Treating Reflux in Babies

Part 3 in my series on reflux

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Before treating reflux in a baby, it’s important to first assess if the reflux is really an issue.

If your baby is spitting up after feedings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong with her. In fact no treatment is necessary in most babies.

It’s perfectly normal for babies to be born with weaker low esophageal sphincter (LES) tone, which can cause them to spit up. This is called physiological reflux, and the majority of babies outgrow this issue on their own, usually by age 6-12 months. With physiological reflux, the spit up is mostly milk, and the baby grows well and is generally happy. These babies require no medical intervention.

If, however, the baby truly has GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disorder) he may spit up after every feeding and scream, cry, or fuss after spitting up. The baby may also cough or wheeze from the irritation. With time, these babies may become averse to feeding and have poor weight gain. These babies do need treatment.

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6 Natural Reflux Treatments for Babies

If your baby has GERD, see if you can avoid starting her on medications like Zantac that will limit her stomach’s ability to properly digest the important nutrients in breast milk and formula. (Click here to read part 1 of this post and learn more about what causes reflux and how conventional medications can make it worse.)

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{1} Change the feeding routine.

Make feedings smaller and more frequent. Bigger feedings are more likely to “overflow” a baby’s tiny stomach, causing the milk to be refluxed into the esophagus and spat up. Instead of doing 4 ounces every 3 hours, for example, try giving your baby 2 ounces every hour and a half.

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{2} Hold baby upright after feedings.

This will let gravity work in his favor. Laying baby flat on his back or tummy will make it much easier for milk and stomach acid to regurgitate from his stomach into his esophagus, causing him irritation.

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{3} Cut out food allergies.

What you eat affects your milk and therefore your baby. Eliminate common food allergies like cow’s milk, soy products, peanuts, gluten, caffeine (sorry, this includes chocolate!), and eggs. I know it’s inconvenient, but it’s worth it – modifying your diet can be hugely helpful in managing your baby’s GERD. Even if you tolerate these foods just fine, your baby might not. Click here for my guide on how to do an elimination/challenge diet.

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{4} Switch formulas.

If you’re using formula, use donor breast milk instead (check out La Leche League to connect with a donor), or try a hypoallergenic formula like Enfamil’s Nutramigen or Similac’s Alimentum.

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{5} Soothe the esophagus.

Gentle, soothing herbs like slippery elm can help coat the esophagus, sparing baby the burning sensation and pain that comes with reflux. Prepare 2 teaspoons of slippery elm powder per 8 ounces of boiling water. Steep for 20 minutes, strain, and let cool. Using a syringe, give baby 1 teaspoon by mouth before feedings.

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{6} Craniosacral therapy.

Craniosacral treatments can be quite helpful for babies, particularly those born via C-section or those who experienced trauma during the birth. Find a practitioner near you who works with babies, and don’t be surprised if your baby sleeps better after the treatment, too!

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Reflux medication is a temporary solution.

In fact, if you read the package insert of the reflux medications prescribed by most pediatricians, you’ll see that these medications to be used for a maximum of two weeks at a time. If you do end up using these medications, it’s still a good idea to try using the above strategies to help your baby effectively taper off of the drugs some day.

Hang in there, new parents, and keep those burp cloths handy!

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Learn More About Reflux

Check out my earlier post on The Real Cause of Reflux, & Why I Hate Prilosec

…And Treating Reflux Naturally in Adults

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Image courtesy of Jomphong / freedigitalphotos.net

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