Acid reflux in infants is on the fore front of many new parents mind when dealing with a “colicky” baby anymore. Before, if a baby was screaming bloody murder for no apparent reason, you doctor would call it colic. Now the culprit is infant acid reflux.
A friend of mine just had his first child who was 6 weeks premature and although she is now home and doing well, the poor little peanut is suffering from acid reflux AKA Gastroesophageal Reflux or GERD.
All babies have some level of reflux until the age of six months or so, that is why babies “spit up”. The valve at the base of the esophagus which connects to the stomach is not fully mature until that six month mark, give or take.
Another element to acid reflux that makes this so difficult to contend with is that not all babies suffering from GERD “spit up”, this is called silent reflux. There are a number of tests your pediatrician can perform to see if your baby is indeed suffering from acid reflux. If you suspect your baby is suffering from silent reflux then ask your pediatrician what can be done.
Today I want to focus on those who know their babies have acid reflux and offer you some tips and solutions to help lessen the symptoms and help calm your hurting infant.
There are four basic areas you can address when attempting to lessen your babies acid reflux symptoms and those are:
- Your baby’s position and activity level after eating
- What your baby is eating, breast milk vs. formula
- Your baby’s sleeping arrangements
- Your baby’s clothing
Your Baby’s Position After Eating
Let’s begin with your baby’s position and activity level. For the first 30 minutes after your baby eats, try to keep him/her upright in either a sling or some other soft carrier such as a wrap or pouch.
Soft structured carriers (like a Bjorn)are not ideal for this application. These types of carriers put pressure on the stomach rather then relieving it.
You also want to avoid car seats and infant seats (bouncy seat, bumbo, excersaucer) because your baby will tend to fold or hunch over putting pressure on the belly and causing the acid reflux to increase. Overall, you want a calm, quiet and soothing environment after your baby eats.
You also want to avoid bouncing or exciting your infant as this too can cause the acid to slosh in the baby’s tummy and cause irritation.
Granted, babies cry. But practicing baby wearing, one of the “attachment” parenting elements, has been proven to reduce crying in infants – crying aggravates acid reflux in babies. So, overall, try to “wear” your baby and avoiding bouncing or jostling in a sling, wrap or pouch for 30 minutes after feeding.
Breast milk or Formula
The next area you want to address is your infant’s diet.
Sorry if this but of information is “too little too late”, but breast milk is best for acid reflux babies. Breast milk is easier for a baby to digest than formula. The other side of the coin is that you will need to feed your breastfed baby more often since breast milk is digested faster than formula.
If you have chosen to feed your baby formula, don’t beat yourself up…there are still many things you can do to help your baby.
Try cutting the portion in half and feed your baby less and more often which will allow him/her to digest it much easier and again, reducing the flare up of the acid reflux. You may also want to try various types of formula as some are more digestible than others. Goats milk formula is said to be great for reflux babies. Your pediatrician should be able to recommend formulas that tend to be best for infants suffering from acid reflux.
The jury is still out on this tip, but some pediatricians suggest adding a small amount of rice cereal to the formula or breast milk in a bottle.
The thinking that being thicker, this solution will “stay” in your baby’s stomach. But, some advise against this as the the cereal will in fact make the meal harder to digest and therefor will kick around in your babies stomach for longer, essentially increasing the symptoms of the acid reflux. This is a judgment call only you can make.
Your Baby’s Sleeping Arrangement
Next on the list is your baby’s sleeping arrangement or position. I have seen some folks giving the advice of letting your baby sleep in a car or bouncy seat but like I mentioned above this may not be the best solution. Some models of infant seats are not as “deep” and allow for the baby to simply be reclined rather than folded, if that makes sense.
If you want your baby to sleep in a crib then you can try a sleeping wedge or you can elevate the legs at the head of the crib slightly to have the same effect.
There is actually a contraption called a baby hammock that was designed specifically for babies with acid reflux. It is an hammock style bassinet that allows you to adjust the bed to accommodate your babies sleeping preferences and naturally keeps the babies head and torso elevated to help relieve reflux symptoms.
I purchased an Amby Baby hammock for my daughter and she loved it. I purchased in instead of an arm’s reach co-sleeper because it came so highly recommended by other parents. Baby hammocks simulate the womb like environment and help babies feel more secure.
Your Baby’s Clothing
Finally, you want to be sure that none of your babies clothing is putting pressure on his/her waist. You will want to keep your infant in clothing that is one piece or with a non restricting waist band to prevent any undue tension pushing on your babies tummy.
This may seem a bit trivial but can really help your baby stay comfortable. I know it is tempting to dress your new little bundle in all of those adorable outfits, but save that fun for when this acid reflux stuff has passed.
Okay, I tried all of this and my baby is still miserable!
If all of these tips seem to show no effect and your baby is still crying, showing serious signs of pain, refusing to nurse or take a bottle, then you may need to ask your pediatrician for a prescription.
I urge you to use this as a last resort due to the many side effects as well as the strain any medication can put on your babies sensitive little system.
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