During his first two weeks Esteban was the typical sleepy newborn. At exactly two weeks however, he started to cry a lot and seemed to be in pain. He would yelp and pull up his legs, I’d feel his stomach tightening and cramping. Nights were the worst. We’d lay him down in his bassinet and he’d wake up right away screaming hard. I suspected it might be acid reflux, but after an especially bad day with a lot of spitting up and a visit to the doctor, he pediatrician confirmed it. Seeing my little guy in so much pain was terrible and made my mama heart hurt. Even more so because I had terrible acid reflux the last couple months of pregnancy. I kept thinking about what I had felt and it made me sad Esteban was experiencing that kind of pain as well. Our pediatrician said there wasn’t much we could do. She prescribed a stomach acid reducer but that didn’t seem to help much so I did what I usually do as the typical nerdy, science-y person that I am – research! Through a lot of reading, talking with other mamas, and some trial and error I found a few things that were particularly helpful with Esteban’s reflux. I wanted to share with you what I found to be helpful for us:
#1 Elimination diet. Esteban is breastfed, so to help with reflux I started working on what I ate by doing an elimination diet. I read through a list of common allergens and took away all food except avocado, turkey, cucumbers, and pears. I’d add things in slowly and see how he reacted. Dairy proteins take two weeks to get out of baby’s and mama’s system so we had to sit at the very minimal diet for 2 ½ weeks to make sure it wasn’t the dairy bothering him instead of a new food I’d introduce.
We found that all citrus foods, beans, legumes, strawberries, pineapples, soy, and dairy were the main culprits bothering Esteban’s stomach. This was hard for me, those are my main foods! I’m not a big meat eater, and most of our meals during the week consist of beans, lentils, or dairy for our protein. Also, soy lecithin is in so many foods!! All this to say, this wasn’t easy especially as a nursing mama needing calories. BUT, taking out all of these foods was a huge help and solved a lot of the issues. His spitting up was still crazy, but he wasn’t having stomach cramps or yelping in pain anymore which was great.
#2 Being Propped Up. Especially after eating. I’d hold Esteban upright on my chest for about ten minutes after feeding him. Often he’d nap on me like that through the day as well, or we’d put him in his swing which kept him a bit upright. It was when we laid him completely horizontal that the acid backed up into his throat and caused the burning, so I would try to keep him at an upright angle as much as possible. I know some people put a wedge underneath the crib’s mattress to help with this as well. Our baby monitor has a sensor pad that sits under the mattress though so we were not able to do this option.
#3 Nat Phos. A homeopathic remedy that helped if I accidentally ate something that bothered his stomach or he has a random flare up of reflux and is in a lot of pain. We did have to wait until Esteban was a bit older to give it to him and talked it through with our pediatrician on dosages, etc. So if you try it make sure you run it by your pediatrician first.
#4. Probiotics. Reflux can be caused by a lack of the good bacteria in baby’s gut that helps with digestion. I did tons of reading on what probiotic strains were safe for infants as well as dosages (and ran it past our pediatrician). Once I figured out how much and what to give Esteban I was able to help build up the flora in his gut.
#5 Chamomile Tea. I drink multiple cups of chamomile tea per day, this seems to help quite a bit especially right after feeding (when his reflux is at its peak) because he gets the chamomile through the breastmilk.
#6 These Necklaces. The wood has alkaline properties which helps to neutralize the excess acid. I was skeptical at first, and while it isn’t a huge night and day difference, I can tell a change if I consistently have Esteban wear it.
#7 Essential Oils. I’m fairly conservative with essential oils with babies (and myself for that matter since I’m breastfeeding), but there are a few oils I’ll use on occasion to help Esteban – lavender, fennel, and Roman chamomile are the three main ones.
#8 Time. Another aspect of reflux is an undeveloped esophageal sphincter, the closure that seals the esophagus off from the stomach. The sphincter should be fully developed by the time he’s a year old. We can’t do much to help this reach full development other than wait. Knowing this has been encouraging to me when I feel like I’ve done so much to help Esteban and he’s still in pain and/or spitting up a lot. Some of reflux is simply development and I can’t do much other than wait.
Even with all of these things, Esteban still has rough nights of being in pain and spitting up. Slowly his stomach is maturing and being able to handle some of the off-limits foods (I can now eat beans, strawberries and citrus in small amounts) and hopefully his esophageal sphincter will fully develop by a year which will help in sealing off his stomach completely.
How about you? Any other things you found helpful for babies with acid reflux?