Does your baby fuss when they eat and then spit up most of their meal? Your baby may be suffering from acid reflux. When your baby has acid reflux it can be a helpless feeling. When my son was suffering, I often felt like I was failing as a parent because I just wasn’t able to make him happy.
Why Do Babies Get Acid Reflux
Babies are constantly developing and some parts of their body are slower than others. The esophagus is one of the parts that can often times need more development before it can be fully functional.
While the esophagus (primarily the muscle at the base of the esophagus) continues to develop, anything your baby eats can come back up. By their first birthday, a baby’s esophagus is generally developed enough to eliminate the issue.
Most babies will experience occasional problems, referred to as gastroesophogeal reflux (GER). When the problem is more persistent, it is referred to as gastroesophogeal disease.
What To Look Out For
- Excessive spit up – A lot of babies will spit up occasionally, but if your baby is spitting up after every feeding or is spitting up large amounts it is a sign your baby may be suffering from reflux.
- Signs of discomfort
- Arching back – Your baby may arch their back in discomfort or frustration when feeding to get away from the bottle or breast.
- Pulling legs up to chest – Your baby may pull their legs up (or extend them fully) if they are uncomfortable.
- Trouble sleeping – Trouble falling asleep after a meal may be a sign that your baby is experiencing discomfort.
- Irritability while eating – If your baby shows signs of hunger but then gets fussy while eating, it could be because of the discomfort from the food they are eating coming back up into their esophagus.
- Difficulty swallowing – Similar to becoming fussy while eating, your baby may have difficulty swallowing and you may notice that they are spitting out some of their food as they eat.
- Wet burps – If your baby is suffering from reflux, you may notice that milk comes up when they burp.
See a doctor if you notice:
- Trouble gaining weight
- Projectile vomit
- Blood in spit up or poop
- Green or yellow fluid in spit up
- Symptoms that last past 12 months old
These symptoms can all be signs that there is something more serious going.
My Experience With Infant Acid Reflux
I know how frustrating it can get as a parent when your baby is upset and you don’t know how to help them. When my son was about 6 or 7 weeks old we started dealing with acid reflux.
Every time I fed him he would cry. And cry, and cry, and cry. About 15 minutes later he would spit up all over both of us. Even with a burp cloth ready and waiting, there was no chance at saving the clothes that either of us was wearing.
We tried a few different things and finally found a solution that worked for us. I can’t tell you how relieving it was that first day that he was finally able to eat his whole bottle and keep it all down. From then on he was happier throughout the day and was able to sleep better at night. Our middle of the night feedings went from hour-long events to a short and sweet 15 minutes.
There’s really nothing better than a happy baby.
What You Can Do To Help Your Baby
- Feed less per feeding – When your baby is having difficulty keeping food down, you may find that it helps to feed them more often and give them less at each feeding. This is a great starting point to help your baby, but it wasn’t incredibly effective for my son. We went from feeding him 4oz at a time to only 2 or 3oz at a time and ended up feeding about every 2 hours instead of every 3-4 hours. We saw some improvement in the amount that he was spitting up, but he always seemed hungry so I needed to find a better solution.
- Burp more often – Burping your baby more often can definitely help. Instead of waiting until your baby is done with their bottle, try burping them halfway through. If you notice that they are starting to spit out some of the milk as they drink, that is a perfect opportunity to set the bottle aside for a second, get them cleaned up, and burp them, then continue feeding. I noticed that when I was able to get my son to burp multiple times throughout a feeding, he was much less likely to spit everything back up a few minutes later.
- Feed in an upright position – Especially when your baby is really young, and not able to sit up on their own, it only feels natural to feed them while you hold them in a laying down position. If your baby suffers from reflux, try propping them up and feed them in an upright position. This can help make it easier for them to keep their food in their tummy.
- Allow your baby to sit up for 30 min after feeding – After feeding your baby in an upright position, try keeping your baby sitting up for about 30 minutes after they eat. This will help ensure the food has time to setting in their tummy before they lay down.
- Try different bottles – You want to make sure your baby isn’t getting too much milk at a time. Some bottles control milk flow better than others so you may want to experiment with a couple different brands. Take a look at reviews on some of the top brands here. You also want to make sure that you are using the correct size nipple. Using a nipple with a smaller hole can help because it doesn’t allow them to get as much milk at a time.
- Try different formula – There are some formulas, like Enfamil A.R., that are made specifically for babies with acid reflux. It is thickened with rice cereal and doesn’t come back up as easily. You can also thicken the formula you are using with rice cereal but there can be some downsides to that so I would recommend using the formula that has already done it for you. We had started out using the gentle formula in a few different brands, but when we switched to the Enfamil A.R. we really started to notice a huge difference. With the extra thickness though, we had to switch from a level 1 nipple to a level 3 nipple so keep that in mind if you switch.
- Adjust your diet if you are breastfeeding – If you are breastfeeding, you may want to try experimenting with your own diet. If your baby has a food allergy that is leading to the problem, eliminating that food from your diet will help.
- Talk to your doctor – If you continue to have issues, or if you notice any of the more serious symptoms listed above, talk to your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may be able to give you additional suggestions, and in rare, serious cases my even recommend medical treatment or surgery.
Keep Your Head Up
You’re not alone in this struggle so keep your head up and you and your baby will come out of it just fine. The good news is that once you find the right solution for your baby, treating their reflux doesn’t require much adjustment to your normal routine and this phase won’t last forever. Even without any treatment, most babies will outgrow it by their first birthday.