Acid Reflux in Babies

Breastfeeding a Baby with Acid Reflux

What is acid reflux? Adults usually refer to it as heartburn. Acid reflux in babies, also called Gastroesophageal Reflux, (GER) occurs when the muscle at the entrance of the stomach, is not strong enough to keep the acids inside. This then leads to pain, and results in a baby spitting up a lot more than usual.

This problem is regularly dismissed as colic, fortunately nowadays we can actually do something about acid reflux.

Acid reflux is usually worse for around 1 – 4 months and stops between 6 months to a year. 

What Causes Infant Reflux

crying baby image, picture of a crying baby, sad baby picture
  • A baby's reflux may be due to an oversupply of milk, or a forceful "let down". Mom will need to express some of her milk before breastfeeding, so that her baby does not swallow air whilst feeding. 
  • Reflux is sometimes due to the muscle of the baby’s stomach, not being mature enough yet. Premature babies are at increased risk of reflux.
  • Food allergies can also cause acid reflux in babies. 
  • Infant formula and some medication, including herbal MEDs, may cause acid reflux symptoms.
  • Swallowing of unnecessary air can cause acid reflux in babies; this usually happens when a baby is restless whilst breastfeeding. It is always a good idea to breastfeed Baby in a calm, quiet surrounding and to minimize distractions. Always feed your baby before he/she gets too hungry.
  • Baby might be experiencing a growth spurt, and therefore is drinking at a faster pace and feeding more often than usual.
  • Hereditary factors can also increase the occurrence of acid reflux in babies.
  • A common acid reflux cause: When the introduction of solids occurs before the baby is ready.

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Should I Still Breastfeed?

So,  should a Mother continue to breastfeed, if her baby has GER?

Yes, she should continue to breastfeed. It has been found that acid reflux in babies, that are breastfed, is less severe and painful. There has also been evidence, that some GER babies who are breastfed, have no symptoms at all.

Breastfeeding triggers a movement in the gastrointestinal tract, that helps move food within the intestines. Breast milk digests much easier than formula, which therefore reduces the chances of acid reflux occurrence in a breastfed baby.

Another reason why breastfeeding is a superior option: babies that are breastfed, are held more upright when fed, which in turn keeps the acid down.

Signs of Acid Reflux in Babies

newborn picture, picture of baby, newborn baby image, cute baby
  • Frequent burping and hiccups in babies.
  • Frequent spitting up.
  • Reflux causes poor sleep.
  • Poor weight gain.
  • Fussiness can be a sign of acid reflux.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Wanting to nurse more frequent or less frequent.
  • Bad breath.
  • Arching the neck and back, as if in pain.
  • A child with acid reflux may experience many chest and ear infections.

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Signs of Severe Reflux

(GERD – infant acid reflux disease)

A baby with GERD will need reflux treatment or therapy.

  • Uncontrollable crying and fussing.
  • Poor weight gain or excessive weight loss.
  • In Severe acid reflux cases, children vomit up blood.
  • Breathing problems.

Tips and Advice

mom and baby, mom holding baby

Helping Baby with GER and Preventing Acid Reflux in Babies

  • Get your baby positioned as upright as possible while nursing, this will keep the acid down. Try walking while nursing.
  • Reflux in babies can often be prevented by burping them often and efficiently.
  • Breastfeed more often, and for no longer than 10 minutes at a time; the more milk your baby has in his/her stomach, the more discomfort he/she will experience.
  • Ensure a good latch, to guarantee less air intake.
  • Keep reflux infants motionless for a few minutes after feedings, this will keep most of the milk from coming up. Avoid any pressure on your baby’s abdomen.
  • Breastfeed your baby during times when he/she is more relaxed.
  • Do not smoke or keep your baby in the vicinity of tobacco smoke. 
  • Caffeine intake should be reduced. 
  • Thickening feeds to reduce stomach reflux is not advised, as it results in: increased coughing after feedings, it is less nutritive, it increases the chances of diabetes in babies, increases the chances of infections and can lead to a low breast milk supply.
  • Babies with acid reflux, sleep better on their tummies, propped up at a 30 degree angle. Acid reflux infants experience more pain when they are left to lie on their backs at night.
  • Carrying Baby in a breastfeeding sling, can help keep your baby in an upright position, near his/her source of food, as well as feeling comforted.
  • Change Baby’s diaper before feedings, as this will ensure less movement after a feeding.
  • Acid reflux babies should wear loose clothing, to prevent pressure on their tummies.
  • Avoid long trips in a car seat. The slouched over position can aggravate GER.
  • Infant massage has been found to help. Gentle massage can help to alleviate pain and discomfort. Massaging your baby's skin will stimulate the nerveous system, including the Vagus nerve. This nerve controls the digestive system. Our page on massage advantages, techniques and step by step videos. 

My Baby has Colic
The Importance of Frequent, Light Meals and Babywearing

Most colic issues are caused by oversupply and acid reflux. Both of these issues are amplified when a baby is fed large meals that are widely spaced during the day. Frequent, small meals will help to reduce colic symptoms. Babies who are carried in upright positions also experience less colic symptoms. Read more about wearing your baby and Kangaroo Mother Care. 

The Soothing Magic Baby Hold

Also called the "colic hold". This hold has two variations. You can either keep your baby's back against your tummy or against the length of your arm. Both work well, you can try both and decide for yourself. 

Using your left arm puts your baby on his/her left side, which is especially soothing to a baby with acid reflux. 

Once you have your baby in this position, you can add some swaying motion.

Dr. Harvey has come up with a technique called the cuddle cure. It involves Swaddling, shhhh sounds, motion, sucking and the colic hold. Read more about the cuddle cure here. 

The Magic colic hold
The magic baby hold - Newborn

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Treating Acid Reflux and Colic with Essential Oils

What is Silent Reflux in Babies?

This refers to when a baby with reflux does not spit up. The acid then travels back down the esophagus, causing even more discomfort.

For more help and support on newborn acid reflux and GERD, visit...

All babies are different, just keep trying until you find something that works for the both of you. Remember that this difficult time will not last forever.

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" in connection with babies reflux problems.

Breastfeeding diet guidelines

Baby massage

* Relieves acid reflux & gas.

* Equipped with comfortable seat belt, to keep your child in place and face up...

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