What is Reflux?
Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the valve between the stomach and esophagus opens or does not close completely and stomach contents and acids rise up into the esophagus. All humans have reflux many times a day, babies, more often than adults. Not all reflux is noticeable and not all reflux makes us uncomfortable. But when it's severe, the acids rising from the stomach into the esophagus can be painful.
Symptoms of Reflux
Frequent swallowing between feedings; arching when nursing, pulling on and off the breast as if she wants to nurse but it causes pain; fussing in the car seat, when she’s bent in the middle or when lying flat; and salivating or having near-constant congestion or rumbly breathing.
What You Can Do
Resolving oversupply can often cure reflux. Nurse often, so that meals are smaller and milk flows with less force. One of the reasons the Magic Baby Hold is helpful is that your baby's right side is higher if you use your left arm, which can be soothing. Minimize time spent in a car seat - the position puts pressure on your baby's stomach. Sleep so that your baby lies on his/her left side. Consider a wedge under the mattress to keep his head higher than his feet.
If your baby's symptoms persist or he/she seems particularly bothered, you can ask your doctor to evaluate your baby for reflux and refer to a gastroenterologist. Research does not support thickened feeds or simethicone drops, but these are medications that can help.
Natural Remedies for Baby Reflux
Elevate baby while sleeping
If your baby doesn’t seem to settle when placed on her back, try swaddling her and putting her in a chair. This is an excellent rocker/sleeper for baby with acid reflux as well. If you are co-sleeping, you can use this device, which would also work well in a crib.
Elevate baby while eating
While it’s tempting to use your nursing pillow and feed the baby as he lays down, it’s best to have him sit upright. This ensures that the milk goes down into the stomach versus staying up in the esophagus, which causes discomfort. You can also have baby lean slightly against your chest if you’re bottle-feeding, or have baby nurse upright. A Boppy pillow can be helpful for positioning baby upright after meals, too.
Hold baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding
To make this easy, you can babywear in an infant carrier or simply snuggle baby as you walk around the house or sit in a comfy chair. If the baby needs to go to sleep after feeding, be sure they sleep elevated to reduce acid reflux symptoms (never place any pillows in the bassinet or crib!).
The nursing mom elimination diet
Dairy can cause problems because the proteins found in this food can irritate a baby’s immature digestive tract. If you suspect this may be the case, give up the offending food/drink for a good month before you determine if it’s the culprit. Other common allergens include wheat, gluten, citrus, coffee, nuts, eggs, and soy.
While I normally don’t recommend supplements for young babies, there are times they can make a big difference, particularly with baby reflux. Try a probiotic specially formulated for infants. L. reuteri is an especially helpful probiotic strain, as it has been clinically shown to reduce crying time by 50 percent in colicky breastfed infants. The idea is that probiotics can boost a baby’s digestion and help alleviate many of the baby acid reflux symptoms naturally. Mix a little into breast milk or formula and spoon feed or give with a syringe.
Some babies may have reflux due to the birthing process. Griffin’s birth was long and difficult, so I got him to a chiropractor right away. Reach out to Positive Postpartum for a referral to Dr. Patti at Elevation Health. You can also try massage therapy or cranial sacral treatments. Again, look for practitioners with clinical experience with acid reflux in infants. Finally, you may want to do do some basic movement/massage exercises with baby targeting gas and bloating, such as bicycle legs or moving your hands gently along her digestive tract in a clockwise motion.
Nat Phos is a natural cell salt that we normally produce to aid in digestion, but it can be insufficient in newborns. Always consult with your pediatrician before administering homeopathic remedies. If you get the OK, dissolve 1/2 a tablet in breast milk and feed to the baby with a syringe after each feeding. Children under three months can typically have up to six tablets per day, but again, you’ll want to check with your healthcare provider.
Thank you, Genevieve Howland, from MamaNatrual and La Leche League International for teaching me this information.