Little Routines, Gillian Stewart

National Reflux Awareness Month
Gillian Stewart, Saturday, June 13, 2015

June 2015 is national reflux awareness month. Reflux, in babies, is on the increase and June is all about raising its profile. We need better understanding of the condition and better support for the families.

As a maternity nurse and baby consultant I come across a great many babies with reflux. It is distressing for the baby and the family.

Babies start producing stomach acid at around four weeks old. In some babies the little muscle at the top of the stomach, called the sphincter muscle, is rather weak. This can mean that instead of the stomach contents staying in the stomach the muscle allows milk and food to spill out into the oesophagus. This causes a burning sensation making your baby very uncomfortable and unhappy.

Reflux can be anything from severe to mild.

Along with the constantly being sick, feeding can be difficult for these babies and they are very often just unhappy little people. This of course makes sleeping difficult too.

Silent reflux is another condition where babies are not actually sick. They are still getting the burning sensation. This can be a little harder to diagnose. These babies however, are very fussy feeders too and will cry during feeding.

Do ask for a medical opinion if you think your baby is suffering with reflux.

There are a number of ways to make life for you and your baby a little easier. Please ask for help. Your GP should be very understanding.

It can be very stressful and tiring for families to have a reflux baby. Going out and about can also be exhausting for everyone.

This condition does improve as your baby's digestive system matures. It is usually noticeably better when weaning has started and your baby is sitting up and in most cases has completely gone by the age of one.

Keep smiling. Let your baby know that you are there with a friendly smiley face when things are not going too well.

Your baby will still give you plenty of smiles and giggles back!

Please have little breaks yourself. Ask a friend or family member to sit with your baby or to take your baby for a walk. You will be amazed how refreshed you will feel, even if it's just half an hour to have a relaxing bath or have a cup of tea in front of the television.

Don't feel guilty you deserve it!

To help you and your baby through this time, I have put in a list, my ten tips:

1. Seek a medical opinion if you suspect your baby is suffering with reflux. Medication can certainly help with the symptoms. There are several different ones to try, so you will be able to find the right one for your baby.

2. Please, please don't blame yourself. This condition cannot be prevented so remember it is nothing you have or have not done.

3. Keep your baby as upright as possible during and immediately after feeds.

4. Wind your baby frequently during and at the end of a feed, taking care not to shake your baby up and down.

5. Do not over feed your baby.

6. Raise your baby's sleeping mattress and changing mat, at the head end.

7. Give your baby lots of tummy time to strengthen their neck, arm and back muscles. This will encourage them to turn and roll enabling them to find their own safe comfortable sleeping position.

8.  Reflux babies can be unhappy babies. Comfort, cuddle and reassure them but try not to put everything down to reflux. Your baby could be crying for some other reason.

9. Protect areas with a waterproof covering, particularly where you feed your baby.

10. Keep a large supply of muslin squares to hand. Great for mopping up and they wash and dry very easily.

I can help, support and guide you through this difficult time. A phone call or email can make all the difference.