What Is Reflux And How Can I Help My Baby?
Reflux is something that affects a lot of babies and it causes a great deal of worry for parents. It can happen to babies that are formula fed and breastfed. It’s main symptom is usually spitting up when your baby drinks their milk. It is an issue that usually improves as your baby develops but it can be incredibly distressing for both the baby and the parents when it is happening.
The pain that your baby experiences during reflux is similar to that of heartburn for an adult. The burning is due to the fact that the milk mixes with the acid in the babies stomach and rises back up the oesophagus. That acid has an important role in helping the baby break down the milk.
More than one-third of babies can experience reflux to some degree. It can be stressful to witness your baby in so much discomfort and hard to gauge how much milk your baby is actually consuming. It is also messy work and a baby with reflux will never be too far from a muslin cloth.
In some cases, reflux can be a symptom of an allergy to the formula you are giving your baby. Your PHN or GP should be able to offer advice on a possible intolerance and there will always be an alternative solution.
A certain amount of spitting up is normal for a baby. Their stomachs are tiny and can only handle a certain amount of milk so occasionally they may bring up small amounts of milk. If they seem otherwise happy and have no other symptoms you do not need to worry. Reflux, on the other hand, is more of a constant issue after the majority of feeds. Your baby will seem irritable, uncomfortable and in pain for a large portion of the day.
In some cases, there are practical things that you can do to help your baby. If the reflux is mild and your baby does not seem too upset by it you can try to feed them upright as this position tends to offer some relief. You can also try to hold them upright for thirty minutes after each feed (a sling/baby carrier may help you do this). Offering your baby smaller more frequent feeds can also be a way of helping your baby manage the milk better.
In more extreme cases you will need to consult your GP. If your baby is extremely fussy before, during and after their feeds they may have more frequent reflux that is causing them a lot of pain. If your baby is throwing up large volumes of milk at frequent intervals it may cause an issue with weight gain which can be a serious concern.
Your doctor may recommend a milk substitute that does not aggravate the baby’s system as much. This may be a case of trial and error. They may also recommend a medication which aims to neutralise the acid in your baby’s stomach.
In practical terms, a baby with reflux will require more changes of clothes when you are leaving the house so it is always a good idea to pack more than you think you might need.
And finally, on an emotional level, it can be difficult to cope with the very stressful situation of your baby suffering with reflux. It is important to be able to ask for help, talk about your feelings and know that this is not your fault.
This too shall pass.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.