The first night in the hospital after our baby was born, my husband and I were alone with our newborn baby for roughly 30 seconds when we heard him cough, gag, and projectile vomit. To say it scared the dickens out of us is an understatement. Whether we were ready or not, we were now parents of a baby with acid reflux.
Acid Reflux is a medical condition where the muscle at the top of the stomach doesn’t work well enough to stop the contents of the stomach from rising up the esophagus, which can result in vomiting.1 Acid reflux is common in babies, and as long as your baby is happy, content, and gaining weight, it isn’t a serious concern. However, you may notice your baby has more severe symptoms, and learning how to cope with a diagnosis of “reflux” may seem overwhelming.1 Don’t worry—here are some practical changes to try when dealing with a baby with acid reflux.
Changes to Help Alleviate Your Baby’s Acid Reflux
Some moms dealing with acid reflux in their babies swear by a specific type of bottle. The bottles you want to look for have the best system for minimal air bubbles. Some bottles have a built-in vent system, and others support positive airflow because of their angled design. Other parents use drop-in bags to ensure the amount of air getting into their baby’s tummy. Some top-rated bottles for reflux are Dr. Brow’s, Comotomo, and Philips Avent Anti-Colic.
Switching formula types can help tremendously. We went from a more generic brand of formula to an allergy-specific brand (hello significant price jump), but it seemed to help. Some fellow moms have told me that their doctor recommended adding some rice cereal to the bottle to help it thicken up and hopefully reduce spit-up but consult your pediatrician before taking that step.
If you’re breastfeeding, cutting out dairy in your diet may reduce some acid reflux, though more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this. You can also try reducing spicy and gas-inducing foods (think veggies like broccoli and cauliflower).
Feeding in a more upright position helps the food settle. If breastfeeding, a suggested hold is having your baby face the breast while straddling your leg. Or to stand up while feeding in a modified twin-style hold.
Burping the baby often, possibly after every ounce, is essential in getting all gas bubbles out. From personal experience with a constant puker, I recommend using heavy-duty burp cloths. Cute little rags from a trendy boutique may end up ruined and completely drenched in one feeding, so we opted for heavy-duty, thick hand towels. Stock up on stain remover and towels, and don’t plan on wearing anything nice for a while.
Try to feed after your baby wakes instead of feeding them to sleep, and allowing your baby time to stay upright for as long as possible after feedings will help. Changing diapers after waking up but before eating, will negate the need to lie your baby down to change after eating.
You may have heard the suggestion to add a wedge under the crib mattress for a slight incline in the bed to help prevent spit-up. Some recommend this because they are concerned their baby will choke on their vomit. However, this is a myth. Additionally, it’s not a recommended safe sleep practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics.3 Babies have a gag reflex which helps them cough up to swallow fluid they spit up or vomit, naturally preventing choking from happening. No evidence suggests healthy babies on their backs are more likely to have severe or fatal choking episodes than those on their stomachs.3 There is, however, strong evidence that babies placed on their stomachs are at higher risk for SIDS. You can read more about the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines here.
The AAP recommends that babies suffering from reflux sleep on their backs on a firm, flat, safe sleep surface when not traveling.3 While this may not be the reflux sleep advice you hoped for, babies typically outgrow it by six months.3 If you have concerns about your baby with reflux, please consult your pediatrician to devise a plan for safe sleep practices.
Be sure to check with your doctor before giving any medications to your baby or switching up their formula. More than likely, your baby will eventually grow out of this at around six months, but for now, these options will hopefully help you along the smelly journey of acid reflux.