Reflux can be a living nightmare, for everyone involved. For a reflux baby, it’s understandably and often relentlessly horrendous, and for parents, it can be incredibly upsetting.
The feeling of helplessness coupled with the severe sleep deprivation that often goes hand in hand with a poorly reflux baby can be absolutely brutal. It can feel like things will never get better, that your angry, upset and constantly pukey baby can’t be helped whatever you do.
Reflux can have an enormous effect on both mum and dad in many different ways. It can be difficult for others to truly understand the pain and upset that reflux can cause, on so many different levels. Feelings of failure and inadequacy are common amongst new parents with reflux babies. Venturing out of the house with a reflux baby can be traumatic – why is this baby constantly screaming?
Reflux can push you all to your limits. I think the saddest thing about it is that it can rob you of those precious first few weeks and months with your baby. Life with a reflux baby can be really hard – but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are resources and products that can help your baby.
1 in 4 parents of a child with reflux report PND or anxiety
It’s no surprise to hear the results of research conducted by the Australian reflux support website concluded that more than 1 in 4 parents (29%) with a reflux baby had a diagnosis of post-natal depression or anxiety.
If you’re reading this and alarm bells are ringing for you and your little one, brace yourself. There are times when things will get tough, but as the days pass, things WILL get better.
My advice to anyone suspecting their baby is suffering from reflux is to properly equip yourself with the right knowledge and support in order to effectively fight your baby’s corner and get that all-important diagnosis.
Does my baby have reflux?
Here are some basic symptoms of reflux:
- Posseting and vomiting. Babies with acid reflux may do so more often or forcefully
- Poor feeding. Since reflux causes heartburn/irritation in the esophagus, your baby might not eat normally
- Back arching, pulling back off of the nipple or bottle during her feed
- Irritability after feeds
- Gagging, choking
- Breathing issues: asthma-like symptoms – coughing, wheezing, nasal and throat congestion when stomach acid gets into the upper airways (made worse when baby lies flat)
- Hiccups and wet burps are a symptom of reflux, caused by esophageal irritation and excess gas in the tummy
Top tip: it’s worth bearing in mind that with Silent Reflux – there’s no actual vomit.
Practical tips to help a reflux baby
- Embrace the snack-feed. Sometimes your baby will find it easier to take smaller amounts of milk over more frequent feeds. This makes life easier on your baby’s stomach, with less to regurgitate
- If you’re breastfeeding, find a position where baby can feed upright
- Gently burp your baby every two-three ounces of milk to help release gas and relieve the symptoms of reflux
- Keep your baby upright for at least 20 minutes after a feed to help prevent milk from travelling back up the esophagus
- Speak to your health practitioner about a milk thickener
Helpful products to ease reflux discomfort
I used the award-winning babocush with both of my children. A brilliant lightweight and portable newborn comfort pillow, it’s described by many parents as a ‘miracle product’ for reflux and colic babies.
The babocush is an ergonomic comfort cushion that holds baby safe and snug to soothe and calm them. It helps calm upset tummies, symptoms of reflux and painful wind by gently recreating the atmosphere in the womb using heartbeat sounds and gentle vibration.
The important thing about this product is that its soft fleece cover is easily washable and dries quickly so it’s not out of action for long! The babocush can also be used on its own or in tandem with a rocker for the ultimate soothing experience.
I found both of my reflux babies very difficult to put down, they’d be in so much discomfort and distress, they’d just insist on being held, rocked and walked around, sometimes for hours at a time. The babocush proved to be a sanity-saver for me, a safe pair of hands when I needed a break. It’s the next best thing to being held in a parent’s arms, and both of mine were happy with their understudy mama!
As my son grew older and his reflux pain was largely under control, he enjoyed using the babocush for tummy time.
Other useful products include a good baby carrier or sling to allow you to keep your baby upright. It’s also worth checking out Shnuggle’s Squishy Changing Mat which has an elevated head for those urgent changes post feed. Arm yourself with lots and lots of muslins to save you worrying about the washing.
Helpful resources for a reflux diagnosis
- Read these two articles with leading reflux expert Professor Shah to help you determine if it’s reflux you’re dealing with:
- REFLUX: Leading Expert Professor Shah Answers Your Questions
- COWS’ MILK PROTEIN ALLERGY: Leading Expert Professor Neil Shah Answers Your Questions
- Download and print the RISA (Reflux Info Support Association) checklist
- WRITE a clear list of everything – from symptoms to general worries, sleep patterns and routine
- Take the CMPA / reflux test at Children’s e-Hospital and consider contacting them for a quick diagnosis over Skype
- Now you’re informed and have a written list – head back to your GP to get the diagnosis your baby needs.
Useful support websites for reflux
You’re not alone. Use these websites and support groups – I found them invaluable with my first child when everything was so new and daunting.
- RISA Reflux Information Support Association
- Facebook group: Silent Reflux, Reflux, CMPA, Allergies & Intolerances in Babies
- Facebook group: Reflux & CMPA Babies! Help and Support! UK
- Facebook group: Up Around The Clock – Parenting Support Group
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