How many of us have been there…you’ve had a beautiful new baby and spent the first week or two boasting to all your friends about how good they are, how they only cry when they’re hungry and how much they sleep. Life is good. Then one day, usually somewhere between the second and fourth weeks, they start vomiting. Bawling indiscriminately while arching their backs. Refusing feeds. A visit to the GP confirms your fears. Reflux. Those dreaded words. The next 6 months suddenly stretch out in front of you like a prison sentence. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Honestly though, that’s how I felt at the time.
Reflux in babies is due to the fact that their digestive systems are immature. This results in their stomach contents occasionally washing up into their oesophagus. As these contents are acidic, they cause pain for the infant. Your GP may prescribe an anti-acid medicine in this case. Not all babies suffer discomfort though – some just bring back up feeds. This type of reflux is very common and will usually improve in time without any treatment. If your GP has examined your baby and is happy that they are growing well they will often send you home with no extra tools in your handbag to stem the rising tide of regurgitated milk that seems to be appearing everywhere you look. This was the category into which my small man seemed to fall – inexplicably piling on the pounds despite reproducing his feeds six times a day.
So off I went (with my industrial sized nappy bag containing three changes of clothes for the small man and two for myself) looking for over the counter options. Some recommendations I got were to
- Feed little and often
- Wind more frequently
- Hold him upright for at least 30 minutes after every feed
- Slightly elevate the head of his crib while he slept by placing books under the legs at the top
- Avoid tight clothing
- Avoid car journeys immediately after feeds
- Try a baby massage class
Holding upright is very effective but not so attractive at 4am….after a particularly bad night during which a single night feed continued over almost two hours my public health nurse was called upon. Your PHN can be a mine of information – as can the other four mothers you meet with the same issue in the waiting room! PHNs may suggest
- Thickening your baby’s feed with Carobel®
- Swapping to anti-regurgitant milks like SMA Staydown®
- Adding InfantGaviscon® to feeds.
All these options will thicken feeds so you will need a new set of teats if bottle feeding. For breastfed babies, Carobel® can be spoon-fed as a paste, and Infant Gaviscon® can be added to cool boiled water. Unfortunately these options may also cause constipation, so may not prove to be useful for many babies. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend a suitable remedy to treat constipation.
A combination of these suggestions should go a long way to improving your baby’s symptoms. However, you should always speak with your pharmacist before initiating any new medicine or feed. Once solids are started things may improve further. Reflux will gradually disappear by the time your baby is 18 months. Until then plenty of muslins, a sling and a huge change bag…
Written by Aoife