The Holistic Mama » How To Treat Infant Reflux Naturally

How To Treat Infant Reflux Naturally

August 19, 2013 by Roxanne | Filed under Holistic Lifestyle, Home Remedies.

by Kimball Young from www.heavyonwholesome.com

Like most moms, I spent my pregnancies daydreaming about what my babies would be like.  What would they look like?  What would they be good at?  Would they love to read, or sing, or dance? I imagined sweet, sleepy little infants who spent hours snuggling and cooing.  What I didn’t spend time daydreaming about was reflux.  I didn’t imagine myself sobbing in the furthest corner of the house holding a baby who had been screaming for hours on end.

I have 4 children and all 4 of them suffered from reflux. 

I was on baby number three before I realized there are natural ways to treat reflux.  These treatments worked much, much better than the treatments I tried with my older children.  So much better, in fact, that when baby #4 began showing signs of reflux I was able to treat the symptoms so quickly and effectively that her symptoms were only present for a matter of days.

First, let’s address what reflux is and what it isn’t.

What Infant Reflux Is Not

Almost all babies spit up sometimes, so how do you differentiate between normal spit-up and reflux?  The short version of the answer is this: If your baby appears happy and doesn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort, it is likely normal spit-up and your child can be considered a “Happy Spitter”.

What is Infant Reflux?

The official term for reflux is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).  Babies with true GERD are categorized as “Scrawny Screamers”.  This may be a misnomer, however.  GERD may cause your baby to undereat, because eating is painful causing your baby to become underweight (thus, the term Scrawny Screamer).  GERD may also cause your baby to overeat, because sucking and swallowing may help keep the milk they drink down and the acid at bay.  Common symptoms of GERD are:

  • Gagging, choking, coughing, bad breath, excessive hiccoughing, burping
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting (if it’s projectile, it is more than GERD)
  • Fussiness and trouble sleeping

Severe GERD is categorized by:

  • Extreme fussiness and/or crying associated with eating
  • Refusing to eat/poor weight gain
  • Breathing problems
  • Back arching
  • Hoarseness, sore throat
  • Severe congestion/chronic sinus or ear infections
  • Spitting up blood or bile

General Advice for GERD Babies

These are the general tips you’ll likely hear if your baby is suffering from reflux:

  • Keep baby upright as much as possible, especially during and after feedings
  • Allow Baby to sleep on an incline
  • Feed your baby smaller, more frequent meals
  • Burp your baby thoroughly after each feeding

While I think these tips can be helpful for less severe cases of reflux, I haven’t personally found them to be particularly helpful for babies who are experiencing more severe reflux.

Advice You May Be Given, But Should Ignore

Some well-meaning doctors and friends may recommend you thicken your baby’s milk with infant cereal (either pumped breast milk, or formula).

There are several reasons this is a bad idea.  First, thickening formula may lessen the amount of spit-up you’re dealing with, but it may not actually help with the reflux.  The idea is that the cereal helps the milk to “stay down” in the stomach, but in reality what is likely happening is that Baby begins to experience Silent Reflux- reflux in which the stomach contents come up and Baby swallows it back down rather than spitting up.  This can cause a pattern of Baby bouncing back and forth between diarrhea and constipation.

The second reason this is a bad idea is that there is mounting evidence that babies don’t have the proper enzymes needed to digest grains and should not be fed any grains until they reach at least 1 year old.

Natural Reflux Remedies That Actually Work

  1. Healthy gut flora for baby.  Some cases of reflux may be due to an overpopulation of bad bacteria.  Adding in good bacteria in the form of probiotics will help to overrun the bad bacteria.  Find a probiotic that is made especially for infants, like this one.  Powdered probiotics can be given in a spoon with only a few drops of water, or can be added to pumped breast milk and given in a bottle.  You can even apply the probiotics to your nipple and allow Baby to swallow it while breastfeeding.
  2. Nurse in a more upright position.  Often, reflux is the result of Baby drinking too much milk too fast.  If you’re breastfeeding and have forceful let down, make sure to nurse it positions that allow Baby to have better control of how much milk they’re getting.  Try these positions.  Read more here.
  3. Feed Baby from only one breast per feeding.  Sometimes moms produce an overabundance of milk.  If you’re one of those moms, nurse Baby on one breast only per feeding.  This allows Baby to get both the foremilk (the more watery thirst quenching milk) and the hindmilk (the more rich, fatty, nourishing milk).
  4. Try an elimination diet.  The most common triggers are dairy, soy, wheat, and eggs.  Eliminate one food at a time and for at least a week.  Your child may have an actual allergy to something you’re eating. See our Programs page for guided elimination diets and cleanses.
  5. Try Chiropractic Care.  This one was the winner for my third baby.  He screamed incessantly for the first 9 weeks of his life.  Every other thing we tried helped a little, but he was still miserable.  When he was two months old, we moved and I was able to try a different chiropractor than the one he’d been seeing and the results were instant and lasting.  He stopped screaming during the adjustment, fell asleep and slept for 9 hours straight (he’d slept only 20-30 minutes at a time up until that point!)  When he woke the next day he was happy and content.
  6. Hazelwood Reflux Jewelry.  If you’re familiar with Baltic Amber teething necklaces, this suggestion won’t seem like a stretch.  Hazelwood necklaces proved to be very effective at helping to ease the acidity related to my babies’ reflux.  I ordered mine here.
  7. Use essential oils.  The oil blend called DigestZen from doTERRA Essential Oils which is helpful for all things related to digestion.  I used it internally while pregnant, and used it on my babies’ bellies each night.  I noticed a marked increase in reflux symptoms on nights I forgot to apply it to their bellies.
  8. Babywearing.  For me, this one is a no-brainer.  Babies love to be worn.  Choosing a carrier that allows Baby to be more upright with no pressure on the belly is ideal. The Ergo is a great option, and very comfortable for Mama. Other choices include the Baby K’tan and the Moby.
  9. Swaddling.  All of my babies loved to be swaddled, but I noticed the two who had the most severe reflux did best when swaddled most tightly.
  10. Castor oil packs.  Castor oil has amazing detoxing abilities, and can help flush the body of whatever is causing a problem.  Castor oil can either just be rubbed on Baby’s belly several times a day or you can use the castor oil pack method.  Dip a cloth (cotton, hemp, wool, or flannel- a cloth diaper would be perfect) in castor oil.  Apply it to Baby’s belly.  Wrap with plastic wrap (to contain messes from dripping oil) and cover with a blanket.  Leave it on for 30-60 minutes, if possible.  Then, give Baby a warm bath in filtered water with a few drops of lavender oil. 

One Last Tip

Many babies who’ve dealt with reflux aren’t able to sleep well.  Even once they are no longer experiencing reflux symptoms they may continue to be poor sleepers.  This may simply be a result of never having had a chance to learn to sleep well.  Once your baby seems to be free from symptoms of reflux, make teaching healthy sleep patterns a priority.

Kimball started on her journey to real food and natural, holistic living 9 years ago, when her oldest child nearly died from an allergic reaction to peanuts.  She is passionate about wholesome food, her family, and Jesus.  Kimball is married to a Naval Aviator and together they are parents to 3 hilarious boys and a sweet baby girl.  Their family is currently stationed in sunny San Diego. Kimball blogs over at www.heavyonwholesome.com



Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting!

Roxanne


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11 Responses to “How To Treat Infant Reflux Naturally”

  1. karen says:

    giving a baby Calcium bentonite Clay also relieves infant reflux…..mix it with water and put in bottle……works also for adult reflux

  2. Melinda says:

    Nursing more upright is good. There is good posture to nursing. Also, gently press lips together while sleeping if they fall open, so not mouth breathing where the tongue position will not fall to the lower mouth area.
    Check out Baby Led Weaning because the spoon feeding is too much food even with a baby spoon and spitting it out or swallowing too much at a time can cause airway and digestion problems. This way the child will have more of an appreciation for food meals and eating.

  3. Crystal Salinas says:

    Wow thank you so much for this. This is only my second but my first with this problem. The whole crying in the corner thing yeah and I really don’t like that drs first response is meds. Again thank you!!

  4. Sarah Titus via Facebook says:

    Great article. It seems like sometimes people don’t believe babies can get acid reflux. Glad to see it being promoted as truth! :)

  5. This was very informative! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Linda Carmical via Facebook says:

    Really wish blogs had existed when my kids were babies.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Thank you, Kimball. My 4 wk old son is struggling with reflux. He’s my third, but the first with reflux. I’m pinning this post for reference…really want to avoid medication! Planning to look into chiro care this week. We’re using DigestZen, too, plus elevating his head during feedings and sleeping (elevated mattress). Also giving him probiotics from Klaire Labs. Hoping to find a good solution SOON! :) Thanks again.

  8. Brianna says:

    Hi there, I have a 6 week old. I’ve read that there are only a handful of EOs safe for this young. I ordered digestzen but then read that specifically peppermint and tarragon, 2 of the oils, should not be used in babies. Thoughts?

  9. Ashley says:

    Thanks for this! Last night found me with a husband snoring on one side, a babes writhing around in her sleep on the other, and me sobbing in the middle. LO is 11 weeks old and had reflux symptoms in the first month, which seemed to die down in month 2, only to be kicking up again in the past few weeks. We already do many of the things on this list, but I’m wondering about the necklace – at what ages did your children start wearing it? I think 3mo might be a little young. She’s also gained weight quickly and a bit of a double chin :)

    • Roxanne says:

      I have not used the hazlewood myself, this post was a guest post from another blogger – Kimball Young. Although I did use the amber teething necklace on my son as early 3-4 months old.

  10. Lela says:

    Please also think about adding craniosacral therapy (CST) to this list. It can be very beneficial for many ailments including reflux.

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