Help for your baby with reflux

Help for your baby with reflux

Why babies have trouble with reflux, wind and constipation and how you can help them.

In baby massage class this is a frequent topic of conversation for new parents. Baby’s immature and sensitive digestive systems may result in a number of digestive complaints. Wind and constipation can create intense discomfort for them and as a parent of a new baby your instinct will be to help out with this. Massaging the tummy with careful, clockwise strokes, following the route of the digestive system can ease this discomfort and encourage bowel movements.

Along with wind and constipation we also find that gastro-oesophageal reflux is a common complaint. Again, this is due to the immaturity of the digestive system, specifically the muscle that controls food entering the stomach. This means that when milk comes down the food pipe (oesophagus) and into the stomach it mixes with stomach acid and sometimes bounces back up the pipe. Stomach acid in the food pipe causes a burning sensation to the baby and often results in them bringing back up their feed. ‘Silent reflux’ is when the baby doesn’t always bring up their feed but has the symptoms of reflux. Reflux symptoms may be an uncomfortable and upset crying baby, arching away from you during feeds, refusing milk, and waking frequently at night. However, your baby may behave like this and not have reflux.

How does massage help reflux?
Gentle massage strokes help to calm your baby who may be distressed and in pain. Massaging the whole body will help to improve muscle co-ordination and tone throughout, which can improve reflux. Although we can’t massage the specific muscle responsible for the reflux, massaging your baby’s skin across the whole body stimulates the nervous system, including the Vagus nerve. This nerve controls many aspects of the digestive system.

Baby massage also allows you to reconnect with your baby, who may be irritable and not sleeping well, a tough time for all of you. A short regular massage can help you regain some of those loving feelings together.

Considerations when massaging a baby with reflux
Lying flat is going to be uncomfortable for a baby with reflux so either have them on your lap facing you with your legs propping them up to a 45 degree angle, or use a cushion/towel to do this on the floor – let your baby guide you as to their preferred position. It would be best not to massage too close to having fed, so leave it at least 30-40 mins.

Other factors which may alleviate reflux
Carrying your baby in an upright position will help your baby digest their milk, help them relax and is likely to result in less crying – crying makes reflux worse. However you are feeding, upright positions can help. If you’re breastfeeding it is important to make sure the latch is good. Considering your diet and cutting out possible trigger foods such as dairy, caffeine, citrus, spicy and rich foods may help some babies. Encouraging tummy time as your baby grows will encourage the belly to relax and will help strengthen the back muscles which help them sit and maintain upright positions.

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