Dealing with reflux can be challenging for first time parents at first for parents already juggling the task of caring for a baby, but there are strategies that can help – and successfully reducing reflux can be a rewarding learning experience. Staying positive and remaining patient is important, often reflux improves over time and it is very common in children under one.
If the tips below don’t seem to improve your baby’s reflux after an extended period of time, or you notice their condition worsen, you should seek help from a healthcare professional who can assess your baby’s condition and provide guidance on how to manage their symptoms.
What Is Baby Reflux?
Baby reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is a common condition that generally occurs in infants between the ages of 2 weeks and 1 year old, peaking at the age of 3 or 4 months. The Reflux Infants Support Association reports that up to 1 in 5 Australian infants suffer from reflux disease, and other reports estimate that at least 50% of babies experience reflux to some degree. It can be caused by an under-developed lower oesophageal sphincter (the muscle which divides the stomach and the oesophagus), or when the baby’s stomach is too full.
These factors can trigger stomach contents to flow back into the oesophagus, resulting in spitting up or vomiting. Additional symptoms of reflux can include irritability, coughing or hiccupping, burping, and being unsettled during or after feeding. This can make feeding challenging, sometimes causing babies to refuse feedings. More serious cases of reflux can cause other complications, such as poor weight gain, respiratory issues, and oesophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus).
The presence of these more concerning symptoms should prompt you to seek the help of a physician or paediatrician. Although baby reflux can be a stressful experience for parents, there is no cause for worry if your child lies within the normal age range for the condition and reflux is not excessive. Reflux in babies is usually not a serious problem and can be treated with simple remedies.
Tips For Reducing Reflux
Feeding your baby in an upright position can aid in reducing reflux by helping to prevent stomach contents from coming back up into the oesophagus. It’s also a good idea to keep your child in an upright position for about 30 minutes after feeding. If you find that your baby is still experiencing reflux when they lie back down, you may need to attempt to keep them upright as much as possible, even outside of feeding times.
Many parents opt for ingestible products that are on the market to reduce more frequent regurgitation. One popular product that can aid in reducing the symptoms of reflux is Aptamil formula for reflux, along with others on the market that are specifically designed to keep stomach contents down.
Providing smaller, more frequent feedings can also be an effective remedy for reflux. This helps to prevent the stomach from becoming too full – one of the key causes of baby reflux. You can try and feed your baby every 2-3 hours instead of every 4-5 hours.
Burping your baby is an additional strategy that can be helpful in reducing spitting up. Burping releases uncomfortable gas in your baby’s stomach, reducing some pressure that may contribute to reflux. You should burp your baby frequently during and after feedings. In order to burp your child, hold them over your shoulder or against your chest, and gently pat or rub their back. For additional burping information and positions, see this guide by the NHS.
If you bottle feed your child, you should consider changing to a slow-flow nipple. This can help prevent your baby swallowing too much air during feeding time, which can increase reflux. For breastfeeding mothers, a fast let-down can also contribute to reflux, so waiting for the flow to slow slightly can help, and maintaining a nutritious diet is also important as the quality of breast milk may play a role.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek medical help if these tips don’t improve your baby’s reflux. A professional will have the best advice for you if your child is experiencing abnormal levels of discomfort and you are feeling overwhelmed.
Tips For Coping With Reflux
As a parent, it can be difficult to see your child in discomfort and frustration can result from trying to reduce reflux without seeing any visible improvement. However, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude when coping with reflux.
Keeping calm and relaxed during feedings will put both you and your baby at ease, reducing your stress and minimising fuss from your baby.
It is important to take breaks when you need them, and ensure you are getting enough sleep. There are many support solutions for parents who might be feeling overwhelmed. Consider reaching out to friends and family that can lend you a hand emotionally and help with responsibilities that cause stress. Remember however, that medical advice should only be taken from qualified professionals.
Finally, patience is necessary, as baby reflux is usually not a serious condition and generally passes with time. Remember – this won’t last forever.