Reflux is quite common amongst newborns. It can be a very frightening experience the first time your tiny child projectile vomits. My experiences with reflux and colic started not long after the birth of my son.
When my son was 3 days old my milk came in. Up until then he had been fine but all of a sudden he was throwing up after every feed. He seemed to be bringing up so much and I was so worried about him.
Then one night, when he was just 2 weeks old, he simply couldn’t latch on to my breast. He was screaming and clearly in a lot of pain. I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. I had always used breastfeeding to calm him down but this time I couldn’t. He went to sleep fitfully and woke a short time later, still screaming. His stomach felt solid with gas but we couldn’t bring it up.
On both of these occasions I called out the doctor to see him. And both times I was reassured that this was normal and nothing to be worried about. My instincts told me otherwise.
Lucky for the whole family, we only experienced sporadic bouts of colic after the first time. For many parents it is something they have to deal with on a daily basis. For our son, his daily plight was with reflux. I would sit upright with him after each feed for up to an hour to give him time to digest my milk. We would take a bath towel everywhere we went – think Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy!
But what caused it? And what can you do if it happens to your baby?
It turned out that for us the issue was dairy. It was a big part of my diet and milk had been my favourite thing to drink throughout my pregnancy. After doing some intense research I came across Martha Sears elimination diet. It was hard going for 2 weeks but not only did my sons reflux improve, his wind disappeared and his eczema drastically improved too. Several times since then I have reintroduced dairy in to my diet and although he has now stopped being sick, he will always get an eczema flare up if either of us eat dairy.
Dairy is not the only dietary cause though, which is why it is a good idea to keep a food diary to see if your baby has a food intolerance. Common culprits are onion, garlic and broccoli.
Other reasons for bringing up milk include a fast flow or strong let down. In these cases a good tip is to let your milk squirt in to a muslin when it lets down until it has slowed enough for baby to drink more easily without guzzling. Alternatively you could pump a little bit before feeding your baby to relieve the pressure and slow the flow.
Stress is also a factor. If you are not relaxed or you are feeding your baby in an overstimulating environment, try to change this. Create a relaxed space for your baby to feed, slow down your pace and breath deeply. Feeding is a perfect time for the two of you to bond, for you to talk to your baby and for her to study your face. Enjoy these moments and see if the calmer atmosphere has a positive affect on your baby.
Here are some tips for relieving the discomfort of colic, trapped wind or reflux –
Colic and trapped wind:
~Wearing your baby in an upright sling such as a stretchy or woven wrap. The warmth and pressure on their tummy will help relieve trapped wind. A muslin tucked under their head will soak up any spit up.
~Gentle circular massage to the tummy.
~Lay baby tummy down, over your shoulder or thigh, creating a gentle pressure on their stomach while patting their back rhythmically to bring up wind. A towel under baby’s head is a good idea if they are suffering from a combination of colic and reflux.
~Lay baby on their back and gently peddle their legs to relieve trapped wind. Also try bringing their knees together and up to their tummy.
~ Have your doctor or midwife check the baby for a tongue tie as this could cause difficulty and air gulping during feeding.
~There are a number of products on the market which can help colic. Gripe water, colief and infacol are popular options, we had a lot of success with the gripe water.
~ Try drinking fennel tea 2-3 times a day. This passes through your milk and can make a big difference to wind.
~Consider silent reflux as a cause to your baby’s discomfort and speak to your doctor about a diagnosis.
~Keep baby upright after feeds for a minimum of 30 minutes. Keep the environment calm and relaxed and baby in the same position. Jostling and passing them about will usually result in bringing up their feed.
~ Put baby to sleep with their head raised. You can do this by using a baby hammock or a wedge under their mattress or co sleeping parents may have baby sleep in the crook or their arm.
~Feed your baby with their head raised above their body. You can do this by using a pillow if feeding in the cradle position or have the baby sit upright, belly to belly with you to feed.
~Try block feeding – feeding from the same breast for every feed over a period of 2 hours before switching sides.
~Feed on cue and let your baby lead you. Scheduling feeds can lead to discomfort and overeating. It is much better for your baby to eat little and often. This will stop your breasts from becoming too full and baby taking on too much at once and it will make it easier for him to digest each feed.
~Comfort sucking can provide great relief from colic and reflux. It also has the added benefit of aiding digestion, regulating your milk supply and keeping your breasts from becoming engorged. They are natures pacifier and the best tool you have at your disposal!
Reflux can be medicated too, and if your baby is loosing or not gaining weight or is in pain then this is something you might have to discuss with your doctor. First, consider the cause to ensure you have eliminated the other options, as it may be an unnecessary step.
Some babies are perfectly happy and not affected by bringing up their feeds. If he is healthy and gaining weight then its probably best to wait it out. Just take a lot of muslin’s everywhere you go in the mean time!
Most babies will grow out of reflux and colic by the time they reach 6 months. It can feel like it will last forever and cause despair to parents, knowing your child is in pain and not knowing what to do. It is so important that you get support during this time. Talk to a friend and be open to offers of help, let family members make you a cup of tea when they visit, rest when you get a chance and ignore the housework. This time will pass and before you know it all this will be a distant memory. You will get through this and you will be a stronger and more confident parent for your experiences.
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