As I sit here at 3:42am doing our nightly 3am feed, it seems as good a time as ever to look back over the last five months and take a breath. This parenting stuff is tough. Really. Tough. And that’s not something that new mums and dads share openly enough, but let’s save that for another day.
This early morning blog is about the thing in particular that turned my experience of having a beautiful new baby into something out of a nightmare: Infant Reflux. And how we now have it under control, 100% naturally.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I know very well that we could have had it MUCH worse. In the grand scheme of things, we’re lucky really. A roof over our heads, food in the fridge and a child who, after an initial struggle making it into the world, is by all accounts healthy. I’ve seen how bad this reflux stuff can get on the support pages. I know what other terrifying things lie in wait out there. But on the smaller scale of my life; me, with a baby in agony; me sat crying after waking up for my 3:30am – 11am shift to hold Faelan upright so that D can get some sleep after his 8:30pm-3:30am shift; our relationship straining at the seams under the pressure of having a baby who has been in tangible pain since the 1 week mark; watching other new mums out, having fun with their babies, eating what they like, when they like and sharing ‘normal’ baby stories; of the constant worry and desperation about whether or not to give Faelan Gaviscon or Ranitidine or Omeprazole or, or…anything to stop the screaming, relieve his pain and let him sleep and the stress of wondering what it might do to him if we do give him any of that. And the fact that no-one else seems to really get it. If I’m being totally honest, the last 5 months have been pretty damn depressing.
But now, at nearly 5 months old, seemingly by some miracle – Faelan’s reflux is under control with no medication. But it’s not a miracle: it comes down to D and I having researched and researched and researched at all hours of the day and night, to find natural treatments that work and spending all the money we didn’t have trying to find the fix that didn’t require the drugs.
Before anyone gets upset, believe me, I am NOT bashing any parent that uses medication to manage their child’s reflux. I am lucky enough to have a partner who doesn’t have to go out to work every day of the week, so 24 hour shifts holding Faelan upright whilst we tried remedies was possible. Even with that we still caved, twice, and gave him Gaviscon and Ranitidine, but we only saw them making things much worse. At the time it was horrific, but looking back I am glad that it happened because it left us with no choice but to try something different, and eventually, we figured out a system that really worked.
So, by now you’re probably wondering what it is that we did and that’s what this blog is about...
Beyond the basics of cutting out dairy and raising the head of the cot a little, I wanted to share my experience with all the other mums and dads out there with babies suffering from GERD or Infant Reflux in the hope that maybe, just maybe it will help. Fae still has reflux and some days he has little flare ups, but generally we're now at the point where he can lie on his back and he's not in pain. We still manage my diet but it's getting better all the time (we've just added in tinned tomatoes! Yes!) and we still take probiotics and we take Faelan for an acupuncture treatment every fortnight or so. We did actually try more than this, including homeopathy, massage, herbal teas and oil rubs but these are the things that made the biggest difference to us…
5 Ways to Beat Infant Reflux 100% Naturally
First thing’s first: if you’re breastfeeding, you absolutely have to look at your diet. Most mums who suspect colic or reflux will cut out dairy pretty sharpish, as CMPA/CMPI is a very common cause, but if that doesn’t work for you, don’t stop there.
If you’ve cut out dairy, bear in mind that you’ll need to wait 2-3 weeks for it to clear both your system and your baby’s (milk proteins like to stick around for a while), but once ruled out it’s time to consider other triggers.
I went all-out and started TED – the Total Elimination Diet (read more about that here). I’m not going to lie, it’s utterly miserable, but it very quickly became apparent when trialling foods to put back into my diet that Faelan was having severe reactions to things we wouldn’t have been able to guess. For us, bananas were awful, oats were an issue, coffee (decaf too) is a big no-no and the list goes on and on and on…everyone is different, there’s no one size fits all diet here, so there will be some trial and error involved but it can make a huge difference. I’ve also been drinking bone broth (which has been extremely gross, especially for a vegetarian!) as a potent gut healer.
Keep Your Cool By:
TED is a really difficult thing to do, especially when you’re breastfeeding and hungry. I have SERIOUS respect for the mamas out there that end up doing the very basic foods for much longer than I had to.
Keep yourself sane by joining a support group like TED Mamas on Facebook, do trial foods that might bring you a little comfort (coconut being a ‘safe’ has been a life-saver for me) and give yourself a break. Sometimes you’ll eat something you know you shouldn’t, sometimes you’ll feel angry and upset but remember – you’re a goddamn hero, mama!
I’m going to go straight in with the Big Guns – Acupuncture ended up being ‘the one’ for us in terms of treatments.
We were lucky enough to get an incredible deal with one of the UKs best acupuncturists, after explaining our situation and him looking kindly on us and after 6 treatments, we went from having a baby who could never be put down on his back (not even for a nappy change!), who would scream in pain for hours on end, who would projectile vomit his feeds, to having a baby who could suddenly sleep on his back for a few hours a night.
I recently started to get acupuncture treatments too as I have the most insane oversupply and forceful let down, which I’m sure has contributed to Faelan’s reflux, and after one treatment it’s looking much better after everything else had failed.
Keep Your Cool By:
Don’t freak out at the idea of getting your baby acupuncture! It’s not invasive and it doesn’t hurt. Faelan didn’t even notice he was having it done most of the time.
It’s important that you get a really fantastic practitioner, ideally one who is experienced working with children. If you’re in the UK, I can recommend a few so please do get in touch to ask me.
Both Faelan and I have been taking probiotics since the word go and it’s clear that his reflux comes back a bit if he misses a dose. For me, I can only attribute probiotics to saving me from getting mastitis.
Faelan had a 50% tongue tie when he was born (more about that in a moment…) which we had cut at 4.5 weeks, but his latch has never been great. With my crazy supply and let down and my vitamin deficient TE diet and no sleep…I really should have had mastitis by now…but not yet! Touch wood…
Make sure yours are allergen (especially dairy) free!
I use these
Faelan uses these
Cranial Sacral Osteopathy & Chiropractic Treatment
Faelan was getting CSO treatments from two weeks old and chiropractic treatments from 6 weeks and they both definitely helped enormously with his reflux, colic (which he also had) and, amazingly, with his tongue tie too.
I honestly have no idea how CSO works – we called it the magic cuddle, because it did just look like he was being held! But after each treatment, we’d get a colic respite for about 10 days. After he had his tongue tie cut, we took him for a treatment and I could feel the difference in his latch immediately!
Tongue Tie & BF Issues
Speaking of tongue ties, if you haven’t had your bub checked, do it. This might be the root cause of all of your problems. A bad latch and gulping air is actually a BIG deal.
If there's no tongue tie and you're breastfeeding, it's worth considering other factors: Do you have an oversupply? Do you have a forceful let down? Is your baby latching correctly? All of these should be addressed ASAP.
Some other things have certainly helped, if not been the ultimate solution! Try these for extras:
- A sheepskin for baby to lie on (supervised)
- Marshmallow tea for soothing the burn (disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional, this is merely what we used and what worked for us. Please do your own research before giving your baby anything other than breastmilk)
- Fennel oil rub for tummy (1 drop of oil diluted in coconut oil)
- Homeopathic treatments (call Helios for help figuring out what you need)
- The Baby Got Colic track on Youtube is AMAZING for calming any crying baby. Just ignore the mega creepy video...