Reflux and Sleep
Medicated suspected reflux and baby sleep
Reflux is characterised by frequent large spilling up of milk after a feed.
This is attributed to a baby having an immature digestive system where the oesophageal sphincter does not close properly after a feed resulting in spilling.
Due to this some spilling is normal for babies and most cope fine, others spill excessively and do not cope with stomach acid causing irritation and pain to the oesophagus. Silent reflux (without spilling) is a little harder to accurately pinpoint- and is often attributed to persistent screaming, alongside back arching and distress for baby when laid down.
In recent years the number of infants being medicated for suspected reflux has increased significantly.
As a sleep consultant, I have recently worked with a number of families with infants on medication (losec/omeprazole) for suspected silent reflux.
The diagnosis of this was determined following baby being difficult to settle, appearing to dislike being laid down for sleep, and persistent screaming only being calm when held upright.
A lot of these are symptoms we notice in babies and sometimes toddlers who are overtired, and have not been able to settle themselves to sleep without a lot of parental intervention. In most cases, these sleep habits have continued on in babies who are medicated for reflux.
A significant effect of Omeprazole and similar medications, is that in long term use it inhibits absorption of magnesium in gut. Magnesium plays a huge role in assisting babies and toddler’s (even adults!) to sleep.
This mineral plays a vital role in muscle relaxation and the deactivation of stress hormones, essentially helps us wind down and calm to transition to sleep.
Long term, use of anti-reflux medication can cause deficiencies in magnesium, and studies show even small deficiencies can lead to symptoms of nervousness, and difficulty winding down.
Make sure you chat to your Doctor about getting your baby or toddler off losec when the time is right.
What if you suspect your baby has reflux, and you are seeking medical advice and considering medication?
Well firstly there are a few things that can help as well as seeking advice around medication:
1. Have a review of baby’s and your temperament- is your baby more sensitive to stimulation? Do they get very wound up quickly? Are you yourself fretful and worried when your baby cries? These kinds of babies can benefit from a very short awake window, and a very long wind down before naps.
2. Review baby’s daily activity and sleep environment- is their room brightly lit and full of stimulating objects like toys and mobiles? Have they been up for some time and overtired when going to bed, fretting when you put them down fighting sleep? Read this blog on over tiredness to help with refluz symptoms.
3. Do you struggle to settle your baby? Feeding to sleep can be what some reflux babies want to help soothe their sore throats, but sometimes the feeding right before a nap makes the reflux worse. Reflux babies often respond to a dummy/pacifier it helps in the same way as feeding. Holding baby upright before a nap and after a feed can help ensure baby doesn’t experience pain while sleeping.
4. If you answer yes to a few of these factors above, it might be worth taking some time to address sleep habits and work on these for a couple of weeks to see if things improve in conjunction with working with your babies Doctor to see if they need any medication.
5. If the symptoms continue after addressing sleep habits for baby, and medication, it might be worth chatting to your Doctor about the possibility of a cows milk protein allergy or intolerance.
Sophie Lloyd, infant and child sleep consultant, sleep educator and registered nurse.
Often when a baby is suffering from reflux, sleep habits don’t develop as well as they could if baby wasn’t in pain. This can mean once you have sorted out the pain factor you are left with a baby who wakes frequently, takes short naps, and needs to be fully assisted to sleep.
Once your reflux baby reaches 5-6 months, it is a good age to start working on healthy sleep habits and consolidated sleep.
If you would like some support and help with this from an experienced sleep consultant, check out our packages below.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
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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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