If you have a baby with reflux, you will know how tough it can be. I’m going to give you a quick rundown on the symptoms of reflux, my son’s story, and 10 practical tips to help you.
It is thought that one in five babies suffers from reflux, and as long as they gain weight appropriately it is usually a case of managing symptoms, and waiting for the baby to grow out of it.
Symptoms of Reflux
- bringing up milk or being sick during or shortly after feeding
- coughing or hiccupping when feeding
- being unsettled during feeding
- swallowing or gulping after burping or feeding
- crying and not settling
- not gaining weight as they’re not keeping enough food down
- Silent reflux is when these symptoms can appear without the baby bringing up milk.
In the early days at home with my little boy, he fed well lots of milk went in, but lots of milk just poured out. Reflux was suspected by our Health Visitor, and confirmed by the GP. Medication controlled many of the symptoms, but the milk continued to pour out.
Matthew was one of the babies who struggled to gain weight, and an anxious few months ensued, including an emergency hospital admission to rule out anything sinister going on. Various medications and milks were tinkered with, and eventually we identified what worked for us. The milk still came out, but he was a happier little boy, and when we hit 8 months and eating 3 full meals a day, it stopped.
So what words of wisdom do I have for parents who have a baby with reflux? I asked some fellow reflux parents for their advice too.
Ten Top Tips
1. Firstly you will receive a lot of advice, both solicited and unsolicited.
Feel free to ignore most of it.
“Thank you for that, I will look in to it” – Ruth
2. What works for one baby may not work for yours.
Or it might. It may work for a few days, then not work. There is no rhyme or reason sometimes, and that can be tough to accept. Importantly, look after your own mental health, don’t be afraid to say if things are getting on top of you. I found support at my local sling library, where many other families were going through similar journeys.
3. Find practical support where works for you.
My health visitor was amazing, and would come to the house each week to weigh Matthew so I wasn’t having to get to weighing clinics and keep explaining everything.
4. Get advice on feeding, whether breast or bottle.
Some people still believe that the breastfed babies don’t get reflux. Yes they do! Switching to formula is not the easy answer. Instead, insist on a referral to an experienced Lactation Consultant.
“Lots of a winding and burping during and after feeds to get the air out and there will be a little less reflux, possibly a big load of milk with the burp sometimes though. “ Katie.
5. You will need loads of bibs
You baby may need to wear them at all times except when asleep. Some people find dribble bibs suffice, however for us bibs that fitted fairly snugly at the neck to stop him getting milk down his top.
“Invest in lots of bibs. They save many outfit changes!” – Katie
“Don’t forget to check their neck rolls for sick” – Catherine
6. Nappy changing can be a trigger
If your baby vomits during nappy changes, consider changing before a feed and roll the baby rather that lifting their legs.
7. Muslin cloths are a necessity
Why not get some colourful ones? When they are a constant companion they may as well look nice!
“I keep having to say to my OH omg where is your MUSLINNNN…So…just attach one to your person”. – Catherine.
8. Put a load of washing on every day if you can.
It is probably one of the last things you feel you need to do. However keeping on top of the washing pile can give you a sense of achievement.
9. “Hold your baby upright during feeding and for as long as possible after feeding” – NHS
Slings are your friends! Babies can be bottle fed in slings, and many mums are able to breastfeed in slings. Being upright after feeds helped Matthew to keep as much milk and acid in his stomach as possible. Being able to hold him close, pace and gently rock provided him comfort. My husband carried him in the evening, freeing me up to deal with the inevitable huge amounts of washing that a pukey baby generates.
Likewise, the sling helped us to get out and about – severe reflux can be isolating. And it helped us to bond with a baby who was sometimes rather exasperating, through no fault of his own.
“For the screaming in the evening I picked some songs I really liked and learnt all the words to them for soothing and rocking – proper grown up songs, not baby songs. That was much more bearable than twinkle twinkle for the hundredth time!” – Claire.
10. Try to enjoy your baby!
Above all, don’t cry over ‘spit’ milk. Really. Don’t let reflux or the loads & loads of laundry stop you from enjoying your baby. Don’t be afraid to put them in the cute outfits (even if it’ll only last a few minutes], pass them to your friends/family to hold (don’t forget to pass the burp cloth too!) and take them on outings (even if the carseat is a pain to clean out). It will pass. I promise. – Alexis Dubief
Does your baby have reflux? What tips do you have for other families?
*Please note that nothing in this Blog represents medical advice. If you think your baby has reflux, please contact your midwife, Health Visitor or GP for advice.*
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Ruth Grint is a babywearing consultant based in Wirral, Merseyside. Ruth offers one to one consultations and group workshops on slings and carrying, as well as offering a range of slings in the Carrying Connects Shop.