your baby during a feeding. Does she seem frustrated with the flow? If so, consider a change.
- Dr. Brown’s Bottles. Some parents and caregivers swear by Dr. Brown’s bottles. The company claims that these bottles reduce colic, spit up, burping and gas. I have had many parents confirm that claim, so I am confident in recommending them as well. You can buy them here.
Why is Your Baby Crying?
There are many reasons why babies cry and it’s sometimes very challenging to know why your baby might be crying. If you have a fussy baby, it often takes some detective work to figure out why. I have put together a checklist to help parents with that task. This post has helpful tips and suggestions, as well as additional recommended products that many parents find helpful in calming a fussy baby.
*Disclaimer – The information in the post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Please make sure that you talk with your baby’s doctor if she seems to be crying excessively. Always check with your health care practitioner before giving your baby supplements, medications or remedies.
Have you discovered any natural solutions for infant reflux that you are willing to share? Leave a comment. Thank you!