Over the last few years, I have worked with hundreds of reflux-y babies and seem to be helping to diagnose it more and more in babies with sleep problems. Reflux is tough; having been through it myself with my now 18 month old, I know how difficult it can be to: a) get the right diagnosis and b) live with an unsettled baby who finds it harder to sleep and feed than most do. Here I am sharing some of my Top Tips on reflux management, to help you along the way:
First of all: what is baby reflux?
Reflux is when a baby experiences food coming back up from the stomach, causing a burning sensation in the oesophagus and, potentially, vomiting, too. Remember that baby doesn’t need to vomit in order to have reflux and, in fact, “silent reflux” – where you don’t see the regurgitation but baby feels it – is probably far more common.
So, what can you do to help?
If you have established that your baby has some form of reflux (see my blog here on silent reflux symptoms), then there are a number of things that you can do to help your baby with the pain and discomfort they will be experiencing from the reflux, these include;
Feeding baby in an upright position and holding them upright for 15-20 minutes after a feed. This encourages gravity to do its job and the milk to go down and stay down in the stomach, rather than coming back up soon after a feed.
Feed little and often – reflux babies often prefer to take feeds in two parts. This is to stop a full tummy of milk sitting in their stomach, causing discomfort. Although I wouldn’t recommend feeding too often (more milk = more discomfort), allowing baby to take their time with a feed and maybe split feeding is often a good way of helping manage the reflux.
Prop baby in their cot/basket so that they are sleeping at an angle, you can get specific reflux cushions for cots and baskets to help with this. This helps baby sleep on an incline and, therefore, helps the stomach contents stay where they need to be during sleeping, rather than coming back up and causing light and wakeful sleep! Did you know one of the main signs of silent reflux in smaller babies is a difficulty falling and staying asleep?!
Have a think about diet – as many reflux cases are solved – or at least improved – by cutting things from either Mum’s or baby’s diet. This includes dairy, wheat, soy and eggs as the main food groups. Please speak to a Paediatrician before doing this but it is certainly something worth thinking about, especially if you are not keen on going down the medication route.
Make sure that baby does not have tongue tie – this sounds very obvious but tongue tie can cause reflux! Not many midwives or Doctors are trained properly in tongue tie, so make sure that the person you are asking has the correct qualifications and is able to fully diagnose using a tongue tie assessment. Being told “it is just a minor tie” can still sometimes make the difference between baby feeding well or feeding poorly and taking in too much wind, which then increases reflux.
Visit an Osteo – if you find a good one, a cranial osteopath for baby can make a world of difference, helping sort out your little one’s body to try and ensure that everything is in the right position to work as effectively as possible!
And finally: if you feel as though you have worked your way through these tips and spent days and nights trying to settle your baby to no avail, please do reach out for help. It is not the case that a baby that is putting on weight does not have reflux– your baby deserves to be happy and calm and you should not be told that they will just grow out of it! There are medications that can be used that will help your baby become more settled, but these are often trial and error and I would advise asking for a paediatrician referral so that you can speak to someone who really knows what they are talking about! Your NHS GP will be able to refer you, as well as start your baby on the medication path. You can also opt to see someone privately, if you are feeling desperate and not able to wait the length of time of an NHS referral, which can often be weeks – a long time with an unsettled, crying baby.
The Parent and Baby Coach’s Recommendations:
Tongue Tie Specialist – I highly recommend Katherine Fisher (http://katherinefisher.co.uk/).
Cranial Osteo – Laura Tilson is an excellent Osteo in SW London, for those in the area (http://ltosteo.co.uk/).
Gastro Paediatrician (specialising in reflux) – https://www.paedgastro.com/