The moment a new baby arrives home, “Is this normal?” becomes the new-parent mantra. In the beginning, exhausted and anxious moms and dads constantly question whether they are doing everything right, and if their little one is properly adjusting to life outside the womb.
Reflux is an extremely common (and potentially stressful) condition that can often throw a wrench into the works and make life a little more complicated for new parents. Essentially, reflux happens when liquid and food from the baby’s stomach creeps back up into the esophagus, causing the baby to spit up. According to Dr. Natasha Burgert, this is because in very young infants, the valve that prevents this from happening is immature and not quite yet functioning as it should. The good news is that most babies who have reflux have a very mild form and typically outgrow it as they get older and their digestive systems mature.
The most common symptom of reflux is spitting up, however other symptoms include fussiness, difficulty sleeping, persistent hiccoughing, and in some more severe cases, weight loss or poor weight gain, vomiting, difficulty eating and breathing problems. Fortunately, a very small percentage of infants experience a more severe case, and most babies who have a mild case of reflux don’t require treatment.
According to Parents Magazine, there are several ways to help a baby with reflux and minimize the likelihood of spitting up and discomfort – while also potentially cutting down on those extra loads of laundry:
Breastfeed your baby. Breastmilk is much more easily digested than formula – in fact, breastmilk is digested about twice as fast, giving it less time to sneak back up into the esophagus. If breastfeeding isn’t an option, there are many formulas available specifically for babies with digestive issues – including those that are hypoallergenic or lactose-free.
Keep your baby upright after mealtime. Sometimes, working with gravity is just the ticket. Reflux happens most frequently when a baby is lying flat, so keep your baby upright for 20-30 minutes after they have finished eating. Try wearing your baby in a carrier for a hands-free option.
Don’t jostle. Even if baby wants to play, it’s recommended that bouncing or jostling be avoided immediately after feedings, as boisterous movement can increase the likelihood of spitting up, or even vomiting. Try distracting your baby with a toy, or read a book with them as their meal settles.
Small, frequent feedings are best. Smaller feedings are easier on the tummy, and with less liquid in the stomach, the less there will be to potentially come back up.
Burp often. Burping your baby will help relieve some of the discomfort associated with reflux. If bottle feeding, stop to burp after a few ounces, and if breastfeeding, burp every few minutes or before switching breasts.
Avoid constricting clothing. Tight clothing and even diapers have been known to put pressure on baby’s tummy and increase the risk of spitting up after mealtime. If possible, dress your baby in looser-fitting clothing – and during warmer months, let them go topless!
Ask your doctor about medication. If all of the above do not seem to help your baby’s reflux, it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor about prescription medications that could potentially relieve their symptoms. A common medication many parents have been recommended is Ranitidine (Zantac), which may help bridge the gap until they are older and better able to digest their food.