Reflux is the term used when babies spit up their milk, combined with acid in their stomach (meant to break up the milk) after they have fed. As the acid comes up along with the milk, it can be quite uncomfortable for the baby and they may cry a lot, particularly after their feed.
What causes reflux?
Reflux happens because the muscle that is there to control food entering your child’s stomach doesn’t work properly (because it is weak). This means that when your child is full, rather than the muscle keeping it in, some milk comes up along with the stomach acid, which can be uncomfortable for the child. The feeling of reflux in babies is similar to heart burn for adults. Reflux is common and normally passes quite quickly as the babies stomach muscles strengthen.
What types of reflux are there?
There are typically three types of reflux:
1. Gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR)
This is a pretty common form of reflux. It can effect both breastfed and bottle feeding babies. It is when the baby brings up a little milk at a time, also known as “possetting”. This often happens when the baby burps after their feed.
– Spitting up milk after being fed
– Waking frequently during the night
– Refusing feeds
– Comfort feeding to help reduce pain
– Arching back during feeds
– Gagging during feeds
– Crying during feeds
– Weight loss or slow weight gain
– Frequent ear infections
2. Silent reflux
This is similar to the reflux mentioned above (with the same symptoms) except the baby doesn’t bring the milk out of the mouth. The baby may show signs of discomfort and coughing when they are lying down as they have the same reflux feeling inside but the milk and acid don’t come all the way up.
3. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
This is more serious than the two mentioned above and a lot less common. This is where the contents of the stomach rise up the babies throat and irritate their oesophagus. If it carries on long term, it can damage the child’s oesophagus and will therefore need treatment.
The symptoms are very similar to those mentioned above. However if your child has any of the following symptoms, take them straight to the doctor:
– Vomiting bile
– Projectile vomiting
– Always crying
– Having difficulty breathing
– Ballooned abdomen
– Passing black or bloody stools
How can I treat my child’s reflux?
You can’t stop it from happening as it is because your child’s stomach muscles are weak and need time to develop. You can however help to ease your child’s discomfort by doing the following:
1. Reduce and increase feeds – If you decrease the amount of milk your baby is getting, they will find it easier to digest. As you are reducing the amount during each feed, you can increase the number of feeds that you are giving throughout the day.
2. Keep your baby upright – After your baby has been fed, try and keep them upright to let the milk go down.
3. Carry your baby – Crying makes reflux worse so it is a good idea to carry your baby in a sling or a carrier when you notice them having any discomfort. The motion will hopefully soothe your baby and stop them from crying.
4. Burp them regularly – If your breastfeeding, try and burp your baby in between the breast swap. If your bottle feeding, try and burp your child every 2-3 minutes.
5. Make sure you are using the correct bottle – If your child is drinking from a bottle, make sure you have the correct nipple on it. If the hole in the nipple is too big, it can let out the milk too quickly which is hard for your child to digest in a short amount of time.
6. Massage – A lot of parents say that massage has really helped their child who suffers from reflux. Many say that it is because you are stimulating the parts of the nervous system which control the digestive system.
7. Elevate the babies head – Lift your babies mattress at the head end of their cot so that your babies head is elevated and they are not lying completely flat. This position will help your babies digestion.
Watching a child suffer from reflux can be really stressful for the parent. It is sad to see your child suffer and extremely time consuming and exhausting looking after them. Here are some tips which might help you manage the situation easier:
1. Always have towels in close range – It is a good idea to cover your shoulder with one whilst winding your baby so if they reflux, the milk and acid goes on the cloth and not you. Carry them wherever you go, just in case.
2. Stock up on sleep suites/onesies – As your baby might make a mess of their clothes, its advisable to have lots of onesies handy for when your child makes a mess. They are not very expensive, they are easy to wash and you can change your baby into them pretty quickly.
3. Wear white/cream – Every Mum knows how it feels to be puked on. Every Mum also knows that its worse when its visible! When you are caring for a baby that has reflux, the best thing to do is wear a colour of clothing that hides the vomit.
4. Carry a change of clothes – As you know your baby has the habit of spitting up due to reflux, always carry a change of clothes for them wherever you go.