So many of the families that I speak to regarding sleep have little ones who have or have had reflux. It is the most common medical challenge in babies under 12 months. Having a baby or toddler with reflux brings many challenges – they often have very poor sleep patterns, which is why I come into contact with so many struggling families. Reflux babies also tend to be very unsettled and cry for longer periods than other babies, and this, combined with lack of sleep, can be extremely challenging for parents and carers.
What is Reflux?
Reflux (or GERD) is a relatively common medical condition where the stomach contents come back into the oesophagus. Most babies experience symptoms of reflux
at times due to the immaturity of the sphincter at the base of the oesophagus, which allows the stomach contents to escape. However, it happens more frequently for some babies and causes discomfort and pain from the stomach acid rising into the oesophagus and throat. As a result, babies with reflux are often sick much more regularly than other babies and more copious amounts.
However, babies and young children can still experience the pain and discomfort of reflux without any vomiting or spitting up, making it much more difficult to spot and diagnose – this is known as silent reflux.
Reflux and discomfort after feeding can also be a result of Allergic Gastroenteritis. This is an intolerance or allergy to something in food, breast milk or formula. It’s most it’s a protein in cow’s milk. Common possibilities include soya, egg, gluten and wheat.
If you suspect that your wee one has reflux or seems to be in a lot of discomfort after feeds, please seek medical advice.
Ways of Soothing Your Reflux Baby
Babies with reflux can often be more “high needs” – they tend to cry more often and for longer periods and can be difficult to soothe. However, there are several ways you can try to help:
- Hold your baby upright for an extended period after feeding
- Hold your baby with their left side down – their gastric inlet will be higher than the gastric outlet
- A dream feed (when you feed your baby whilst they’re still asleep) can help as it reduces the amount of air swallowed by your baby
- Using a dummy can help soothe their discomfort as it increases the production of saliva which can help to neutralise the stomach acid
- Feeding smaller feeds more frequently can help as the stomach doesn’t become so full each feed
Support For Parents
I struggled with one of my children when she had reflux as a baby, particularly its impact on her sleep. She cried a lot which made me reticent to take her to many places, which caused me to become isolated as a new mum.
If you feel you need some more personalised support with your baby’s baby’s sleep, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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Caro is a Senior Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant® based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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