So why does everything your baby eat seem to come right back up? It has to do with a developmental milestone that isn’t as easy to spot as smiling or sitting up.
A muscle between the esophagus and stomach keeps liquids and food where they belong. Until this muscle has time to mature (particularly in the first year of life), spitting up can be an issue — especially if the stomach is extra full or its contents are sloshing around.
It can be worrying for a new parent to see precious milk come back up, but it is common in babies, especially after a feed. The problem stems from too much acid being produced in the stomach. There really isn’t an easy fix – but rest assured, reflux usually resolves itself and as long as your baby is gaining weight you can be reasonably confident that your baby will grow out of it soon.
With this in mind, your focus should be on minimising the discomfort your newborn is experiencing as a result of the condition.
Signs and symptoms of reflux
Most baby reflux happens spontaneously with the contents generally swallowed back into the stomach.
It tends to happen after feeding or meals and can cause discomfort. It usually resolves itself, but no-one likes to see their little one in pain.
If your newborn is still gaining weight and is otherwise healthy be assured that your child will soon be ok.
If, however, your baby is losing weight and not able to feed properly – it could be a case of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). More severe complications are oesophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus from the refluxing of stomach acid) or breathing changes. If you suspect this is the case, please make sure you visit your family doctor as soon as you can.
Is there anything I can do?
Reflux and regurgitation can be very worrying for parents.
While it is difficult, it is important to remember that in the majority of cases, reflux will resolve itself without treatment or medication. However, using your Dunstan Baby Language skills can help.
Make sure you listen for the word ‘Neh’, to make sure you are feeding your baby when they are hungry and more likely to keep their food down. As well, regular burping can help keep your baby’s stomach free of air and may reduce the effects of the reflux.
Beside this, you should continue to feed the way you have been (breast or bottle feed), unless of course you have been advised to change by a medical professional. It often helps to feed a baby with reflux in a more upright position than is usual. You may need to experiment with different positions. Some mothers sit their baby facing the breast, astride mum’s leg or cuddle them against the side of the sofa, facing the breast. Others have found that instead of cradling their baby around their body, they can cradle the baby down the body. To do this, some mothers feed twin-style, while others feed standing up; or you can recline so that your baby lies on top of your body. After a feed, keep baby upright and still to allow the milk to settle before lying your baby back down.
Some studies also suggest that using a feed thickener can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of reflux.
They found that newborns don’t vomit as much and stop losing weight as well. But talk to your doctor before you introduce this into your baby’s diet.
- During a bottle feed, you can try to keep your baby upright if possible as well as for a few minutes after you have finished feeding. Try not to bounce them around or provide too much stimulation following a feed.
- When it comes to sleeping , safe sleeping recommendations indicate that babies with reflux should be placed on their back to sleep on a firm, flat mattress. There is no evidence to support the elevation of the head of the cot for babies with reflux. You might read about positioning wedges, or about trying to get your baby to sleep on his side, but there is no evidence to supports it.
- Environmental tobacco smoke may also cause reflux in babies. It is important that you don’t smoke around your baby and that you don’t allow other people to smoke around your baby either.
Some infants and children require medication to help manage reflux. If your baby or child regurgitates feeds or meals and otherwise behaves as you would expect a normal baby to behave, then they don’t need medication.
If your baby or child has pain, long periods of crying and unsettled behaviour, difficulty with feeding and poor weight gain, then your doctor may prescribe medication that helps to reduce acid production such as omeprazole.
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