Although it can sometimes feel like you’re the only mum with a sicky baby, reflux is an incredibly common issue. In this article, we’ll look at what reflux is, how you can help prevent it and what you can do to ease your baby’s discomfort.
Please note that the information included in this article is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice.
What is reflux?
Reflux, or gastro-oesophageal reflux, is a condition whereby the stomach contents rise back through the digestive system and into the food pipe or mouth. Sounds gross, but it’s fairly commonplace amongst adults and children. It’s particularly common in babies because the sphincter muscles that usually separate the oesophagus from the stomach are not fully developed at birth, hence making it easier for their feed to make a reappearance! Also, babies have a shorter oesophagus, meaning less distance for milk to travel and they have a liquid diet and spend so much time lying down.
Reflux is most prevalent in the first month of life. Some babies regurgitate their milk or formula more than four times per day making it a concerning occurrence for new families.
Types of reflux
There are a few different types of reflux, so it’s a good idea to record what’s happening with your little one before talking to your Dr.
Simple reflux - This is the most common amongst babies. When a baby has reflux, he or she will bring up breast milk or formula which, more often than not, will spill out of the mouth. You may hear this referred to as ‘spitting up’, ‘posseting’ or ‘bringing milk up’. Simple reflux is where a baby with reflux is gaining weight at an acceptable rate and seems to be happy in all other respects. This kind of reflux doesn’t typically harm babies and most grow out of it.
Silent reflux- Basically the same as simple reflux except that a baby with silent reflux swallows his or her regurgitated stomach contents so it doesn’t tend to get as far as the mouth. This makes it harder to diagnose.
When to consult a doctor
Here are some signs when your baby might be suffering from more serious reflux that requires diagnosis by a medical professional:
- Bub isn’t gaining weight at an acceptable rate
- Bub brings up a large amount of milk or formula after many or most feeds - sometimes it may seem as if bub brings up everything he or she drinks
- Bub appears to be unhappy and uncomfortable after many or most feeds - bub might seem to be in pain after feeds and he or she might cry a lot or arch his or her back after a feed; Bub may also be fussy between feeds
- Bub might experience breathing problems such as coughing or wheezing
- Seems to be having trouble swallowing
- Bub may also have particularly disrupted sleep.
Sometimes reflux is symptomatic of another condition, so, if you’re at all worried about your child it’s best to consult a doctor. If you suspect your baby’s reflux is a result of a food allergy or intolerance you must see a Doctor.
Are there treatments for baby reflux?
Babies with simple or silent reflux don’t usually require any intervention, and by simply switching to a Minbie bottle and nipple you may see a considerable difference. However, babies with more severe problems will most likely need some treatment alongside a bottle change. Treatment for reflux will focus on the underlying cause and in some instances, a doctor may recommend treatment with an antacid and possibly an alginate (which helps prevent regurgitation). You should never give these medicines to your baby except on the advice of your doctor.
Whether or not your baby requires prescribed treatment for reflux, he or she may benefit from a nipple that truly replicates the breast. Minbie’s revolutionary anti-reflux and anti-colic teats offer superior support of the mother-baby breastfeeding bond and allows bub to practice a proper, comfortable breastfeeding latch for direct-latch breastfeeding, therefore helping protecting them from the discomfort of reflux.
How to prevent reflux
Simple steps you can take to reduce your baby’s regurgitation include:
- Feed bub in a more upright position
- Continue to keep your baby in an upright position for about half an hour after each feed
- Experiment with feeding your baby smaller feeds more often (so that your baby still gets the same amount of milk or formula overall)
- Burp your baby regularly
- If you’re bottle feeding your baby, make sure you’re using the right size nipples for his or her age, size and level of development - a flow that is too fast will make reflux more likely. Chat to our team to find a fit that’s right for your baby!
- If your letdown is too fast for Bub, try expressing your breastmilk and bottle feeding. Minbie nipples enable babies to feed with the same technique that evolution has gifted newborns for pacing their own milk intake.
What not to do
Raising your baby’s mattress or cot slightly when they’re asleep to keep bub’s head above the level of his or her feet does not reduce reflux nor is it considered safe. In such an environment, there is a greater risk that your little one will slip down the cot and become covered by bedding.
Similarly, it is not considered safe to prop your baby up on a pillow in an effort to reduce reflux.
“We aim for a future where no child dies suddenly and unexpectedly during pregnancy, infancy or in childhood. The risk of sudden death when a baby is in the tummy or side sleeping positions outweighs any benefits of tummy or left side positioning of babies with reflux” - Red Nose
Adding cereal to a baby’s milk or formula to thicken it in an attempt to stop bub from regurgitating it is also not advised and you should always consult a medical professional before doing this.
How to cope with reflux
Even if you use the above strategies for preventing reflux, chances are your baby will probably still spit up some of the time. As a result, it pays to be prepared. So, here are some tips for coping with your baby’s reflux:
- Always have a burp cloth with you - You’ll quickly learn that you don’t want to leave the house without a burp cloth! They are super handy for mopping up any regurgitated milk or formula during each feed, for protecting your clothes and making sure the furniture stays clean. Here are some additional tips:
- When you’re at home, stash muslin wraps, face washers and other cloths in all the spots in which you feed your baby. That way you don’t have to remember to carry one around the house with you.
- If you have a favorite chair that you like to feed bub in, cover it with a throw rug or sheet so it’s always protected. (Having a spare is a good idea so you have something to use when the original is in the wash.)
- Keep at least one burp cloth in your nappy bag. That way you’ll always be prepared when you’re on the go, even if you have to leave the house unexpectedly.
- If you’re short on space in your nappy bag or pram, consider wearing a muslin wrap as a scarf when you’re out and about. There are some really pretty and stylish designs available so no one needs to know your trendy scarf is actually an emergency burp cloth.
- Cover all the ‘seats’ your baby travels in - Babies tend to spit up whenever you can’t easily clean them up properly (thanks Murphy’s Law) so of course they’re going to spit up when you’re driving or when you’re out for a walk and you can’t quickly get home. So, it can be helpful to have a washable cover for the car seat or capsule and a washable pram liner too. Always make sure any covers or liners don’t interfere with the safe operation of your baby’s car seat or pram. Check the instructions for these items for further details.
- Cover the backseat of your car - Babies don’t just spit up on their car seats & prams. They also spit up on the seat their car seat is anchored to. If you cover the back seat with a wipeable mat, you’ll be able to quickly clean up any messes. This kind of cover is also useful when Bub is older and is kicking the seat with dirty shoes and spilling sticky drinks and ice creams! Once again, make sure any cover you choose to use does not interfere with the safe operation of your baby’s car seat/capsule.
- Choose your babies clothes carefully - Dark coloured clothes may hide food stains when children are older but while they’re little, it’s better to choose white and pale colored tops as these are less likely to show the stains from regurgitated milk and formula. Similarly, choose clothing that’s easy to wash. There are some really cute outfits out there for newborns and young babies but they’re not always machine washable and you may not have the time or energy to wash clothes in any other way.
- Always have spare baby clothes and a bag for stashing any soiled clothes - When you’re out and about with Bub in tow, always take some spare clothes for your baby, even if you’re just nipping to the supermarket for a quick grocery run. Again, Murphy’s Law dictates that Bub will spit up all over his or her clothes just as you get out of the car. Spare tops or onesies are great for when your baby regurgitates a lot of milk. It’s handy to have a waterproof bag specifically for soiled clothes so you have somewhere to put them once they’re rinsed. This will ensure you protect your nappy bag from soiled, damp clothing. A simple carrier bag will do the trick or head to the swim store and pick up a waterproof swimming bag.
- Get some support - Sometimes it helps to connect with others who know what you’re going through or you might just benefit from having someone to talk to about your experience. If this sounds useful, take a look at the Living With Reflux website. Living With Reflux is a charity that specifically caters to the needs of families of children with reflux and GORD.
- Allow your baby to practice their instinctive breastfeeding technique - Encouraging your little one to practice their instinctive breastfeeding technique with Minbie will enable bub to build on their natural capabilities and therefore reduce the symptoms of reflux. Babies who use Minbie are able to control the pace of their feed, allowing the milk to be properly digested and ensuring correct & critical muscle development, all leading to less chance of suffering with reflux.