Infant reflux. Colic. Eczema. A bowel movement every few days. My naturally-birthed, breast milk-fed baby had it all going on. If you’re unfamiliar with colic, imagine a newborn who cries and cries – especially at night – arching his back in frustration as two bewildered and sleepy parents shush, jiggle, and bounce the baby.
If you’re unfamiliar with reflux, imagine that same baby just fell asleep. Then minutes later, he wakes up while swallowing acidic, partially digested milk. Or, there’s projectile spit up. The baby is coughing, wheezing, and yes…crying.
Below are some fixes for reflux in babies and colic.
Change your diet: Reduce colic and infant reflux
To help my little guy feel more comfy, I whittled down my veggie-filled primal diet to vegan, gluten-free toast. Bacon. And coconut milk. Lots of coconut milk. While I’m sure I ate more than these foods, the point remains – it’s extremely helpful to ditch the foods that may either stir up some gas or that contain common allergens. Likewise, you may need to bid farewell to caffeinated foods because they can relax the ring of muscles at the opening of the stomach that protects against reflux.
If you can muster up the wherewithal in your sleep-deprived haze, try an elimination diet. Food groups to eliminate (then slowly add back in) are:
- Foods with common protein allergens like dairy, wheat, soy, corn, eggs
- Foods belonging to the cruciferous family like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage
- Foods belonging to the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, and chilies
- Foods belonging to the allium family like onion and garlic
- Foods that are caffeinated, like coffee and chocolate
If you feel that everything you put in your mouth has lost its soul, I’m crying with you. Remind yourself that it doesn’t last forever. Find joy in the foods you can eat. And take your prenatal (I use this one).
Make your baby comfortable
Okay, so babies fuss. And a colicky baby with an irritated esophagus will fuss even more. But there are a few things to know about positioning that can make your baby comfortable.
- Babies resting on their tummy are less affected by reflux. However – SIDS. So, no one recommends putting your baby down on his tummy. Nonetheless, this detail might give you some peace of mind if your baby ends up sleeping on your chest most nights.
- Resting baby on his left side slows the tummy from emptying and results in less reflux.
- Elevating baby during feeding, after feeding, and while sleeping can reduce reflux. You might find a crib wedge handy.
- Holding baby upright and slightly to the right after feedings will speed up digestion, or gastric emptying.
Give probiotics to baby…beyond L. reuteri
Whether your baby has colic or reflux, find a high-quality probiotic that you love. This is because at minimum, probiotics can help to soothe inflammation and reduce gas. Which means your baby will sleep easier. Hooray!
It turns out that BioGaia owns patents on several strains L. reuteri as well as its the commercial use. Does this mean that parents looking to give their baby relief are limited to these two brands?
In short, no.
Just because your probiotic doesn’t contain L. reuteri doesn’t mean it won’t work. Much of the research on L. reuteri was industry funded – in other words, BioGaia provided the patented bacterial strains and the bankroll to get the word out that probiotics work.
The probiotic / prebiotic combination that I use with great success is this:
Dust your nipple or place the tiniest pinch of each in a bottle filled with breast milk. Offer one – three times a day.
GutPro is a clean probiotic that only contains strains of good-for-baby bacteria. There are no fillers and no prebiotics, which can sometimes be a problem in babies with sensitive tummies.
If you’re wondering, the most common prebiotic that I see in baby probiotic formulas is inulin. Inulin is derived from plants. It’s sort of like a big, multi-branched molecule filled with fructose, or fruit sugar. I ask you, does fruit sugar belong in a newborn’s belly?
Galactomune contains two prebiotics: beta glucans and galactooligosaccharides. Unlike inulin, these prebiotics are native to the human body. Yeast cells that call the gut home (like Candida) build a tough matrix around themselves and beta glucans are in the mix.
Likewise, galactooligosaccharides are chains of a milk sugar called galactose. Both beta glucans and galactooligosaccharides do good things for the immune system, helping to control inflammation and strengthen the intestinal barrier.
The moral of this story is that the *right* prebiotic + probiotic do very good things for your baby.
Tongue tie revision may get rid of reflux in babies
When scouring the internet for solutions to infant reflux or colic, did you see a photo of a wailing, tongue-tied baby with the words TONGUE TIE MIGHT = REFLUX in bright, eye-catching letters?
No? Me neither.
But, boy would that be useful. When a baby has a tongue-tie, the bottom of the tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth. You can read more about it through the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ultimately, a tongue-tie can weaken your baby’s latch and lead to swallowing massive amounts of air, otherwise known as aerophagia (air-eating). Besides a loose or shallow latch, some telltale signs of tongue-tie include a clicking sound while feeding, stuffiness in the morning, and reflux.
In working with nearly 200 babies with reflux – of which, over 40% were on medication – Dr. Kotlow found releasing a tongue-tie gave 93% of babies immediate relief.
Likewise, Dr. Ghaheri confirmed his own clinical observations that latch and signs of reflux improve with tongue-tie revision.
Final message: Reflux in babies is a mixed bag
What worked for one mama and her babe may not work for you and yours. And chances are that more than one approach will yield better results.
In my personal experience and when working with other mamas, I have found that these three things matter most:
- Mama’s diet.
- Pre-biotics in the form of beta-glucans.
- Probiotics designed for baby.
What helped with your baby’s infant reflux? I would love to hear about it!