Reflux in Babies: 8 Tips to Help Your Little One

Watching your little one spit up or vomit can be unnerving, especially if you are a new parent. Known as infant reflux, this occurs when the stomach contents move back up from a baby’s stomach into the oesophagus. The oesophagus is the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.

Reflux in babies is a completely normal physiological process, especially since the muscle that separates their oesophagus from their stomach is not strong enough to keep the contents down. But having a spewy baby can still be worrying and, in some cases, may seem to be hurting your little one.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of reflux in babies and some tips to help your little ones when they’re suffering from reflux.

Types of Reflux

Your bub can experience different types of reflux:

  • Posseting, spitting, or regurgitating – Tummy contents make it all the way to the mouth. It is common in babies up to 18 months old and tends to happen painlessly.
  • Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Tummy contents are regurgitated up to the oesophagus or food pipe. When this happens, the contents are usually swallowed back.
  • Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) – In this case, reflux causes complications, such as poor weight gain, feeding issues, and irritability before, during, or after feeding. Babies and children often experience tummy pain.

Speak to your healthcare professional if your child experiences reflux beyond 18 months, has sudden or forceful vomiting after feeding, refuses to feed, or has green, yellow, or blood-stained vomit.

In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000). For 24-hour, non-urgent medical help, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), seven days a week.

Tips to Prevent and Soothe Reflux in Babies

1. Feed often and in smaller amounts

Your infant’s tummy is tiny, usually holding no more than 120-150 ml of milk between birth and 4 months old.

Feeding your little one a small amount of milk, say about 60 ml, and taking a 20 or 30-minute break before resuming could help prevent them from regurgitating since their tummy won’t get full all at once.

Taking breaks will also allow them to process and digest their food. This can be a bit tricky if you’re breastfeeding and it’s hard to know how much bub has had. It can also be difficult to detach a newborn who still wants to suck and eat.

dad hides formula so mum has to breastfeed
Source: Bigstock

2. Take burping breaks

Air-swallowing, gas buildup, overfeeding, and even poor digestion can lead to reflux.

To help bub avoid reflux, don’t wait to burp them until they’re done feeding. Instead, gently interrupt their feeding, hold them upright, and lightly tap their back to eliminate any air buildup or gas.

When you do so, try not to jostle or move them excessively to avoid spitting up.

3. No tummy time after feeding

Let gravity do what it does best!

Keep your little one in the upright position for at least 20-30 minutes after they’re finished feeding. This will give them a better chance for their food to remain in their belly and for digestion to happen.

This means no tummy time and no slouching. Holding them upright, either over your shoulder or with the help of a baby wrap can be a comfortable position for the two of you.

4. If using formula, stir, don’t shake

Believe it or not, the simple act of shaking formula or breastmilk can contribute to your baby’s reflux due to the air bubbles the action creates.

To avoid making air bubbles, mix the formula in a separate container and stir gently with a spoon to dissolve it completely.

Gently inverting the bottle or swirling can also prevent bubbles from forming.

baby names 2021
Source: Bigstock

5. Feed in an upright position

Keeping your baby in a vertical-upright position as they feed can help avoid reflux issues.

There are some breastfeeding and bottle-feeding positions that can keep your little one upright as they feed, they include:

  • The Koala Hold – For breastfeeding mums. Bub is held vertically, straddling your thigh and facing you as you hold their head with one hand.
  • The Knees Up – For bottle-fed bubs. You lay back in bed with your knees up as your little one sits on your belly and their back rests on your legs.
  • The Cradle Hold – For bottle-fed bubs. With your back supported by a couch or chair, you hold bub as upright as possible as their back rests on your forearm.
  • The Sit-Up – For bottle-fed little ones. Bub sits vertically as you hold their head with one hand or they sit in a high chair.

6. Look for clues bub is full 

Babies can’t really tell you when they are full and will happily suck and suck and suck. A too-full tummy can make milk go back up. To avoid reflux, try to keep to a schedule so bub doesn’t get too hungry between feedings.

Additionally, try to notice your baby’s cues for when they’re getting full.

If they apply less suction than at the beginning of feeding or they start to fall asleep, it is usually time to stop.

Be sure to also check their hands!  When a baby is hungry, they clench their fists tightly.  If they fall asleep hungry, their fists usually stay clenched.

But when a baby is full, they start to unclench their little fists. So think of his hands as a built-in fuel gauge.

how to tell if your baby is full
Source: Facebook

7. Don’t overstimulate

Do your best not to bounce bub around too much after feeding as too much movement can make their tummy contents come back up.

Similarly, don’t overstimulate after they feed. Agitation or excitement can make bub move excessively, leading to reflux.

Try to keep a calm and relaxed environment so digestion can process naturally.

8. Put baby to sleep on their back

If your little one suffers from reflux, your initial instinct might be to keep their head elevated, lay them on pillows, or place them on their side.

However, according to the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Services, there is no evidence to support that keeping babies elevated prevents reflux.

Instead, it is recommended babies with reflux sleep on their back in a firm, flat mattress.

While watching your baby regurgitate after feeding can be concerning, if they are eating well, growing, and not experiencing pain, you should not worry. Reflux in babies is normal and can happen multiple times a day, even in adults. However, using the tips listed above can help keep reflux to a minimum.

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Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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