Natural Remedies for Reflux in Babies

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As mothers we love our babies with all our hearts. They come into this world completely vulnerable, soft, beautiful and totally at our mercy to be looked after and loved. Motherhood is a blessing and a truly wonderful complex journey, however the road is not always smooth sailing and there will always be tests in some form or another. One challenge that I got to experience was having a divine little baby boy with reflux. Ok, it is not the worst thing in the world. I have friends whose darlings were born with heart defects, mental disabilities and physical issues so severe that they could not survive in our world. Completely heart breaking, they are experiences that most of the time keep us in a state of gratitude to have a healthy baby.

BUT with enough lack of sleep, nights of never-ending screaming and a hormonal roller-coaster that may leave you feeling like a moody 16 year old again, this time with dependants and responsibilities, it can sometimes be hard to focus on gratitude with that foggy mummy brain! It is exhausting and soul destroying to have your baby constantly crying and it can leave you feeling hopeless as a mother. It is soooo important to ask for help if you are experiencing this!

I did and I really don't know what I would have done without it. I managed to enjoy my children and make it out of the first tricky year with my sanity and a healthy toddler who is free of any symptoms, all due to the support around me.

Reflux is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days.  Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux is when part or all of the stomach contents returns into the oesophagus and can be caused in babies because the muscular valve at the end of the oesophagus, needed to keep the milk/food in the stomach, hasn’t developed properly yet. I believe that it is over diagnosed for fussy or sleepless babies, but as a mother I also think you instinctually know when something is not right.

There are varying degrees of reflux in children. Symptoms can include;

  • Projectile vomiting  (not pretty, very obvious and easy to diagnose! My girlfriend always had to pack her spare clothes, towels and wipes to clean off walls etc where ever she was going)
  • Regurgitation or possetting (Some babies spit up with no problem!)
  • A wet, gurgling sound when sleeping as the milk passes back up. Then they can often "choke" a little when swallowing it back down
  • Inconsolable crying - thought to be from the pain caused from the acid burning their little throats when the contents of the stomach is passed back up

Silent reflux is the name when there is no vomiting but it is still just as upsetting to the child and anyone within ear shot of that baby (yes my poor neighbours)!

Once you have really tried EVERYTHING; changing nappies, feeding, cuddles, no cuddles, walking with baby in carrier, sitting with baby, lying with baby, husband cuddling baby, offering a bottle, baby tummy massages, checking for a fever, taking to the doctor to check for any other medical problems, changing the furniture for good feng shou, consulting with a baby whisperer, sage smudge sticks, asking every single mum friend what they did, always being outside/never leaving the house, consulting baby forums...oh yes, the list goes on and on for the desperate mother.... THEN if none of the above or more has worked you can consult with a health professional and may be pretty confident that your little one is suffering from reflux. You can help them and yourself through a few pathways.

Natural treatment of reflux in babies;

  1. If breast feeding look at what you are consuming. AVOID carbonated drinks (this includes sparkling water as I discovered!), chocolates, caffeine, alcohol and really anything that makes YOU feel gassy. I also recommend to try cutting out eggs, dairy, soy and wheat from your diet for 3 weeks and see if there is any improvement. These foods are inflammatory and can cause reactions in many people. Even if you are ok with them, your baby may not be. I know this can be hard when you have a young child and are tired as often you want to grab something highly sugary or stimulating but think of the LONG TERM GAIN.
  2. If bottle feeding try a different formula. I recommend the organic brands Bellamy's and Holle. Some people find the Goats Formula to be tolerated where Cows Milk wasn't. Organic are more expensive but it is the total source of nutrition you are feeding your baby and they are very sensitive to chemicals and pesticides. I would avoid soy-based formulas.
  3. Keep the bed at a slight angel to keep the babies head higher than their stomach. You can do this by placing a magazine under the bottom of the mattress or cot legs.
  4. Keep the baby upright for 20 minutes after feeds. Don't over feed in one sitting, try smaller more frequent feeds.
  5. See an osteopath that works with babies.
  6. Increase the GUT health of bubba with BABY PROBIOTICS. There are practitioner products with specific cultures that are beneficial to babies systems as they are different to us.
  7. Calm and heal the stomach with the well researched herbal formulation, IBERGAST,  that has done successful trials in reflux babies. I highly recommend this product18260_2
  8. HOMEOPATHIC DROPS. They work specific to the child's symptoms and it is better to get a professional Naturopath's or Homeopath's advice.
  • Natrum Phos 3X :Helps neutralise acids and aids digestion.
  •  Kali Carb 30: Symptoms are worse between 2-4am and after eating. Constant pain that is better with movement (think the baby that soothes with constant rocking or bouncing or walks in the prams) and warm drinks.
  • Magnesium Phos 3X For cramps, spasm and pain.
  • Aethusia 30: When the baby doesn't tolerate breast milk.
  •  Phosphorus 30: Vomiting from milk.
  • Silicea 30:For babies who reject the breast and who vomit up breast milk as curds after feeding and are hungry after. It is better to give Silicea twice a day to the breastfeeding mum instead of the baby.
  •  Bryonia 30Acute attacks of pain worse with any movement.  The baby will be very thirsty and draw legs up and burp.
  • Lycopodium 30: Baby is worse between 4-8pm and sometimes also at 2AM. Wind and gurgling tummy with bloating. Your baby may find relief lying on the right side.
  • TREAT YOURSELF-THIS IS SOOOO IMPORTANT. It is best to see a Naturopath that can make up some herbal nerving tonics that can help support you through a stressful period, or some iron supplements after the birth or help you tweak your diet, so you can be the best mum you can be! Please note not all herbs and supplements are safe during breastfeeding so it really is worth getting the professional advice and support.

The other option is you can treat them medically by decreasing the acid in the stomach with either H2 Blockers or Proton Pump Inhibitors prescribed by a Medical Doctor. This is so the acid from the stomach does not cause pain when regurgitated into the oesophagus.  I urge mothers to only do this with caution and thorough understanding of these medications. Our body produces this acid for a reason - to break down and digest our food to become the fuel we need to grow and fight disease. With the lack of acid from these medications the children can then experience delayed gastric emptying with feelings of fullness and experience constipation. Other documented side affects from these medications can include headaches, anaemia, low B12, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weakness, flatulence, dry mouth, dizziness and headaches.

Weening off the medication can also be tricky for children because with the medication stopping the acid, the feed back mechanism has been telling the body to "produce more acid" because it is trying to create the natural healthy state of the stomach. Once off the medication this high acidic state can also create pain for the child until the body levels at an equilibrium state.

Histamine-2-receptor antagonists (H2-blockers): H2-blockers are drugs that block or prevent the production of gastric (stomach) acid. A pump in the stomach releases hydrochloric acid when stimulated by histamine. H2 blocks prevent histamine from stimulating this pump, thereby reducing the amount of acid released into the stomach. Common H2-blockers include; Famotidine (Pepcid) Nizatidine (Axid) Ranitidine (Zantac).

Proton pump inhibitors (PPI):Acid is secreted by parietal cells found in the stomach lining, involving a mechanism known as the proton pump. The PPI deactivate the proton pumps that secret this acid. Some  common PPI's are: Omeprazole (Losec); Esomeprazole (Nexium); Rabeprazole (Pariet); Pantoprazole (Somac); and Lansoprazole (Zoton).

When times are tough remember that in most cases Reflux will naturally resolve itself as the baby grows and begins to sit up more often than lie down at generally around 12 months. It can be challenging but hopefully with some diet changes and natural remedies it will heal. Ultimately we do what we need to do to cope and be the best mothers we can be. Don't beat yourself up if you are not sure if you are doing the right thing! Seek support and think about what my husband would often remind me:

THIS TOO SHALL PASS.