Does your baby arch his back in pain, fight the breast, projectile vomit after feeding and scream in pain most evenings? He may be suffering from acid reflux.
I had a five day hospital stay after Noah’s birth and, just before my milk came in, the staff were concerned he had lost a little too much weight, and there was talk of feeding him formula milk. So, when my body started producing milk rather than colostrum, I was keen to get as much of the good stuff as possible in his little tummy. He’d been sleepy during the day and I’d been struggling to sleep during the nights as there was a constant low level of light in my room, so the first night we snuggled up in bed together, and prepared for a long, lazy night of cuddling and feeding. Bonding was taking time, due to the fact that we’d been separated straight after his birth, and because I was in a lot of pain following the caesarean, and I thought keeping him in bed with me would help to establish both breastfeeding and that crucial bond. He was pretty windy that night, I could tell he had stomach ache and he vomited a lot, but I wasn’t unduly concerned, particularly as we soon realised he was starting to gain weight.
Back home, we began to see a pattern; he’d projectile vomit after most feeds, he’d be pretty trumpy and burpy, and then really struggled during the evenings, screaming and arching his back at bedtimes and during the night, and most often would eventually fall asleep lying on his tummy on my chest.
When he was a few weeks old he caught a cold and, as we sat down in the doctors surgery, he threw up all over me. Our doctor was unconcerned about the cold but a little worried about his vomiting, and asked us to make a second appointment later that week.
Noah didn’t improve and, while we were waiting for our second appointment I realised I’d been describing his symptoms as ‘a sort of acid reflux’. Sitting in the waiting rom I googled ‘baby acid reflux’, and had a serious Eureka! moment. There were other things I’d noticed but hadn’t connected, like the fact he seemed to hold his breath for a few seconds sometimes, to the point where his skin would take on a blueish tinge, and he was often congested and wheezy, and the contents of his (usually explosive) nappies could be foamy.
I described all this to our doctor and suggested acid reflux, but found him to be dismissive. Noah was gaining weight (in fact he’s a little monster who is off the growth charts in his carnet de livre), and all babies prefer to sleep against their mummies. I spoke to my wonderful health visitor back in the UK, and she advised that a UK doctor would likely prescribe an antacid, which I really didn’t want to give to a tiny baby with a developing digestive system, so I set about researching natural remedies. Here’s what I learned –
- I gave up dairy. Dairy is one of the biggest allergens for babies and young children, followed by goats’ milk and soy. I literally cried at the thought of giving up my beloved milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt (literally the first thing I had to eat when I left hospital after having Noah was the Camembert I’d been unable to eat during nine months of pregnancy), and it is in a surprising amount of food, including chorizo, some dark chocolate, patés and salad dressings. I became an expert at reading labels, and eventually started to enjoy finding alternatives. I’d say it took 3 or 4 weeks to see a significant difference in Noah (I’ve read it can take this long for all traces to leave your body), and even then I thought it was just a coincidence, but the few times I’ve accidentally consumed even a tiny amount of dairy he’d be in pain for three or four nights afterwards.
- We started ‘snacking’.Basically, I let Noah graze. He fed completely on demand, but I stopped offering him the second breast each time. Feeding little and often meant it was easier for him to digest my milk, and was sick less often.
- I kept him upright. I tried to keep him as upright as possible when feeding, and for 30 minutes after each feed, so that gravity would help to keep the milk in his little tummy. I’d often pop him in a sling if he was tired or I had jobs to do.
- We raised the head of his cot. This helped to prevent acid from rising up into Noah’s oesophagus. We used the Chicco Next2Me co-sleeping crib, and placed a rolled up towel under the mattress at one end although, more often than not, he preferred to sleep lying against me.
I’ve heard that acid reflux in infants improves and often disappears when they’re around six months old and their digestive system matures. Noah continued to have a reaction to cows’ milk after six months so we avoid it completely; seeing him in pain, often for days afterwards, just isn’t worth it for us.
Ultimately cows’ milk is meant for baby cows, and it isn’t automatically a given that our bodies will be able to digest it. Successful marketing campaigns have convinced us that dairy is good for our health but, overall, around 75% of the world’s population loses its tolerance to lactose, the sugar found in milk, after weaning. In fact, giving up dairy has taken our family on a journey towards a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. We occasionally eat eggs from our chickens and a small amount of local honey, but we’re increasingly convinced that eating mainly plants is one of the best things we can do for our health.
I’d like to share more of this journey with you, including recipes, meal plans, and how we make sure we get the nutrients our bodies need.
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