Reflux, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) occurs with infants because the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus isn’t fully developed at birth. Without this valve being fully operational the acids from inside the stomach come up into the esophagus. Reflux and GERD can cause many symptoms in breastfeeding babies including spitting up, burping, stinky breath, and heartburn. I don’t know about you, but I suffered terrible heartburn during both of my pregnancies. Heartburn can be miserable. Well, reflux can be too. Having a full tummy will bring on those symptoms so babies with extreme reflux will even learn to delay breastfeeding as long as possible to avoid the discomfort caused after breastfeeding.
My second baby was a spitter. She’d spit up all the time it seemed. Sometimes it would come all the way up and out, other times it would get to her mouth and she’d make a grimace as if saying, “Ugh, THAT was nasty!” Other times it’d just reflux into her throat where she’d sputter, cough and sneeze. It never got so bad that it affected my milk supply, but I think we were on the verge.
What happens in extreme cases of reflux (GERD) is that the baby starts associating the discomfort of reflux (burning in the throat, coughing, sneezing, trouble breathing) with breastfeeding and may begin to put off breastfeeding as long as possible. Unfortunately increasing the times between breastfeeding sessions will cause your milk supply to go down.
If your breastfeeding baby had reflux here’s what to do. Often the reflux is caused by something you’re eating. Dairy is the usual suspect, but it could be a specific spice or vegetable such as onion. Eat normally and log your baby’s spit ups and choking for two days, then switch to a water and plain oatmeal only diet for two days. Again log the spit ups and choking. If you see a dramatic reduction it means that something in your diet is to blame. Gradually add back normal foods and keep logging spit ups and choking. If you see a rise, try to tie it back to something you ate.
Breastfeeding And Reflux Solutions
Babies suffering from reflux or GERD should be given smaller, more frequent meals. Their crib mattress should be at a slight incline with their head higher than their toes. Try to keep them upright as much as possible and be diligent about burping. Also try taking odor-control garlic supplements about 30 minutes before nursing. You want the garlic to get into your breast milk to help soothe baby’s tummy. Often babies will grow out of the reflux, but see a doctor if you are worried the reflux is part of a larger problem or the above diet test doesn’t change the amount of reflux.