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Sleep and Reflux Babies

If you’re a reflux Mum my heart goes out to you. Most babies have reflux to some degree when they are newly born. The muscular valve that keeps food down isn’t tightly closed when babies are first born. This is why premature babies are especially vulnerable and susceptible to reflux. Bodily functions are immature because baby was just that little bit under-cooked.


Many babies posset, this is where milk is brought up shortly after a feed. Frequent posseting may indicate that baby has consumed more milk than their stomach can store. As long as they are happy and thriving, there is no need to be concerned by posseting. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GORD) is more severe. GORD can affect a baby’s mood and behaviour in various ways. If a baby is bringing up most of their milk they will not be consuming the calories and nutrients they need. GORD babies will likely be in pain so even babies with silent reflux will be unsettled due to the burning sensation they feel when the milk comes back up their esophagus.

GORD is often caused by the baby consuming a protein they cannot digest. This can be through the mum’s diet or through formula. The most common allergy or intolerance is Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance, followed by Soy. Symptoms to look out for: ❗️Pain during feeds (back-arching, crying) ❗️Refusing to drink despite hunger or loss of appetite ❗️Gagging ❗️Abnormal movements of the head and neck ❗️Coughing (especially during the night when lying down) ❗️Wheeziness ❗️Failure to thrive (no or low weight gain) ❗️Irritability and fussiness ❗️Difficult sleeper (wakes crying) ❗️Dehydration (no wet nappies in 3 hours) If you are concerned that your baby might have reflux, always seek the advice of a GP who will be able to refer you onto a paediatric gastroenterologist. The good news is most babies grow out of their reflux by the time they are 1 year old. In the meantime there are prescription medications to keep the acidic regurgitation at bay which will help your little one drink with ease.


What can you do to improve sleep in a reflux baby?

1. Thorough burping: Reflux babies quite enjoy being burped over the shoulder while being walked around the house. Be sure that you are not whacking your baby’s back to hard as that might make things more uncomfortable.

2. Being held upright for 30 minutes after a feed: This will allow enough time for the milk to settle, reducing any pain from regurgitation.

3. Ensure baby is not overtired: An overtired baby will sound as though they are in pain. Be sure to learn your baby’s tired cues and stick to age-appropriate awake times.

4. See a specialist: If you are unsatisfied with the answers or reaction you have been given, search local Facebook groups for Dr. recommendations.

5. Try everything: Including infant acupuncture and osteopathy.

6. Administer reflux medication between 2am and 6am and do not administer with feeds. It is good to give medication and wait 30 minutes before feeding. Acid is produced in the early hours of the morning so preparing for this peak should decrease severity of reflux.

7. Know that this too shall pass. Ask for support from family and friends and know that this period will pass. If your baby is still not sleeping well and you believe their reflux has subsided, you will benefit from teaching your baby how to self-settle.


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