How to Treat a Reflux Baby's Painby Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
In my last blog, "Signs Your Infant Has Acid Reflux Pain" we talked about all of the ways a baby with acid reflux might clue you into their pain. Once you have determined your baby is in pain, then the next step is figuring out how to remove that pain. This can be a frustrating process of trial and error for most parents. The problem is that not all babies react the same way to potential treatments.
In this blog we will talk about a few ways to treat baby's pain starting with some basics you can do at home.
Smaller, frequent feedings
For many babies with acid reflux it can help to do smaller more frequent feedings. An overly full stomach can lead to additional pain and spitting up. When feeding a baby it is important to burp well because trapped gas will only exacerbate the pain. Holding a baby upright for 30 minutes after each feeding gives a baby's stomach time to digest while gravity helps hold the liquids down.
Eliminating certain foods
Breastfeeding is best for most infants with acid reflux so if you are breastfeeding don't give up. Sometimes pulling some of the main trigger foods from mom's diet can help. Most pediatricians will start with pulling dairy. If that does not work then it may be time to explore a more extensive elimination diet.
Formula fed babies may do best with a non-dairy based formula like soy, or may need a more broken down formula like Nutramigen. In my time working with reflux babies, I have seen many with MSPI or milk and soy protein intolerance. These babies will also do better with a formula like Nutramigen. In extreme cases a "hypoallergenic" formula like EleCare may also be needed.
Probiotics can be a good addition to treating an acid reflux baby's pain. I have seen it used with increasing frequency and success over the years. You can find probiotics in some foods like yogurt or keifer. There are even some formulas that have added probiotics. The dietary intake may not be enough for some babies so a supplement may also be needed.
Reflux babies are notoriously bad sleepers. Their pain has to be under control in order to solve any sleeping issues. You may also want to be sure they do not have too much in their belly right before bedtime. Keeping them upright for at least 30 minutes can help with that. We used to do a smaller bottle feeding with a small amount of cereal. This kept our baby full without having too much volume in their stomach. Baths before bed can also help as the warm water can sooth and relax a baby with stomach pains.
If you have tried these things and your baby is still in pain, then it may be time to discuss whether medications may be needed to treat your baby's acid reflux pain. Most doctor's will do a "trial run" of a medication before testing. This is because the trial run is less invasive than most of the reflux testing can be. If the trial run works then it is pretty safe to assume that reflux is the issue. If it does not work then it may be time to explore testing to rule out other issues that could be contributing to the problem.
There is nothing worse than seeing your baby in pain and being unable to sooth them. Hopefully you will find a combination of these tips to sooth your baby's pain. Listen to your gut. If your baby is still exhibiting symptoms of pain, don't be afraid to address it with your child's pediatrician or ask for a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist.