If your newborn seems like they are spitting up their entire meal, and/or constantly crying and coughing during their feeding, then trust me, I know exactly what you are going through. In the hospital, after delivery, my little girl was eating at first then suddenly refused to feed for 12 hours straight and cried for pretty much the entire time. When we got her home, she would cry/scream throughout feedings, which made it very difficult to stay calm or sane. By the time I was done with feeding and burping her, it was pretty much time to start the cycle all over again. Once she hit her first week old and it wasn’t going away, I got down and did some investigating.
It turns out my little girl has reflux, which is actually not that uncommon in babies before their first birthday. It means is that the muscle at the bottom of their esophagus, leading to their cute little tummy, is not strong enough yet to remain closed, causing some of their meal to come back up. It can also cause quite a bit of discomfort, which is what all of that intense cry/screaming is about. Think of it as heartburn for babies, with an added bonus of spit up.
Here is what worked for us to decrease the crying (and luckily the spit up too) and increase the happiness, love, and time for playing and learning!
1. Feeding position
Our pediatrician is the one who showed us this trick, and I am forever thankful. This is a feeding position that I had never seen on Pinterest, read in a baby book or that the nurses showed me in the hospital. It is similar to the cradle hold, but your little one is in a position closer to sitting up right than laying on their side.
It made the biggest difference in my daughter’s feeding ability. Much less coughing, choking, struggling and crying! It also reduced the number of times I had to burp her in the middle of her feedings almost to zero.
Bonus- it only requires one hand!
This position allows your little one to have control of their own head position, so if they need to stop to cough or spit up, they can. It also allows their digestive track to remain flowing downward with gravity.
Your baby will be in one arm with their head in the crook (inside of the elbow). Your hand, of that same arm, will hold their thigh furthest from you. You will want to cross your legs and put your little one down to “sit” there. Make sure you are sitting upright, with your back straight and it should be pretty easy to line their body up with yours. You want to bring your baby to you for feedings, not moving your body to meet them, which would cause a lot of back pain in the future!
2. Kick Up the Frequency
At the first sign of frustration during feeding, burp your little one. My daughter would get so upset during feedings because she was hungry, but she also needed to burp. After I started to burp her whenever I saw a sign of frustration, feedings went much smoother.
You will also want to feed more frequently. Sometimes my daughter would sleep a bit too long, and be very hungry when she awoke. This would lead to her downing too much milk at once, and she would choke quite easily. I started to wake my daughter up during her naps every two hours to feed her. This not only helped her to feed more smoothly but also to help her sleep better at night.
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After each feeding I started keeping her upright to burp her for longer and longer, once I hit about 20 minutes, she would rarely spit up after. If she did, it would just be pretty small. I have kept that 20-minute burping standard ever since. This is especially useful for nighttime feedings. The last thing you want is your baby, who finally fell asleep, to wake themselves back up by spiting up. It is the worst, especially in those early weeks!
4. Super Absorbent Burp Cloths
After purchasing these super absorbent burp cloths (that are also very cute!) I have not looked back. They are worth every penny! Before I had to get a fresh burp cloth out for practically every feeding, which meant I was doing laundry every day! These burp cloths are honestly a life saver. One of these will usually last me the entire day!
5. Double Check Your Diet
One thing that made a HUGE difference was looking into what I was consuming. I noticed that some days my daughter would spit up a significantly greater amount, than her usual large amount. I kept track and what was to blame- cow’s milk!
On days that I would drink milk (or something containing milk) she would spit up insane amounts. Once I cut the milk out, the amount of spit up decreased. By a lot! A small sacrifice to make to make us all a little happier.
My husband used to feed our daughter expressed milk in the morning so that I was able to get some actual sleep. At first, this aggravated her reflux even more, but once we switched to these bottles that have a special air system, it went back to normal. I also liked that the bottle nipples are designed as a natural shape to help prevent nipple confusion since I was still breastfeeding her.
As she has been able to sleep longer at night, we dropped off this routine of bottle feeding her. It actually saves me time to feed her directly, because pumping took about twice as long!
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7. Waterproof Mattress Covers
If your little one spits up at night, I highly recommend getting mattress covers that are waterproof. It was a real pain having to wash a waterproof pad, and a mattress cover every few days. And air-drying the waterproof pad- as a new mom, who has the time?
Our daughter sleeps in a pack-n-play because we travel pretty frequently and I want at least her bed to be familiar to her. When I found these waterproof mattress covers for portable cribs, I knew I had to have them. They are the perfect fit, super easy to put on and take off (I have done it one handed), and they are dryer safe! No more waiting for that waterproof pad to air-dry.
8. Fill Up That Diaper Bag
Make sure to take extra burp cloths and onesies with you whenever you go out. The last thing you want is a baby stuck in wet clothes that are covered in spit up, which can lead to a rash. I pack two burp cloths, two onesies, and a ziplock bag for wet clothes.
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9. Check in with a Professional
Discuss your concerns with the pediatrician or contact a lactation consultant in your area. Our pediatrician gave us the best advice that we may not have received elsewhere. Without her advise, breastfeeding would have been much more difficult to continue. You can also check out the La Leche League website for support groups and resources in your area.
What are some tricks that helped your little one with reflux? Share them in the comments!