How do you treat reflux?

Reflux can be distressing for you and your baby but there are ways to treat it

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Babies with mild reflux may not seem too bothered by the condition but for those with more severe symptoms it can be very distressing.

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What’s the treatment for reflux? 

If you’re bottlefeeding, your doctor may suggest a hypoallergenic infant formula.

“Reflux and allergies are often linked and some experts believe that cows milk intolerance is the cause of reflux in up to 40 per cent of cases,” says Tracey. “Hypo-allergenic formulas are easier to digest and absorb faster in the stomach, leaving less time for the formula to be refluxed back.”

Various types of medicines are also used to improve reflux symptoms. They work in different ways; some speed up the passage of food through the stomach so it’s less likely to reflux. Others reduce the amount of acid released by the stomach so the reflux is less likely to irritate the lining of the oesophagus.

For older babies, there are thicker types of baby food available designed to reduce the amount of feed able to travel back up.

You could also try altering your baby’s positioning. “Try raising the head end of your baby’s cot by about 30 degrees,” says Tracey Guilliat-Parks. “Also, when changing nappies or clothes or just playing, pop a pillow under her head to help keep the milk down.”

Often it’s a case of finding the right combination of position, feeds and medicines. When you’ve worked out what’s right for your baby, you’ll be advised to stop using the medication every once in a while to check whether things have got better. 

How can you help your baby?

  • Try holding your baby in an upright position during and after each feed.
  • Avoid vigorous patting or rubbing. It’ll help reduce the likelihood of vomiting and relieve pain. 
  • Try giving smaller but more frequent feeds – she might not be keen though.
  • If you’re bottlefeeding, ensure the bottle is tilted and the teat is full, so your baby swallows as little air as possible during feeding.
  • Try keeping your baby’s head raised above the level of her feet when sleeping to help keep the milk down.

A mum’s reflux story

Emma Mycock, 30, from Staffordshire, mum to Annabelle, 3, and George, 15 months said:

“George was born 4 weeks prematurely and from day one he was fractious, unhappy and difficult to feed. He couldn’t get the hang of sucking and it was a challenge to get him to take more than 2oz of expressed milk. Two minutes later he’d bring up whatever he did drink!

“It was really demoralising – he and I seemed to be constantly covered in vomit. I remember once getting through five outfits in one day – and that was just me! When he wasn’t being sick he was screaming all the time. He seemed happier when he was upright so I carried him round in a sling most of the time during the night. He was
so uncomfortable lying on his back and struggling to sleep so eventually we raised one end of his cot and that seemed to help.

“He was failing to gain weight, and when he started dropping off the charts I was distraught. Finally we went to the GP, who diagnosed George with severe reflux when he was 2 months old.

“The doctor prescribed Gaviscon [anti-heartburn and acid-reflux medicine] to be added to his milk. This made it thicker and harder for him to drink but it did seem to reduce the vomiting. George was immediately much happier and more relaxed but I worried about how much medication my small baby was taking, and decided to research complimentary therapies.

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“We saw a cranial osteopath and attended baby massage sessions. Both seemed to help George relax and over a few months they made him less fractious. Still, whenever we attempted to reduce the medication, the vomiting returned. We were told that the problem would resolve itself as George’s body matured, but it wasn’t until he was 14 months that we finally took him off the medication. It was such a relief. Reflux is so distressing for parents and baby but George is proof that it does pass – although it might take longer than you think.”

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