Infant reflux is not the first thing we think about when we are expecting a new baby, I know. We all pray for a healthy baby when we’re pregnant though, right? We all hope that our baby comes out with ten fingers and toes, Michael Phelps’s lungs, and the heart of Mother Theresa.
What about their gut? Do we worry about their digestive systems working right? Maybe not so much. We have enough to worry about when we grow our babies, we shouldn’t also be crossing our fingers that their tiny tummies will actually tolerate the nutrition that we, as all good mothers do, feed them.
Well, lucky me, I’ll be praying night and day with any future pregnancies that I wont have any more reflux babies. As if becoming a new mom and taking care of a newborn isn’t hard enough, many moms have to then overcome the nightmare of Infant Reflux.
Step 1: Know what’s normal
We realized that our son, Logan, suffered with infant reflux when he was about 10 days old. The signs came even earlier than that, but as new parents, my husband and I had no idea that our son’s signs and symptoms after he was born weren’t just “normal newborn” quirks (if you want to know more about what to expect with your brand new bundle of joy, this article is perfect for you).
As I recorded every feeding in the hospital, I wasn’t concerned that he wanted to feed every hour and be on the boob for 30 minutes at a time. I thought, “He’s learning to nurse. It’s totally normal”. Of course, this is partly true but Logan had more signs that we accidentally ignored.
- Related Read: Breastfeeding 101: How To Feed Your Newborn
Step 2: Pay attention to the symptoms
For us, the most obvious issue was that our baby never wanted to be laid on his back, not even for a moment. So that ended up meaning no bassinet sleeping and our unintentional co-sleeping started on his very first night. This child of mine only slept 45-60 min at a time and only on me. I continued to nurse and make half-hearted attempts at burping my brand new baby all night and day, not sleeping much (if at all) those first couple of nights.
I remember the nurse coming in a few times and taking the baby from me to help him get his gas out with special burping techniques that, as a new mom, I didn’t even know existed. He had hiccups a lot too and my initial thoughts on that were all of “awwwww, that’s so cute!” and not much more. I should have paid more attention to these first few clues that I had in the hospital. Maybe then we wouldn’t have had to figure out our issues at home, just my husband and I.
Over the first week at home my newborn baby was nursing constantly, fussy when laid on his back, had large amounts of gas, got a case of the hiccups multiple times a day, wouldn’t stay asleep, and of course, once my milk came in on day three, he was spitting up a TON. I mean, holy sea monsters have you ever seen so much vomit?–that kind of spit up.
Please note: I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose, or treat any form of any disease. This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. I am only telling you what worked for me. Please refer to my Disclaimer Page for more information.
Step 3: Stay calm and know you’re not alone
As a mother (a very NEW mother), my mind was racing. I was concerned that even though he was gaining weight if he’s throwing up his whole feed, he might not getting the nutrition that his little body needs.
I wondered if the spitting up was causing him pain. Is it an allergy? Is it a malformation in his gut somewhere? Does he have a blockage? Is he sensitive to something in my milk? Do I need to switch him to formula? Do I need to see a lactation consultant to make sure my latch is correct? Is it infant acid reflux? What do I DO? I know your mind is going to the same places, right?
I was constantly experimenting with the pieces of advice that I had received from my pediatrician, my obstetrician, the lactation consultant that I had worked with right after birth, and of course, probably most importantly, other mommies who had gone through something similar. Every day I felt like I needed all of this advice because I truly believed we were never going to escape this season of newborn-hood and I was never going to sleep again if I didn’t find a solution right away.
Step 4: Follow my advice
The 7 Best Infant Reflux Remedies That Actually Work
Finally, after lots of trying and testing, I found the tips that really helped our family get through it. I wouldn’t wish this part of my journey on my worst enemy. In fact, if I knew my worst enemy was searching for answers regarding infant reflux because she was at her wit’s end like I was, I would call her up, give her all the advice I could conger up and refer her to these tips that I’m about to share with you. Because, enemy or not, we are all moms and these babies deserve mommies that are not tearing their hair out every day, scouring the internet searching for answers.
1. Make Your Life E.A.S.Y
I have a whole post on the E.A.S.Y Routine because I love it so much! I had never heard of it until I found my wonderful, truly caring, and so informative pediatrician who shared it with me. Basically E = Eat, A= Awake/Active, S=Sleep, Y= “Your time”.
You have no idea how serious I am. I ignored the advice for a long time because first of all, I had just met this lady, second of all, I nurse him to sleep and that is what’s “working” for me, and third, well, no one else does this. So why should I?
No. Nope. Nope.
Get all of those things out of our mind and don’t make the same mistakes that I did. This schedule helps tremendously with reflux babies because you’re not laying them down to sleep right after eating. Yes, your baby will still spit up and it’ll be so annoying when he pukes all over his tummy time mat, but if it’s that or throwing up in his sleep, I would choose the former.
2. Colic Calm
I know you’ve probably heard of gripe water. Many are safe, natural and claim to relieve gas, colic, and fussiness in a matter of minutes. This was very enticing and I quickly purchased one of the most recommended ones. I only used it for a little while because it’s so frustrating when the “solution” to your problem is such a large dose, that your baby just throws it up anyway.
Colic calm is different. It doesn’t just put a band-aid on symptoms like how gas drops or other gripe waters do. What it does is it treats the problem in your baby’s digestive tract that is causing the colic, gas, or reflux (or all three). It has none of the side effects that prescription medications do because it is made only from homeopathic ingredients such as chamomile, aloe, and lemon balm.
Logan never spit up Colic calm. This is something I would recommend for everyone! Reflux or not, this product is good to have on hand for tummy issues that your baby is bound to have at one point or another. In fact, it is one of the most vital pieces that I always include in my new baby checklist where I list all the things I would recommend if you’re having a baby or if you’re shopping for someone else who’s having one.
3. Gerber Sooth
Reflux really messes up a baby’s digestive system. My son threw up so many times a day. I don’t doubt for a second that his intestinal flora needed some serious TLC. One of the causes of tummy discomfort, reflux, and therefore colic, is a lack of good intestinal bacteria present in their gut.
Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops improve the good bacteria in baby’s digestive system. The drops contain L. reuteri, a helpful probiotic strain that has been clinically shown to reduce crying time in colicky breastfed or partially breastfed infants. Probiotic supplements can help boost baby’s digestive system and help alleviate many of the acid reflux symptoms in babies naturally.
You can just mix the drops in breast milk, give from a spoon, or even a syringe. I used a baby spoon. I just dropped the 5 drops into the spoon, fed them to my baby, and then nursed him right after. We always gave it to him at the last feeding before bedtime and it worked like a charm.
4. Don’t stop Breastfeeding
The thought of giving up breastfeeding your baby will cross your mind a hundred times but breastfeeding your reflux baby is actually better, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Breast milk is faster to digest and has enzymes to help digestion so it leaves the stomach more easily. It is easy to think that there is something wrong with you or your breast milk.
I did too.
I’m pretty sure I verbalized to my husband “That’s it, I’m just going to get him formula” every night for 12 weeks. But I never did. I did everything in my power to make sure that my breast milk was giving my baby exactly what he needed but I won’t say that it was easy.
You know what though? It wasn’t the obvious or easy choice. You have to make the conscious decision every single day to keep nursing him. I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding but every time I saw my precious liquid gold all over my clothes or the floor, I wanted to cry in frustration. Truthfully, I almost gave up so many times. I totally understand if you’re feeling the same way. Trust me and trust your instincts– If you have the desire to nurse your reflux babies, then keep it up as long as you can, mama! You won’t regret it.
5. Save the letdown
Babies often spit up when they get too much milk too quickly. Babies have to work harder for milk at the breast than they do the bottle, so they typically have longer feeds when they are breastfeeding, allowing more time for the milk to move down the digestive tract. This is great and one of the many benefits of breastfeeding!
BUT even breastfeeding can be a problem if you have an overactive letdown.In this case, it’s more important to give fattier meals that are heavy enough to sit in the stomach and not come up with air.
Well, the fatty, nutrition rich milk comes after the letdown, ladies. So here is a piece of advice that I absolutely would not pass up. During your nursing session, allow your baby to suckle until you feel the letdown occur (or, if your anything like me, you’ll see the letdown happen when your baby unlatches because the letdown is too forceful for him) and allow the flow to slow down before you re-latch your baby to allow him to drink more easily and prevent guzzling.
So here’s what you do.
The game-changer: Use the Haakaa pump to catch the letdown as it comes instead of allowing your baby to swallow it. I have two of them. I attach one to my breast that the baby isn’t nursing on and use the other to catch the letdown on the other breast. What’s great about this is that your precious milk isn’t being wasted in a breast pad or burp cloth. Instead, it can be saved and stored for later use!
6. Get evaluated for a tongue or lip tie
Have your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant check your baby for a tongue or lip tie if you feel like your baby might be having trouble latching or you notice air gulping during feeding. If your nipples are cracked, sore and bleeding or if your nipple is slanted like the end of a lipstick after feeding, or if your nipple is blanched white after feeding, sorry ’bout it but you probably have a baby with some kind of tie.
I had all of these symptoms for five weeks before I realized that I needed to do something about it. I just had to get it taken care of. We went to a pediatric dentist and it turns out he had a severe lip tie but no tongue tie. We got the tie revised, made sure we were compliant with all of the recovery instructions that the dentist gave us, and our latch became significantly better!
I no longer had painful, cracked, bleeding nipples (thank you Jesus!) and I really felt like it made a difference in the amount of gas Logan was experiencing. He still threw up a ton but he didn’t seem as miserable. I feel like the lip tie was allowing a lot of gas to get in when he ate and all of that gas was causing abdominal pain. Once it was fixed, those symptoms improved too.
7. Relax and Be Patient
Stress is also a factor in your baby’s acid reflux. If you can’t relax while feeding your baby, you are creating an environment that is overstimulating for him. Create a relaxed, calm environment every time you feed. Avoid frantically googling, searching for advice, or texting your bestie about how tired you are every time you nurse.
Soak it all in and make eye contact with your baby while he nurses. This will release hormones in your brain that will assist you in relaxation and make you feel happy and more at peace. Also, no matter how hard we all know it is, try to avoid binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix at every feeding as well. Enjoy these moments.
Your baby will appreciate the attention and feel at ease if he can focus on your face. Most babies grow out of their reflux by the time they are six months old but when your baby is only three weeks old, six months sounds like an eternity and you’ll feel like you can’t possibly make it that long this way, but mama to mama — it goes by so fast.
Some Other Good Advice To Consider
Elevate the crib mattress with this wedge while your baby sleeps
Keeping baby’s head elevated during sleep allows the liquid in his belly to stay put instead of flowing upward into the esophagus while he is on his back. We did try this but it seemed like he just always slid down the mattress and ended up crooked somehow– SO FRUSTRATING.
In order to keep your baby facing the direction you want him to stay, you’ll have to build a U-shaped barrier of receiving blankets under the sheet to make your baby stay put throughout the night.
This method was recommended by our pediatrician, believe it or not. I trust her completely, so, final verdict– I would absolutely give this a try again if (Lord help me) I ever had to endure any more reflux babies again in the future.
Keep your baby slightly elevated while feeding
I made the HUGE mistake of buying some knockoff brand nursing pillow while I was pregnant with Logan. I thought they were probably all the same, right? Wrong. So wrong. Some nursing pillows are flimsy and too soft to give you and your baby any kind of support. Looking back now, I know that buying this nursing pillow is one of the best decisions you’ll make as a new mom for reasons WAY beyond infant reflux.
In fact, it is another one of my essentials in my new baby must haves checklist. Now, that being said, this isn’t on my top seven tips for infant reflux because keeping Logan’s head elevated during feeds did not matter in our situation. He still threw up immediately after, 20 minutes after, an hour after, and on and on forever and ever, amen.
Keeping him elevated didn’t change the end result for us, BUT it is still a good idea. You don’t want to feed your baby flat on his back any more than you want to put him flat on his back to sleep when he’s in the worst of his infant reflux days. Right? It makes sense. Another added benefit, is this pillow offers you the support you need to not injure your back while constantly nursing. Stay comfy, my friends.
Burp your baby well and often
Burp between breasts, burp at the end of the feeding, burp in different positions, active burping, passive burping, massage to encourage burping; whatever you do, just try to get that stinker to burp because trapped gas just causes more problems.
Often times, reflux babies have more gas than “normal babies”, depending on what’s causing the reflux. If it’s a bad latch or diet, gas will be an issue day in and day out. It’s better to take care of the gas right away rather than wait until it gets trapped in the intestines causing pain until it comes out the other end. Even if burping doesn’t necessarily help a whole lot with the volume of spit up, it will help with the fussiness that comes along with the discomfort of excess gas.
Keep baby at a slightly reclined angle for about 30 minutes after a feed
I’ll admit, I did NOT do this all of the time. I mean, HOW? Seriously, I am not about to nurse my baby in the middle of the night and then sit there holding him upright for 30 minutes. I NEED those 30 minutes. Most nights, that’s all the sleep that it felt like I was getting in the first place.
That being said, it’s still a good idea during the day. Sometimes I would nurse him and then recline him back on my knees and sing to him, talk to him, and play with him there for 20-30 minutes before moving around. Sometimes I felt like this worked, and other times he still puked all over my legs anyway. But I recommend trying it out because jostling him around right after he eats just isn’t a great idea.
Try Altering Your Baby’s Diet
If you are breastfeeding you might want to start looking at our own diet to try to find something that is irritating your baby’s tummy or if you are formula feeding, try hypoallergenic formula such as Alimentum.
I tried altering my diet and I tried it HARD. When my pediatrician diagnosed Logan with infant reflux, she suggested that I eliminate all dairy for two weeks. As if that isn’t hard enough, if that didn’t work, I would eliminate dairy, soy, eggs, and nuts for another two weeks. After that, if he still was experiencing infant reflux, then we would be fairly confident that his symptoms weren’t allergy related because those foods are the most common ailments in baby tummies.
Give it a shot if you’re really ready to dive in head first. You have to be completely committed to the diet, which is so incredibly hard to do when you’re recovering from birth, breastfeeding, and trying to take care of a fussy baby. Although we never found any food intolerances in Logan, I have seen it work wonders for other mommies. This could be the answer for you, but prepare yourself and your spouse because it can take an incredible toll on your body and your mind if you feel like you are unable to eat.
Get an appointment with a Chiropractor that specializes in infants
I have heard Ah-mazing things about pediatric Chiropractors and Osteopaths. I couldn’t wait for one to get their hands on Logan. When I finally got an appointment, she worked her magic and told me about out the alignment problems Logan had. Basically he was a hot mess. She blamed our birth story for his misalignment in his skull and spine.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as calm and relaxing as everyone on the internet had made it seem. Some babies apparently fall asleep during the whole thing. I was literally picturing us going home and Logan just sleeping the whole night through because of the relief he was going to get from the therapy.
To my dismay, Logan was just bored and kept wanting to get away from this lady. Her touch was soft and gentle so the problem was not that it was painful. I just don’t think it worked for him. We went home that day and I didn’t see any change at all in him. I am still a believer in Chiropractic therapy! So if you’re interested in something like that, it doesn’t hurt to try. I just might work for you.
Discuss medications with your pediatrician
I initially didn’t want to start him on any prescription medications because of the risks. Regardless, there came a time when I could not bear the thought that my sweet baby was in constant pain.
So I talked to my pediatrician and she prescribed a Histamine-2 blocker. That didn’t work at all so we tried something else. Next, she prescribed a proton pump inhibitor. That…worked? Maybe? I’m not sure. He was less fussy while taking it but still threw up just as much. Our doctor warned us that this is what was going to happen. Reflux medications do not stop the spit up. They just decrease the acid, which will decrease the discomfort when it comes up.
After about a month on the medication, I felt like the benefits did not outweigh the risks–especially because it was causing insomnia for him. Insomnia for a newborn baby that doesn’t sleep anyway? Yeah. So, the obvious choice for us was to just quit it. Honestly, when he stopped taking his medication, I saw no change.
If you’re at the point where you are considering medication as an option, consider the risks, the benefits, AND consider what your expectations are.
So there it is!
This is the ultimate guide for any mom going through this really, really tough season. The truth is, every baby is different and their infant reflux symptoms may be unique. Just take comfort in knowing that you’ll find your way through it after experimenting with some of this advice and figuring out what works for you. Although it wont happen over night, things WILL get better.
I noticed Logan’s symptoms starting to get better at around 12 weeks (after the fourth trimester!) then continued to decrease tremendously by four months of life, and were completely gone by 7 months. Logan doesn’t require any supplements at this point and has no food allergies that we know of. He eats everything, sleeps like an angel, and is seriously the happiest baby in the world.
- Related Read: How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Well Right From The Start
You know what? No matter what tips and tricks ultimately worked for me, even if I had done none of it, my baby would have eventually grown out of it anyway. I didn’t want to hear it when I was in the thick of it, but it’s only the truth. This doesn’t last forever. You will get through this. Your baby will be ok if you just do your best and give him all the love that you possess. That’s truly all he needs. Hang tight mama. I’m right there with you and I know how truly hard it can be.
Subscribe to my newsletter to get my Birth Plan Prep Checklist plus stay up to date on all of the tips on pregnancy, labor & delivery, motherhood and everything in between in my weekly newsletter!