When Emma posted about Jude’s reflux I was, in typical mama pride way, just soldiering on, ‘making-do’ with him in pain. Neither of us expected the huge response to our reflux plea and I am happy to say that so much of your advice has helped made Jude more comfortable. So firstly, a humongous thank you to everyone who spent the time to give Jude incredible reflux advice.
The flood of support and suggestions has also set me on a journey of reflux discovery; why do so many babies get reflux nowadays? And what can we do to help the babies (and ourselves!) with all the wonderful quirks that come with reflux babies. I decided to throw myself into understanding reflux so I could help other parents. Here are a few things I have learnt, including stellar advice from you all.
So why is reflux on the rise? I asked reflux expert and author of the Sensational Baby Sleep Plan Alison Scott-Wright.
‘Reflux has been around for over 50 years (I know as I was a reflux baby!) but it is only now that people are starting to recognise it as a condition. However, it is definitely on the rise and heading towards epidemic proportions. I believe that some of the contributing factors to this are the negative compromise of gut health due to the overuse of antibiotics, GM foods, sugar, vaccinations, pollution, stress and the current generic and vague guidelines on how to sleep and feed your baby. Many people still don’t see reflux as a serious condition, nor do they know how to diagnose it as there are so many potential signals (my book has over 3 pages of symptoms!). Reflux babies respond to their pain in different ways – some cluster feed for comfort while others reject feeds completely. If your baby is clearly in pain, struggling to sleep or showing any signs of discomfort you should seek medical advice.’
So knowing that, here are the main things that have helped me and will hopefully help you.
1. Reflux is a real thing – make sure you push for media assistance if you need it. Sounds obvious but a lot of doctors will just call it colic and send you home, especially when your cheeky baby decides to become dream child in the GP surgery. Record your baby when they are crying/ in pain/ throwing up to prove the symptoms exist!
2. Don’t blame yourself for reflux. I was the healthiest I have ever been during pregnancy. I meditated every day, yoga-ed and walked frequently, and yet reflux reared its ugly head. The fact is that there are so many factors that could contribute it is impossible to pinpoint it. Jude could have inherited it from my dad’s side (all my nieces and nephews on that side had it); my dairy intolerance could have been passed down; and what about all those antibiotics Jude was given in his first 72 hours after a complicated birth process. Don’t spend precious time worrying or blaming yourself. However, if you are worried you can do some/ all of the following:
- An alkaline diet during pregnancy can apparently reduce the risk of reflux
- Cut out all soft drinks during pregnancy and when breastfeeding
- An elimination diet when breastfeeding can also reduce the symptoms of reflux (more on that later)
3. Guidelines are created for the average baby; your baby is better than that. As a new mum I poured over guidelines and found myself saying ‘they say…’ a lot when talking about baby advice. For example, ‘they say’ a baby should sleep on its back. I am no sleep expert but it is proven that lying on your back will exacerbate reflux, which is the reason why many reflux babies struggle with naps, prams, moses baskets or lying down after a feed. Jude now sleeps on his front and sleeps through the night as well as regular 2 hour naps in his cot. Now, I am not pushing anyone to do the same as I understand the dangers of tummy sleeping (we purchased a breathing mattress monitor for our own peace of mind). But it is safe to say that Jude is more comfortable and able to self soothe without us rocking him to sleep, which is lucky given we had visions of rocking Jude to sleep for years! ’They’ also suggest to pat your baby on the back when burping them. For reflux babies this actually causes more pain as you are bringing acid back up the throat with each pat. Just gently hold your baby upright and the burp will come. Finally, when Jude was in pain in the night I would chuck any rule book out of the window; he slept on me, next to me, across me, anything to make him comfortable. ‘They’ will tell you a lot of things, just do what is best for your baby.
4. Breast is only best because it rhymes. I loved (and really miss!) breastfeeding but it also came with its challenges. Jude would start the feed loving every second but after the first boob would start to get uncomfortable. He would then need the boob for comfort, which would cause his more pain. Breast milk is thin so can more easily journey back up the throat whereas formula is thicker so it more likely to remain where it should. If you do want to continue breastfeeding then dairy, wheat, soy and egg exclusion diets for breastfeeding mamas do help. I did try this for a while but ended up starving most the time and questioning whether my breastmilk had the nutrients Jude needed. If you are more organised than me you can probably find amazing food that works but I couldn’t do it for long so after 10 weeks of breastfeeding I am now on formula. On a more positive note, a gastric pediatrician reassured me that most food is fine to consume (coffee, chilli etc) as you would realistically have to eat a mountain of each thing for it to take effect. So if you do decide to do the wheat, dairy, egg, soy diet at least you can drink coffee!
5. Your washing machine will become your NBF. You will wash clothes, muslins, sheets a lot. We have found humour in it by creating a sweepstake on how many outfit changes Jude will have each day. We also make up his cot with a mattress protector, cot sheet, towel, another cot sheet and then a muslin so if he is sick in the night we just remove the top few layers without much fuss. And I have found real happiness in wearing simple clothes, rarely washing my hair, even rarer still putting make up on. So embrace the washing; it won’t last long and life becomes infinitely more simple when you know you don’t really have much choice on what you will wear!
6. There are products that are branded as good for reflux/ colic etc, but through experience the smaller unknown brands seem to work better. Here is a list of what works and what doesn’t (I am looking at you, Dr Brown)
- The ergo baby with the infant insert is a life saver, or baby hypnotiser as my other mama friend likes to call it. When Jude could not sleep I would strap him into the ergo and go on long gorgeous walks where he would sleep for 2 hours easily. I discovered the joys of Peckham Rye park and Jude got the sleep he needed.
- Probiotics help any baby who has had all the good gut bacteria stripped from antibiotics. Use BioGaia or Optibac – the latter is diary free, gluten free, and vegan.
- I am with Mamalina on the anti-artifical drugs battle. However for reflux, omeprazole is a winner. You should always push for omeprazole as doctors will always prescribe ranitidine first (it is cheaper).
- Mam bottles are by far the best bottles for reflux babies and yet relatively unknown. The teat doesn’t cause choking and allows an easy flow of milk with minimal gulping and air inhalation.
- Other products/ things that worked for Jude include: baby beanbag (from Amazon) so he can chill in the kitchen upright, Moby Wrap sling, towels underneath the top of the changing mat to create a little incline.
- Products that don’t work for Jude include: Dr Brown bottles (he chokes on the teat and coming from a mum who likes the easy life, those bottles have two too many bits to sterilise), Close Caboo sling, car seat newborn insert (it squashes his abdomen so allows acid back up his throat), Bugaboo basanet (too flat and when jolted around on London pavements it causes him to vomit)
Finally, and most importantly, we decided a few weeks ago to change the narrative of reflux. Instead of feeling jealous that other babies can be put down straight after feeds, I love that I can cuddle Jude for longer to keep him upright – vomit and all. Changing the narrative has helped us find the humour in the situation.
Are you a mum of a reflux baby? What tips have you found to be helpful?