Ask the Reflux Mom: Nursing an infant with reflux

Jan Gambino Health Guide
  • Hello........My 4 month old has reflux; although he rarely seems to have a lot of pain (I would say mild discomfort).


    My main problem is when he nurses that he holds his neck very far back and is sucking on the end of my nipple.  The doctor says it's because he has reflux and is compensating.  Does that sound right?

    Also many of our sessions are like a boxing match, they leave me so upset.

    I am in turmoil over whether to give him the ranitidine......I have been staring at the bottle now for 4 days.  I don't want to give him I helping or hindering him?


    I know he will be getting teeth very soon and if he continues to nurse this way I will have no nipple left!  My goal is to nurse him until he self-weans like his brother......2 years old!

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    PLEASE HELP..........Thank-you in advance.



    Hello Nateysmum,


    Good for you hanging in there for 4 months of nursing. I am sorry feeding is such hard work.


    I call this baby wrestling when you are trying to feed a baby with reflux and both of you are struggling to find the best position for feeding. In fact, a chapter in my new book, Reflux 101: A Parent's Guide to Gastroesophageal Reflux is titled, "Feeding your infant: From Baby Wrestling to Contentment". So there is hope that you will get to the "contentment" part soon...


    First, would there be any possibility of a throat or mouth infection such as thrush or mouth sores from a virus? Let the doctor look in his mouth and throat to make sure. Babies are very smart and if it hurts to swallow, they will be careful.


    Second, would you have access to a lactation specialist? Many lactation specialists have experience helping nursing moms with special situations such as reflux. It is important for your son to latch on properly and make a good seal on your nipple for proper eating. A lactation specialist can see if he is getting a good seal and sucking properly. If not, you will need to ask the doctor for assistance. Some babies try to avoid a strong let down and pull away if there is a lot of milk at once. Again, a lactation specialist may be able to help with this and the positioning issues.


    Third, it is important to deal with the stress. Remember that it takes two to nurse. You and your son both have a role to play in the success of the nursing. Try not to feel that you are to blame.


    I know it is hard to take a break when you are nursing-I nursed my 3 beautiful daughters so I know how it can really tie you down and make you feel responsible. I sometimes had to put myself to bed for a day, as if I had the flu to boost my milk supply. I stayed in bed all day and nursed and napped. With a pitcher of water by my bed to re-hydrate, my milk supply was increased and I felt much better.


    I know some reflux moms who pump their BM and then ask someone to feed it to the baby. It would be interesting to see how he does with that. Who knows, you may find others have more sympathy and empathy after struggling like you have to feed him!

  • You might want to check out the discussion of sleep feeding on this site started by a mom named AmyD. It seems that some babies need a quiet, dark, almost dream like setting to eat. Perhaps the many parents who participate in that discussion will have some additional tips for you. I hope some other breastfeeding moms will share their ideas with Nateysmom too.

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    Let me know how you are doing and what is working.


    Jan Gambino

    The Reflux Mom


    P.S. I would stare at that medication bottle a few more days while you sort out the treatment options. On the other hand, if your gut tells you it is time, go ahead and give him a dose. Some days are worse than others and you are in the best position to figure out what Natey needs at any given moment.


    For more question and answer, check out the Ask the Reflux Mom page!

Published On: October 05, 2008