How To Help Your Reflux Baby Sleep: A Guide

How To Help Your Reflux Baby Sleep: A Guide

Your baby has been nursing for quite some time, or they have just downed the last bits of a full bottle. You are glad that their tummy is complete and your baby is content. Just as you go to lay your baby down to sleep, they spit up, and it seems like everything they had just consumed is now on you, themselves, and possibly the floor. 

You may be wondering if your little one is feeling okay. Just as quickly as they spit up, they are back to their happy and sweet selves while you are off to change and clean up. 

How To Tell If Your Baby Has Reflux

In layman’s terms, reflux is spit up. There are different reasons why your baby may spit up, like being too active after eating or swallowing too much air. Spit-up is due to your child’s reflux, which is caused by their developing digestive system. 

All Newborns Spit Up – It’s Normal!

You may fret over the amount of laundry you now have to do. But there is no need to fret about your baby, spit up is entirely normal in newborns. Just like how your baby is born with cartilage that later develops into bone, your baby’s digestive system isn’t all the way formed when they are born.

Quick baby anatomy lesson! There is a muscle where your infant’s esophagus meets their stomach. When mature, this muscle helps to keep food in the stomach. Your baby is born with this muscle not yet matured, which causes your baby’s stomach contents to come back up at times. 

Since your baby is on an all-liquid diet and they lay down a lot, their stomach contents can come back up pretty easily. You probably see this when you burp your baby and liquid comes up with the air that was in their tummy.

Spit up caused by reflux can also happen if your baby changes position after feeding too quickly or if they have hiccups after eating. As you also know, spit-up can also just happen out of nowhere. 

It’s also completely normal to continue seeing your baby spit up through their first year of life. You may see a peak around four to five months, and then it will gradually reduce through their first birthday. Just remember to keep plenty of burp cloths handy!

Does Your Baby Have Silent Reflux?

Silent reflux is when your baby spits up but swallows the spit-up, or it remains in the esophagus. You may not know your baby has experienced reflux until they begin to exhibit symptoms since there is no spit-up to spot. 

Key Signs of Reflux in Babies

Your baby will more than likely be their normal selves with normal reflux. Sometimes reflux can cause your baby to be uncomfortable, especially silent reflux that may just be sitting in your baby’s esophagus. Spit up mixed with any stomach acid may cause your baby some discomfort, including fussiness, coughing or gagging, refusal to eat, sour milk breath, or trouble sleeping. 

If you see that your baby has continued symptoms and added signs like a swollen tummy, arched back, or not gaining weight as expected, follow up with your child’s pediatrician.

When To Slow Down on Playtime

We love to play with our babies, and they love to play with us. If your baby is experiencing more reflux than normal, try to keep them from getting too excited and moving around too much after feeding.

Sudden changes in position can cause spit up to travel up your baby’s esophagus. 

You may have also heard the stories of parents who would hold their babies above their heads after feeding to play. Ideally, keep things calm for your baby, and try not to move them around too much for around twenty to thirty minutes after feeding. 

This gives your baby’s tummy a chance to settle and start the digestion process. 

If you have a baby swing that sits in an upright position, you can place your baby in the seat and not start the swing. Take this time to play peek-a-boo or other games where your baby does not have to move around.

If your baby loves tummy time, it may seem like a good opportunity to do tummy time after eating. However, if your baby is dealing with reflux symptoms, avoid putting any pressure on their tummy. 

Helping Your Reflux Baby Sleep

When your baby is experiencing symptoms from reflux, it may be hard for them to sleep. Those sleepless nights are not fun for anyone. If you have ever tried to sleep with indigestion or heartburn, you may know how uncomfortable it is to lay down. 

Let’s talk about ways to keep your baby feeling comfy if they experience reflux often. 

Should You Dream Feed a Reflux Baby?

If your baby has trouble with reflux, dream feeding may not be a choice that works for you. Reflux can be exacerbated by your baby’s positioning. If your baby has a full tummy and is then laid down to sleep a short time after feeding, the contents of their tummy can travel back up the esophagus to their throat. 

So, if you notice any symptoms around nighttime feedings, their position could be the culprit. 

Can You Nurse a Reflux Baby to Sleep?

If your baby is experiencing a large amount of reflux, you may want to pause on nursing before they sleep. Just like dream feeding, laying down with a full tummy can make it easier for stomach contents to come back up. 

Try not to feed your baby within thirty minutes of bedtime so that there is less of a chance for spit up to escape. This may require you to rethink the order of your bedtime routine and feed your baby earlier in the evening. 

Do Smaller Feedings Help Babies With Reflux?

Smaller feedings throughout the day may help with your baby’s reflux. Smaller meals keep your baby’s tummy from getting too full at one time and allows for the contents to be fully digested more quickly before it can be spit-up. 

When they are first born, your baby has a very tiny tummy, but it will grow pretty quickly to accommodate more food. 

Incorporate more burpings while your baby is feeding. When your baby takes a natural pause, use this opportunity to try to get a burp out of them. Burping often can help get rid of trapped air, as opposed to one large bubble of air, and a potentially large amount of spit-up, at the very end of feeding. 

Should You Use a Sleep Positioner for Your Baby?

Sleep positioners keep your baby at an inclined position, and makers claim they can help alleviate reflux symptoms. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics keeps to the ABCs of safe sleep: alone, back, and crib. 

The FDA has never cleared a sleep positioner as safe for baby usage, as there has been no scientific proof that sleeping on an incline is beneficial in helping reflux symptoms in babies. If your baby is able to roll over on their tummy while sleeping, the positioner may prevent your baby from being able to return to their back.

Sleeping on a flat surface and their back is the safest option for any baby, even those that experience reflux symptoms. If your baby’s reflux is causing sleep deprivation or continued discomfort, consult with your child’s pediatrician for the next steps. 

Parents may worry about spit up being a hazard for babies sleeping on their backs. Babies have a gag reflex that helps them to automatically cough or swallow spit up. Babies are also about to turn their heads while on their back, allowing any liquid to flow out. 

Time To Wind Down

When it’s time for your little one to wind down, Little Yawn Collective has your back. If your little one is experiencing some discomfort from reflux, going through the motions of their normal bedtime routine may be soothing to your baby.

A nice, warm bath with our Shampoo & Body Wash with Calendula is comforting. Bathing your baby in an upright position after feeding also adds time to allow their food to digest. A spritz or two of our Relaxing Pillow & Linen Spray helps create a restful environment. These products contain our NaturalSnooze fragrance, with lavender, bergamot, and cedarwood.

If your baby is experiencing reflux, it can be hard seeing them uncomfortable. With some rearranging of their feeding schedule and some tender care, your baby will be sure to go from reflux to a peaceful sleep.


Sources:

Myths and Facts About SIDS and Safe Infant Sleep | National Institutes of Health

Spitting up in babies: What's normal, what's not | Mayo Clinic

Reflux in babies | NHS

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