Five ways parents can help soothe a reflux baby

Most parents of a newborn will face some sleepless nights and a baby who is hard to settle at some point, but when a case of reflux is thrown into the mix, sleep and feeding issues can reach an all new level.

It can be upsetting to see your baby in distress, but try to take a moment to breathe and realise you’re not alone and there are things you can try. Here are five techniques that may help a baby with reflux:

1. Try different feeding positions

When feeding your baby, placing them in a few different positions might help alleviate discomfort. A helpful position for young breastfed babies is under the arm (often known as a football or twin hold), while older babies can be held sitting upright. Bottle fed babies might benefit from a more upright hold too.
 
In the first hour after feeding, which is when reflux babies usually experience pain and vomiting, try holding your baby upright with their head supported, or hold them upright leaning against your shoulder. This may help keep the milk and stomach acid down.

2. Switch around routines

Reflux babies tend to benefit from a routine where they stay upright and awake after a feed. Try out a routine where you feed your baby immediately after they wake up and then let them have a play or a cuddle before they have to go back down again. This can help to avoid them lying down flat straight after eating, which is when acid and milk can creep up.
Baby sleeping

3. Elevate your baby’s sleeping position

It may help to keep your baby in an upright position to alleviate reflux symptoms. It’s no different when it comes to sleep, so try putting them down on their back in a bed that is slightly elevated. You could try raising the top end of the crib or raise the mattress a little by placing towels underneath. Always make sure your baby is in a safe sleeping position without any obstructions in or on the sides of the crib.

4. Vary the frequency of feeding

Try experimenting with different ways of with feeding to see what works best for your baby. Feeding your baby smaller amounts more often can help, as this can help reduce reflux. But for some babies it may be better to give them a larger feed less often, and then be kept awake and upright for about an hour after their feed to help prevent reflux.

5. Try a dummy

Every new parent hears about the pros and cons of a dummy, but when you see your little one squirming in pain anything is worth a try. The sucking motion that a dummy induces can help digestion and may offer your baby some relief from reflux between feeds. 
 
If you do decide to use a dummy, make sure it is the correct size and shape for your baby, and that it meets the recognised manufacturing standards. Make sure to clean them often and replace them regularly, especially if they are damaged. Don’t force your baby to take a dummy if they don’t want it. And give yourself a break by remembering that any habit can be broken down the track; you may want to focus on coping right now.
 
It is important to speak to your doctor or child health nurse for help and extra support if you have any concerns or these methods don’t help.

Check out our parenting hub First Thousand Days for support, information and inspiration to help guide you through your parenting journey, from conception until a child turns two. 

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