Baby Reflux

A friend emailed me today – both his grand babies born recently are suffering from reflux.  I share with you here what I shared with him, and with many mamas.

My dear Friend –

Usually, there are 1 or two key factors, and 1 or two things which do the trick:

Air bubbles pushing up
  • Many of us have an intense milk let down at start often babies take in too much air  and milk too fast.  I learned a trick from one of my twice around postpartum clients:  briefly take baby off sucking when this happens.  Support her head with your opposite hand – press your near forearm against your nipple and areola for a few moments to diffuse the spray throughout the breast, and then let baby latch again.  This is often a big help, and does not create problems of any breast congestion that I have seen with many mothers.  Baby just can suck the generous supply without being forced.
  • Try nursing with feet lower instead of your “Boppy” pillow level, so air bubbles don’t go out the long way.  similarly, burping helps.
  • Bottle feeding often results in very quick delivery of milk, and Baby takes a lot in at once.
  • Either way, if baby takes in too much food, it won’t be just air bubbles that push milk out – it can be the excess milk itself.

Feeding too often – less than every 2 hours from end one feeding to beginning of another for breast milk, or – with formula feeding maybe less than 3-4 hours as a minimum, I’m not sure.  In either case –

  • Feeding too often is such a common issue, and results in poor food combining for Baby self induced.  Ie, fresh milk on top of sour or partly digested milk makes for a confused tummy, maybe gas, bloating, or general uncomfortable feelings.
  • It is like for us, after snacking on top of a full meal, we tend to feel ucky or mucky, and then gassy in the gut.
  • It is complicated by Baby’s common need to suck which goes beyond her need to eat.  Sucking balances hemispheres when they get out of sync, and gives him or her bliss.
  • So of course they want to suck, for that reason alone.  Even if tummy hurts, sucking at other times makes a tummy happy.
  • So babies do need our help and guidance with their instincts, not just with diaper changes and rocking and cuddling and loving.

Feeding baby while distracted, arguing, talking business, on phone, movie etc

  • Here is a test of this – does the reflux happen at night too?  Often it does not.
  • It results in baby sometimes not doing the mind-body integration dynamic as well – He often will eat too fast or anxiously, again causing confusion, tensions or indigestions pushing milk back up.
  • It is better to try feeding in quiet place for a while and see how that works.
  • Similarly, this is an obvious probably to you – be slower and gentler with a baby who has just eaten – whether in burping, bouncing, bending or any other activity putting crimp on the tummy’s process.

More on food combining

  • I have seen common that some formulas now have two or more types of protein – dairy, soy, whey….even a raw milk formula with raw liver and 3 kinds of oil in it.  Simpler is better, easier.
  • Complementary feeding of formula on top of breastfeeding can complicate digestion or overfeed also.

More on difficult digestion issues

  • With breastfed babies often mama’s diet is compromising baby’s digestion, creating gassy or hot stomach.  We call them VATA or PITTA aggravating foods, respectively.  We can talk more about this if  you like.
  • For more useful input for most people, I’d like to send you to my e-cookbook, “Touching Heaven, Tonic Postpartum Recipes with Ayurveda.” It is in the Sacred Window online shop with a companion handbook.  Recipes are annotated, menu planning for Mom is basically by weeks postpartum, and even Baby’s first foods are discussed.
  • For formula fed babies, we must remember formula is heavier – and takes longer to digest.  It has “old” or low prana (life force), and is not exactly what Baby’s biology was designed to handle.   It is not just about chemistry, it is about life force and other things.  So indigestion, gas, bloating, or just tension or tummy ache are more common with formula, and can easily trigger the body to move food back out.  It does depend on the formula recipe, and Baby’s constitution, imbalances and circumstances such as above, how well she handles formula or other influences on breastfeeding.
Essential oils, baby massage, warmth, swaddling
These can help in short term, each in their own way.
  1. Essential oils choices depend if the need is for calming, tummy aches from gas, acidity, ama (accumulated impurities) from overfeeding, even parasitic influences….we can talk about this more soon.
  2. A lovely book by author, Ashley Montegue, “Touching” reports we might scientifically consider newborns as premies until they are 6 months of age.  It is an interesting thought – how compared to other animals and brain size, humans at 6 months old are where other mammals are at birth, but that size  head would not fit through the birth canal well at all!  He proposes what from a different perspective, Ayurveda speaks of, that the newborn digestion is quite immature for about 6 months.
It is so worth tending to the little things that protect baby for best beginnings, and it is not just to mollify the tears.  All these factors can help structure good foundations done right.  The time flies, and babies are so influenced in their early days, weeks and months, for such a long time to come.  Moms too!
Let me know how everyone is doing, ok?  Although it may be good for us to get on the phone, there are several things which commonly help.    There occasionally may be more to address, but try these things and let me know.
Ysha ma

Colic Calm gripe water, which is homeopathic and FDA regulated, has also proven to be effective for reflux. Since it’s natural, and has a 94% efficiency rate, it’s worth trying before giving your LO meds. Here’s a link to their ingredients:

I’ve read that putting a very small amount of cultured juice or ghee on the baby’s tongue helps. I am not fully sure if this is safe for my baby who is only 3 months old. Which is why I haven’t tried it yet. It is supposed to be an old Indian tradition. Anyone else out there who heard of it or tried it before?

Hi Megha –

The issue definitely is how baby is digesting, and as that article suggests, supporting better digestion is important, not antacids which weaken digestive fire. What helps make mama’s milk more digestible might include missing probiotics from antibiotics to baby around the birth, so this idea of a drop of freshly cultured kefir is interesting. Just important it is not given as “food” – baby will end up with congestion and who knows what else. Ghee is completely safe and we use it on nipple or fingertip for constipated babies also, several times a day until things are moving well. Milk which comes from mamas with high “Vata” – more air and space element – usually from dry, cold, old or more difficult to digest foods including from poor food combining, will make baby gassy. Heavier foods mama eats can also make for indigestion due to excess “kapha” (earth and water) and make baby throw up heavy curds. If “Pitta” (fire and water dominant influences) is the issue, the acidity will be high or aggravating in some way such as from foods rich in oxalic acids or sub acid fruits. Pitta milk may be a little sour to the taste, kapha milk very heavy, vata milk bluish and a little astringent to baby’s taste. There are ways to promote balance with herbs as well as diet we will discuss in more detail in class in May.