*This is my personal experience as a mom and simply what worked for us. Consult your doctor to find a plan that fits your family*
Let’s talk about infants with acid reflux. For me the answer was not meds, the “deal with it” or “wait it out” mentality, or that weird wedge thing you’re already googling.
After my baby was born, I remember looking at him and thinking “I’d do anything for you – anything!” We went home and I’ll admit the first two weeks were amazing. I was still on cloud nine – relieved we had a natural birth and were breastfeeding with relative ease. Plus, newborns sleep ALL the time. Like you actually have time to wash and blow-dry your hair and apply minimal makeup. It’s astounding. In my naivety, I turned to Brian and commented, “Babe this baby thing is kinda easy.” EASY. Looking back I can’t believe those words escaped my lips. But I was determined to do this “mom thing” right and so far so good…. or so I thought.
And then it started. The difficulty getting baby to nap. The spitting up after feedings. The endless crying. It was hard to experience or even describe it now. Baby E would stiffen his legs, arch his back, and cry out for hours. It absolutely broke my heart. His crying episodes looked like a series of contractions that would go on and on… with fleeting periods of rest (if I was lucky) in between these bouts. Everyone waved it off as the “witching hour” or would dismissively say, “Newborns cry, it’s what they do.” People told me it was colic and to wait it out. I thought WAIT a minute…. You are telling me that we can put a man on the moon but we are supposed to just let our newborns cry and cry and cry? WHAT? Sure, I was a rookie mom but felt this was NOT normal “tired” crying or senseless crying. What’s worse, I felt he was actually in pain. He would temporarily find relief if I bounced him near the noisy outdoor AC unit when it kicked on which is frequently in Texas. (Like that’s functional. Just stand on the side of the house by the outdoor AC unit in July). Describing this sleepless state now seems like some distant, fuzzy dream. (Even thought it was just last year!) It was here, bouncing him endlessly in the heat that my mind raced:
What am I doing wrong?
Why is he crying?
How can I comfort him?
When will this stop?
Like all new moms, I googled the heck out of this problem. Trial and error ensued: gripe water, colic and gas drops, changing feeding positioning, and burping throughout feeding. Result: no improvement. More trial and error: car drives, walking outside, watching youtube tutorials on infant tummy massage, pumping his tiny legs to relieve gas, bath time and skin to skin with mommy, keeping him upright 30 minutes after feedings. Read somewhere that cruciferous vegetables contribute to infant gassiness so cut back on those. Still, the painful crying persisted. After more reading, I suspected acid reflux. Well-meaning friends suggested Zantac among other medications. However, I was concerned when reading the studies regarding long-term effects on gut health down the road. These meds suppress nearly ALL their stomach acid and the body requires some acid for proper digestion and functioning. And, by the way, WHY is this happening anyway? Anyone else asking these questions? WHY are they refluxing? I was concerned with causation not merely managing symptoms.
At his one month appointment, I was exhausted and desperately in need of help. Thankfully, we had a naturally minded pediatrician and nurse practitioner. Lots of people have doctors who too quickly dismiss the mom’s gut. Not mine. She listened and gently perused his tiny body, looking over his skin. “They don’t cry senselessly,” she said, “they are trying to alert us to a problem” and I was already tracking with her, agreeing and hanging on every word.” Have you noticed his baby acne?” Well sure I had. But from what I read it was normal due to hormone changes post birth and just something they go through. She replied yes, acne IS normal from their nipple line up BUT he has little acne allll over his tummy and trunk. That is a sign of food intolerance. Cue light bulb moment. THAT’S why he was spitting up. His body was literally rejecting (aka refluxing) the inflammatory allergens in my breast milk. It came down to what I was eating. THE FOOD.
Since allergy testing is considered subjective up until 18 months of age, she referred us to an excellent ICPA chiropractor skilled in applied kinesiology. Our chiropractor muscle tested to determine what foods I needed to eliminate from my diet. The result? Cutting out dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, banana and corn. It was not fun. But I recognized it was also not about me… it was about the comfort of my baby and spending better days together. Taking meds was absolutely not worth it, as we HAD to get to the root of the problem. It took time (two weeks to be exact) for my milk to clean up. I ate a lot of organic grassfed meats, sweet potato, sprouted rice, and a great variety of steamed/baked vegetables. In fact, our chiro suggested a 3:1 ratio of vegetables to meats. She recommended fruits in between meals to aid digestion. Healthy fats (like avocado) should be eaten with proteins.
I am telling you, within two weeks of removing allergens from my diet and eating this way, my baby’s acne cleared, he was content for longer periods of time, and we were all sleeping better. The value of better days (and nights) cannot be expressed here. I cannot stress the importance of food and the nursing mother’s diet. Problem is, we are selfish and don’t like to think about our diet or go there because it’s HARD. Bad food is a pattern and sugar is freaking addictive. And after all we’re nursing, right? Shouldn’t that give us an excuse to eat a truckload of junk? No? Well then I’m thoroughly offended and don’t want to go there at all. I NEED my treats every night after a hard day of momming. Mmhmm. Been there, thought that.
Be warned: you may experience an unexpected liberating release after surrendering your wants and love of addictive foods to help your baby. If you suspect acid reflux is the culprit of your baby’s colicky behavior and you desire natural treatments, consider these tips to get you through:
1- DUMP THE JUNK
You are what you eat! Goodbye wheat, corn, dairy, and soy. I also cut out artificial flavors including synthetic chemicals, solvents and preservatives. I switched to organic produce and grassfed meats. Organically raised cows are only permitted to eat organic non-GMO food and organic grass. Avoid meats raised on GMOs, hormones, antibiotics and other drugs. Think about this: when livestock is fed GMOs, they are eating Roundup herbicide which contains glyphosate. No thanks.
2- BF-ING SUPPLY HERBS
I was concerned a drastic eating change would cause my supply to dip. As your body adjusts to its new normal, consider drinking Mother’s Milk Tea to keep supply up at first. I like Traditional Medicinals because their bags aren’t bleached like so many other brands. Fenugreek is another herb helpful to increasing supply. Once your body stabilizes and gets accustomed to making milk from good food not sugar, you can decrease intake of these helpful herbs.
This wasn’t our answer long term, but it did help. We got the okay from our pediatrician to let baby sleep in his rock ‘n play. Keeping him elevated helped with his reflux. Again, this was a temporary comfort measure. As soon as he was functional and happier, he returned to back. For me, heavy let down was another contributing factor. We did anti-gravity positioning during nursing where I would lean wayyy back on the couch and nurse belly-to-belly. Take heart: Your baby WILL get older and bigger and come to enjoy letdown. But when they’re so little and getting acclimated to letdown, it is helpful to position yourself optimally.
4- FIND AN ICPA CHIRO…FAST!
Find a chiropractor who KNOWS newborns not just a general chiro who is willing to treat infants. The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association knows what’s up. Baby E’s food sensitivities acted like a weight on his immune system, preventing it from functioning optimally. ICPA chiropractors use applied kinesiology to muscle test what foods your baby is having a difficult time processing. Gentle monthly adjustments are our jam. And I swear he hits a developmental milestone after our visits!
Our chiropractor was the bomb because she introduced us to NAET. Natural, systematic, non-invasive NAET treatments (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques) were our saving grace. I was tentative at first but saw their incredible effects after 2 treatments and we did about 5 altogether. These eliminate allergies of all types and intensities and I was so enthralled, I purchased Dr. N’s book to learn more. Over 6,000 licensed medical practitioners are trained in NAET procedures. And again, way better than meds because NAET helped his body function properly and better process allergens. Cannot stress this point enough. If you want a natural option, take a baby step and look into NAET. Find a practitioner near you here.
6- INFANT PROBIOTICS
Use their magic. These help if your baby has irregular BMs, gassiness, or has reflux. Probiotics ease tummy troubles, which can reduce (though in our case, not eliminate) colicky symptoms. I love the refrigerated Klaire Labs infant probiotic for infants with reflux.
7- IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
For some refining purpose, this trial known as reflux has found its way to you and your babe. Many moms are fine trusting a drug because they want their treats. I get it. And I don’t judge others for their choices as parents. But for me, the answer was this: it is NOT about you. This was about something so much bigger than myself – it’s about understanding the body and its interactions with the fuel it’s fed. It’s about the building blocks of your baby’s immune system. This will take commitment and community. Find a team of friends and professionals who support your natural desires. I’m here to say you CAN get through this! You WILL get through this. As baby’s symptoms start to clear and he/she feels happier and gains longer periods of contentedness, it will give you such a sense of joy. True reward for your labor!