Treating Acid Reflux in Newborns.

Acid reflux in newborns occurs as the valve at the top of your baby's stomach (gastro oesophageal sphincter) is immature and the stomach acid can come back up the oesophagus.

This causes a very unpleasant burning sensation in the throat. This in turn, causes distress and pain for your baby and may also lead to vomiting. Before I go onto give general treatment approaches to treating acid reflux in newborns, I’d like to illustrate how I treat this condition with Craniosacral Therapy.

Leon’s Acid Reflux Story.

Anne brought Leon to me for a Craniosacral Therapy treatment when he was 3 days old.

I had treated his mother Anne during her pregnancy and she realised the benefit of early treatment for her baby. Also, her elder son Colin had received craniosacral work to relieve his infant colic two years previously and had responded well.

During the first treatment Leon needed to release some restrictions at his neck and shoulders. I also did a little gentle mouth work to improve his ability to latch on to the breast. Breastfeeding took off and all seemed well.

However, when Leon was three weeks old he begun to be progressively more distressed and was crying excessively after feeds. Leon returned for craniosacral as Anne thought he might have colic. During screening we observed that while the distress was similar to colic there were differences. Leon was distressed after all feeds except the night feed.

He was particularly upset after each burp. The more he fed, the more he burped and the more upset he became. He finally fell asleep through exhaustion. After this treatment I suggested that Anne bring Leon to her local baby feeding clinic (to which she required a referral by her local doctor).

At the clinic there were checks on Leon’s weight, feeding pattern, stool etc. These lead to a diagnosis of reflux. Leon had a silent reflux. He did not spit up his feeds, or vomit, which is common in reflux babies. However, he was experiencing that heartburn feeling whenever he was lying flat after his feeds or having his nappy changed.

It was recommended that Leon be kept upright during feeding and nappy changes – and be burped over the shoulder and kept in this position till all winding complete. He also needed to be swaddled and allowed to sleep with a raised mattress. It was suggested that Leon be given a special preparation before his feeds to reduce acid. Finally, he was also required to reduce the number of feeds so that it reduced the pain after burping.

I treated Leon weekly to calm him while dealing with this distressing condition. During treatment I supported him in releasing tension around his abdomen. Many times I used a technique called “still Point” to bring calm and peace to his little body. With reflux, the baby experiences fright and being calm and moving slower around the baby reduces the overstimulation caused by the pain of reflux.

Anne visibly relaxed when she saw how peaceful Leon became after these craniosacral treatments. I suggested that Anne take rests for some time each day so she called in friends and family to give her a break during this difficult time.

There is no one "magic solution" for reflux.

Please be aware of people offering “miracle cures”. In my experience a clear understanding of the problem , trying some or all of the solutions outlined below and having the support of craniosacral work assists in getting through a distressing time for all - especially baby!

Leon is now doing well and I am regularly updated on his progress when Anne recommends other reflux babies to my clinic.

Hints and Tips for Treating Acid Reflux in Newborns.

As mentioned previously, reflux happens when the valve at the top of the stomach is not fully formed - so stomach acid comes up into the baby’s throat causing a burning sensation. The following are some suggestions which have helped the reflux babies I see at my craniosacral clinic. Please adapt these ideas to suit your baby’s individual needs.

Also, remember that with the anxiety of reflux your baby is easily over-stimulated so it is important to move slowly and calmly around the baby.

The Feed for Your Baby:

  • Use a feed thickener such as GAVISCON in the bottle.

  • An acid suppressor such as Zantac may be prescribed by your doctor.

  • Other preparations may also be suggested – ask around.

  • A special Bottle may help if baby is gulping drink as these bottles slow the flow of milk to amount baby needs. The faster the baby feeds - the worse the reflux may be. Check your pharmacist or drugstore for specially adapted bottles e.g Dr. Brown’s or Haberman bottles.

Considerations when feeding:

  • Hold baby upwards at 30⁰ during feed. Burp baby gently on shoulder – no bouncing as this causes stomach contents to come back up - triggering reflux.

  • Continue to hold on shoulder up to 30 minutes - or as long as needed - using a cooing sound and very gently tap on back till burping complete. Sooth the baby back to sleep while on your shoulder as this helps reduce anxiety of winding.

  • Reduce number of feeds if possible - as more feeds leads to more burps and reflux.

Remember, it usually takes more than one approach to treat Acid Reflux in newborns. Good luck!

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Contact Carina at 087 6088065 for an initial appointment (or use our contact form here to find out more).