Does your baby arch their back regularly? Do they scream if you lay them on their back or projectile vomit after meals? Or does your baby’s breath smell sour? Then you may be experiencing the troublesome effects of baby reflux.
Believe me, I’ve been there… When our second baby was born, all he did was cry. Harry wanted to be held constantly in a semi-upright position and screamed in pain if we tried to set him down - slumped in a baby chair aggravated his reflux, as did lying him on his back or side. It was horrific, absolutely horrific - I felt like a total failure because I knew my children depended on me to meet all their needs, to ensure they were happy, warm, comfortable and well fed 24 hours a day and if my children weren’t happy, then how could I feel happy? There was no happy new baby time, our days and nights were spent pacing the floors and trying to console our son who was so obviously in pain.
What is Baby Reflux?
Reflux in newborn babies is very common – after you feed them, it’s not unusual for a bit of milk to come back up (it’s also called spit up or ‘possetting’), and it’s a totally normal process where your baby just brings up a little bit of what they swallowed. Acid reflux is an uncomfortable and more serious form of this, which can lead to vomiting and weight loss. Symptoms include:
- Vomiting regularly, especially after feeding
- A persistent cough or wheezing
- Refusal to eat or difficulty eating (your baby may gag when you feed them)
- Heartburn, gas, abdominal pain, or colicky behaviour
What are the Symptoms of Reflux?
When your baby’s spitting up becomes more consistent, they may have reflux. Babies with reflux will sometimes spit up several times each day, especially during or directly after feeds. During feeding time, your baby may also gag or refuse feeds and show signs of choking. If feeding time stresses your baby and causes agitation and crying, it’s highly likely they are suffering from reflux.
Not all the signs of reflux present themselves during feeding, some will be ongoing; Hiccupping, coughing or crying excessively are all symptoms of reflux. Even ear infections can be traced back to the condition, especially when they occur more than once.
How is Baby Reflux Diagnosed?
There are actually two forms of baby reflux: acid reflux and silent acid reflux. While acid reflux normally results in frequent projectile vomiting and severe crying in babies, silent reflux is more subtle. The common signs include sour breath, hiccups, physical stiffness or discomfort. Luckily, most doctors can diagnose chronic signs of acid reflux or silent acid reflux in infants, however, some doctors may suggest the following tests:
- Blood tests
- pH probe
- Barium swallow or upper GI test
- Upper GI endoscopy
Natural Remedies for Baby Reflux
1. Hold baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding
To make it simple, you can wear babywear in an infant carrier, or just snuggle baby when walking around the house or sitting in a comfortable chair. If your baby wants to go to sleep after feeding, make sure they are elevated to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. The babocush is the perfect companion to make sure your baby is laying at an angle after feeding.
2. Elevate your baby while they are asleep
If your baby doesn't want to settle on their back, try to swaddle them or place them in a baby rocker or chair. The babocush is a fantastic cushion for babies with acid reflux. Simply place the cushion on your favourite rocker and watch the magic happen!
3. Elevate baby while eating
Although it’s tempting to use a nursing pillow and feed your baby while they lay down, it’s best to have them upright. This means milk goes down into the stomach versus staying up in the esophagus (which can cause discomfort). Your baby can even nurse whilst leaning slightly against your stomach, in a semi-upright position.
4. Breastfeeding Diet
Dairy may cause problems, as the proteins found in it may irritate the immature digestive tract of your baby. If you’re breast-feeding and believe that this might be the case, try keeping a food diary and eliminating particular foods / drinks for at least a month before you decide if this is the culprit. Wheat, citrus fruits, coffee, nuts, eggs, and soy are also common allergens.
5. Body Work
The birthing process can cause reflux in some babies. If you experienced any complications or difficulties during childbirth, it may be best to get a chiropractor who is trained for the postpartum/newborn stage. You can also try massager therapy or cranial sacral treatments. Again, look for practitioners with clinical experience with acid reflux in infants. Finally, you may want to do some simple exercises with your baby which target gas and bloating, such as bicycle legs or softly running your hands in a clockwise motion around their tummy, above the digestive tract.
6. Special Probiotics
While it isn’t recommended for young babies to take supplements, there are times when they can make a big difference, particularly with baby reflux. Use a probiotic created particularly for children. The hope is that probiotics can improve baby digestion and help relieve many of the symptoms of baby acid reflux. Mix with breast milk or formula and feed with a spoon or with a syringe.
7. Homeopathic Remedies
Nat Phos is a natural cell salt that our bodies naturally generate to assist with digestion but it can be insufficient in newborns. Consult with your paediatrician before prescribing homeopathic remedies. To use this remedy, dissolve 1/2 tablet in your baby’s milk and feed and offer after each feed. Those under the age of three will usually have up to six tablets a day, but again, always check with your healthcare provider first.