How to support parents with a reflux baby.
How to support the Mum of a reflux baby
Gastro-oesophageal reflux, most commonly referred to as reflux is a condition that causes the contents of babies tummy to come up and occasionally spill out, the acid that is brought up burns babies oesophagus and causes a great deal of distress.
These wee babes suffer serious pain and discomfort which can result in hours of inconsolable screaming. There is no questions that the life of a reflux baby is hard but what about the life of a reflux Mum?
I asked a group of Mums what they wanted their friends and family to know about life with a reflux baby and was told repeatedly that they felt like people just didn’t understand what they were going through unless they had experienced reflux themselves.
So how can we support families living with reflux?
While helping with housework and cooking dinner is great when you have new baby when it comes to reflux babies put down the washing and take the baby instead. Giving Mum and Dad time out to cook dinner gives them a much needed break from what can feel like endless holding/rocking/shushing. Bonus points for taking baby out for a walk and giving the family a few moments of silence.
When it comes to reflux babies the crying can feel endless, listening to hours of screaming is physically and emotionally draining so when baby begins to grizzle these Mums can immediately feel anxious, by giving her some quiet time you can ease her stress and help her cope with any further crying after you leave. One Mum recalls “Oh what I would have done for a night without a baby on my chest”. Taking baby, even if for just a few minutes means Mum can catch her breath, which is the best gift you can give her.
For many Mum’s reflux means numerous trips to specialists and dietitans, juggling these appointments can be exhausting and parents end up leaving with so much information to try and process. Although they know it is well meaning, try not offer more advice, tips or tricks, chances are they have already tried it!
By telling them what to do you can unintentionally make them feel incompetent and add to their feelings of guilt and blame. Instead tell them how amazing they are doing and remind them how much their baby loves them. Watch my settling video for reflux babies HERE.
Lastly, for other mums in this situation, “it’s ok to cry over spilled milk!!! God knows I’ve cried a million times”
When Stacey’s youngest son Ollie was 3 weeks old she realised something wasn’t quite right. Every time he burped, spit up or lay flat he would scream. But this was no ordinary scream…
I am talking ear piercing one hour screaming. He was always wanting to feed, which was draining me physically, mentally and emotionally. I have an older daughter who at the age of 9 weeks slept 7pm-7am, had no reflux and was a happy cruisy content baby.
One evening while I was up with my son for hours on end, I turned to google and typed “why does my new born scream when he spews, burps and lies down”, this is when I learnt about reflux! Reading all this information was overwhelming for a sleep deprived Mum. A phone call to my midwife the next day was the first thing on my list. She told me it could either be a growth spurt or reflux and to call her back if it was no better in a couple of days. With no improvement later that week I called again and infant gaviscon was the recommendation and so STRAIGHT to the chemist I went.
There was a slight improvement but by this stage my son Ollie was 5 weeks old. At his 6 week immunisations I raised my concerns with the doctor who confirmed my suspicions, and onto Losec we went. More information on Losec and reflux HERE.
I was told that I would have to give up breastfeeding and that my milk was too rich but I was determined to continue breastfeeding so I cut certain foods out of my diet like cheese.
Ollie’s sleeping patterns were crazy, half hour cat naps during the day and disrupted night wake ups. My body went into auto pilot as sleep deprivation kicked in, I was so overwhelmed. I cried…a lot and still do at times when Ollie spews. I had to learn that my housework wasn’t a priority, a sleeping baby and dinner preparation became my priority. In the early weeks people would say “oh I know how you feel” and in the next sentence they would say “Im lucky my kids never had reflux”, this was frustrating because they clearly didn’t understand!
Ollie is now nearly 13 weeks old and while the screaming has lessened the spilling still happens. I keep telling myself this is only temporary, that things will get better, but I don’t know when.
My advice to any Mum with a reflux baby is this, if someone offers to bring dinner –take it! Also swaddling and loud white noise can be a lifesaver.
But most importantly you are allowed to cry, you are allowed to feel angry, you are allowed to hold your baby while they sleep instead of vacuuming, and you are allowed to say no to visitors. Remember it is only temporary, I can’t say when it will get better because I honestly don’t know but I do know how you feel.
From one reflux Mum to another xx
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
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- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
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Try our online sleep program, complete with FREE email support.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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