Reflux in babies can be a really stressful issue to navigate. Not only are you worried about your baby’s well-being, there’s nothing more disheartening than seeing them spit up what looks like an entire feed. While they say not to cry over spilt milk, sometimes you just can’t help yourself.
Reflux is common in many young babies because the muscles at the very top of their stomach aren’t strong enough yet to hold down milk. Reflux or spitting up will usually go away with age. As their digestive system matures, they start to sit up and can sit for longer periods, which means their stomach muscles get stronger.
As parents, it’s only natural to wonder how we can support our little ones and how to help a baby with reflux sleep at night. Because when the baby isn’t sleeping, no one is sleeping! So here are 6 handy ways you can help your reflux-affected baby sleep more peacefully.
1. Sleep them on their back
A baby with reflux needs to be put to sleep on their back as this gives their airway protection, as opposed to sleeping them on their tummy or sides. Parents might be worried their baby will choke on their spit-up, but the gag reflux naturally prevents that from happening.
As per Red Nose’s safe sleeping guidelines, placing a baby on their back to sleep instead of their stomachs or sides greatly reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and should be adhered to for all children — even if they have reflux.
2. Keep them upright after each feed for 15-20 minutes and burp them before putting them down
Gravity and time will ensure your little one can properly digest their feed without bringing it all back up. You can pop them in the carrier if you need to get stuff done around the house; just make sure they’re not strapped in too tight. Giving them a thorough burp before bed and getting out any pesky air bubbles will ensure they are comfortable for their rest.
3. If they’re bottle fed, check the teat size
If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, always check what size teat you’re using as there are several different sizes and flows based on how old your baby is. If the teat is the wrong size, your little one might be having to work overtime to get their milk, and in turn, be taking in a lot of air which can cause them to spit up more. If you are unsure what the best teat size is, ask your GP.
4. Don’t elevate their bassinet
As per Red Nose’s guidelines, a baby with reflux should never be elevated while they sleep. Elevating a bassinet or cot means your baby could slide down into a dangerous position which could compromise their breathing. You should also avoid using a pillow or wedge under your baby’s head because it could cover their face and become a suffocation risk.
5. Small but frequent feedings
Giving your baby small but frequent feeds means they’ll have less liquid in their tummies and will be able to digest it easier. Speak to your doctor about how many feeds your baby should be having based on their age and ask them how you can split that amount up into smaller, more palatable servings.
6. Make sure their nappy isn’t too tight
When it’s time for bed, always double-check your little one’s nappy and loosen the tags if they’re cutting into their stomach.
Overall, reflux and spit-up tend to be harmless, but if you are worried that your baby doesn’t seem to be gaining weight, or there are streaks of blood in their spit-up, or your baby seems extremely distressed, then you should contact your doctor.
The good news is that time is usually the best healer. Most babies seem to outgrow their reflux by the time they turn one so until then, throw an old faithful spew rag over your shoulder and stock up on the laundry detergent.