Reflux/Silent RefluxOct 12, 2022
Before we get started, I want to emphasize that I am not a medical doctor and this blog is not intended to be medical advice and is just for educational and supportive purposes. Please seek medical attention and advice if you are concerned for your baby’s health.
Ok now that is clear, here is a bit of a breakdown of reflux ↓
Ugh, I feel like it’s just the worst word to read or hear when you have a newborn.
I remember explaining my 5 week old daughter’s symptoms to a lactation consultant who said it sounded like reflux and my heart really sank and I started to get anxiety.
Not because reflux is dangerous or awful, but honestly I was already SO overwhelmed with being a new mum and I just DIDN’T want to deal with another thing and that word, for some reason, just sounded really scary to me.
You can skip this if you aren’t interested, but I thought I would share my reflux journey with my first daughter, Lily.
Lily was an extremely fussy and crying baby. She cried so much when she was born and I later found out she was extremely overtired a lot of the time. I called her doctor around 3-4 weeks old and shared my concerns that she never slept and that she would scream whilst breastfeeding.
She rarely seemed content and that just broke my heart. It was SO HARD. If you are going through this please know you are not alone. Many families are experiencing similar symptoms, but people just don’t talk about it because you are supposed to “love every minute.” So I will say it again. You are not alone. This is really hard, and your frustrations are valid.
She actually didn’t often spit up milk, but arched her back on the breast and screamed a lot during feeding. She seemed to have some feeding aversions.
The doctor suggested it was silent reflux and we tried changing my diet as I was breastfeeding (and supplementing sometimes with formula too because she struggled latching). After a few weeks of this, we had no luck and things had not improved.
I tried gas drops, gripe water, you name it, I tried it.
Eventually we decided to give her some reflux medicine per our pediatrician. I’m glad we did it and we did see some improvement. This was around 5-6 weeks.
Around 7-8 weeks old is when I discovered sleep shaping and learning all about helping newborns sleep. I started implementing newborn sleep strategies, and even though she had reflux, we saw improvement. It was slow, but I was really consistent and if you don’t know the rest of the story you can read that here. But long story short, she’s a great sleeper now and reflux didn’t stop her.
ALL THIS TO SAY THAT, YES, YOU CAN ENCOURAGE GREAT SLEEP EVEN IF YOU BABY HAS REFLUX!
You are not doomed for awful sleep forever. I’ve experienced it personally and I’ve seen it with multiple clients.
Reflux babies can sleep well.
It just may take a bit of extra time and effort on your part. Which I know, sounds really exhausting and daunting, but it’s going to be ok xx
OK… SO WHAT IS REFLUX EXACTLY?!
Well, put simply… it’s when your baby spits up milk.
Unless it’s “silent” reflux. Without going into too much detail, silent reflux is just reflux but without the spit up. The best way I can explain it is heartburn, and if you have experienced heartburn before it really sucks, so naturally, babies with silent reflux are often really fussy.
This reflux happens when food comes back up from your baby’s tummy. Reflux on the whole is not always a cause for concern and often occurs in many healthy babies on a day to day basis. You’ll often see funny memes or posts online of a little baby happily throwing up their milk feeding and then smiling like nothing happened. As long as your baby is growing well and healthy, then you don’t need to stress out about it.
I urge you to chat with your baby’s healthcare provider if..
Your your baby is struggling with weight gain/failure to thrive
You’re concerned about potential allergies
If you think the reflux is causing your baby pain (not eating well and sleeping poorly regardless of sleep shaping)
You are concerned and want medical advice for reflux
Don’t be afraid of following your intuition and seeking medical advice.
WHY REFLUX IS COMMON IN BABIES:
Eating a mostly liquid diet (breastmilk or formula)
The fact that they can’t sit up and therefore lay flat most of the time
Their tummies and digestive system are brand new!
TIPS TO HELP WITH REFLUX:
Hold upright for about 10-20 minutes after a feed. If your baby is in the middle of a night feed, it’s totally fine if they fall asleep on your shoulder before placing them back down, even if you are working on independent sleep.
Holding upright for naps (naps in the carrier or baby wrap can be helpful for this one. You can use any carrier you have or may have been gifted, but if you’re looking for a great one, I love my Solly Baby Wrap for the first few months! You can use code COZYBABYSLEEP10 for 10% off too.
Feed directly upon waking instead of right before laying down throughout the day where possible. This can help to ease any potential pain of reflux.
Feed at beginning of bedtime routine instead of immediately before laying your baby down. This provides some time for all that milk to settle. You can also use this time to hold them upright for 10 minutes or so (reading a book, in a bath seat, walking around facing outwards etc).
Burp your baby often and try different techniques and positions. Here is a great tip for burping a newborn from my Instagram page.
Encourage your baby’s head to be above their stomach as they are feeding. So on a slight upward angle. This can help somewhat.
When doing a diaper / nappy change, try rolling them to their side to change it instead of pulling their legs up above their tummy and chest. This can prevent any squishing that may cause them to spit up.
CAN MY BABY WITH REFLUX SLEEP ON THEIR BACK?
Yes! They can still sleep on their back. This is actually the safest position for your baby to sleep in, even if they have reflux. I know, it sounds stressful because they usually hate sleeping on their back, but there is lots you can do to help them adjust.
Click here to read my blog all about safe sleep, and how to encourage back sleeping!
WON’T THEY CHOKE ON THEIR SPIT UP?
Thankfully, no, they will not choke on spit up if on their back. Healthy babies have a natural reflex that means babies naturally cough up or swallow any fluid. In fact, babies can actually clear fluids such as spit up even better when they are sleeping on their backs compared to their tummies.
The reason for this is biological. I know you’re already overwhelmed with information right now so I’m not going to dive into that, but if you’re really interested you can read and see a diagram here.
But rest assured, it is safe for your baby to sleep on their back, even if they have reflux!
ARE YOU CONSTANTLY CONFUSED ABOUT YOUR BABY’S SLEEP?
That’s where I can help! I’m really good at teaching families about their baby’s sleep and helping them make changes and improvements that can encourage better sleep.
The first thing you want to do is have a clear plan in place! If you’re really struggling & need support along with a step by step plan…I have got you covered!
Learn more about my newborn sleep resources below ↓
American Academy of Pediatrics, Task Force on Infant Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (2000). Click here to read.
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