Breastfeeding

(My thoughts and experience about breastfeeding a baby with gastric reflux.)

Gem was my third child, but the first with diagnosed treated severe GORD.  I breastfed my first two children until age 14 months, and because of the risk of allergies in my family didn’t give them food that contained cow’s milk until they were one years old.

With Gem, breastfeeding was initially easy. She fed well, gained weight and was contented. By three weeks of age she started screaming after feeds and arching her back. She would have been happy to feed again, but this would have only made her pain worse, so I would persist with her screaming for at least an hour.

As time went by breastfeeding got harder rather than easier. However, even with the difficulties, I found there were many advantages to breastfeeding. If you are struggling, you are not alone.  Breastfeeding is not always easy.

These are some of the things that we experienced:

  • Choking while breastfeeding resulting in her pulling off the breast and needing to be held upright so she could clear her airway.  My milk continued to flow everywhere because I was too busy dealing with the choking!

  • Screaming while feeding.

  • Having to take frequent breaks from breastfeeding during most feeds.

  • Not being able to relax and watch television while breastfeeding, let alone hear it!

  • Not being able to breastfeed and do anything else at the same time e.g. read.

  • Not being able to breastfeed anywhere I wanted, like I had with the other two, due to breastfeeding a wriggly uncomfortable baby not being discreet or quiet.

  • Arching her back, making breastfeeding most uncomfortable.

  • Taking all products with cow’s milk out of my diet and after 10 days of this having a totally different child!

  • Dealing with other people’s need to feed me when we visited, and me not being able to eat it because I was on a dairy free diet.  This was more of a problem for them than me.

  • Dealing with other’s comments that “a little cow’s milk won’t hurt”, when I knew from experience it did.

  • The resulting nipple confusion because we had used bottles to give the Infant Gaviscon.

  • Not being able to feed in bed at night, due to her need to be upright, the likelihood of the bed being soaked, and the noise after or during a feed.

  • Wondering what had upset her that I had eaten.

  • At her worst when I had tried cow’s milk she was only able to breastfeed in the morning, and the rest of the day refused to feed for more than a minute at a time, and sat on the floor and grizzled due to hunger. At this time I had to supplement her with formula recommended by our paediatrician after a day or she would have dehydrated, and had to continue this until the cow’s milk was out of my breast milk (for us this would take 10 days).

  • It took seven days of me having dairy before she showed a reaction, and this was confusing. Somebody from GRASP (probably Rochelle) explained to me that this was possible/likely because cow’s milk seems to have an accumulative effect in breast milk.

  • Feeling guilty because I had mostly weaned her onto “safe” formula at 11 months but tried to retain night feeds thinking that the little dairy she would be getting in my milk wouldn’t be a problem, but not knowing if it was when she became unsettled.

  • Needing to feed in a quiet room without distractions.

So after reading that list I guess you are wondering if there are any positives. There are and these are the one’s I can still think of three years down the track:

  • Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, and therefore the stomach is emptied quicker and results in less reflux occuring.

  • Breastfeeding is cheap, especially when half of it gets wasted.

  • Breast milk contains antibodies and therefore helps prevent babies becoming unwell. With a baby with reflux this is doubly important as any illness can cause reflux to worsen.

  • Breastfeeding in the middle of the night in the lounge during winter with the fire going, the lights dimmed and the radio on quietly. If you have the right attitude this can be a special time.

  • Spilled breast milk smells less than formula.

  • Breast milk is especially designed for human infants, and has everything they need.

  • Breast milk requires no preparation. Preparing formula and getting it the right temperature while a baby screams isn’t much fun.

  • I felt no guilt in buying special things for me to eat while breastfeeding and on a dairy free diet. Although soy ice creams, soy milk, “safe cheese” and many other products are expensive I would have spent far more on formula if bottle-feeding.

  • A dairy free diet is a good way to loose that excess pregnancy weight – I should go on one again.

  • Breastfeeding creates a special bond between infant and mother.

  • Breastfeeding means you have to hold and be close to an infant that may not seem particularly lovable due to their screaming and/or messiness.

  • Breastfeeding can be a great comforter to the distressed infant.

  • I found expressing milk for the times I wasn’t around much easier than with the other two children, and I think this was due to an extra supply I had, to cope with the extra demand at times.

Some other things I have learnt about breastfeeding an infant and particularly one with reflux that are important include the following:

  • It may be best to only feed on one side each feed, giving the baby less breast milk in volume and more hind milk.

  • It may be best to not have feeds too close together as this can increase pain. One recommendation is three hours from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next, but you need to be guided by your baby’s growth and your health professional’s advice – and of course the volume they have at each feed.

  • Some parents think (or are advised to by health professionals) that they should stop breastfeeding from the breast, and feed expressed milk in a bottle so that they can thicken it with cereal. This can lead to a decrease in milk supply and an exhausted mother who not only has to prepare bottles and feed the baby, but express the milk also. This doesn’t leave much other time in a day. Breast milk is just as effectively thickened by feeding a little cereal (preferably rice – check the ingredients as some brands of rice cereals, contains milk products) from a spoon, before, during or after a breastfeed. The cereal can be mixed until smooth and runny with some cooled boiled water, expressed breast milk or formula. In some countries parents are using oatmeal to thicken feeds. This is not recommended in New Zealand, as it contains gluten and may contribute to an intolerance/allergy later in life if given at a young age. Intolerance to gluten may also increase reflux pain.  Discuss thickeners with your Health Professional (doctor, Well Child Provider or dietician).

  • About one third of all babies with reflux will have a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance, and this can affect them through their mother’s breast milk.

  • Reflux occurs roughly equally between breastfed babies and bottle-fed babies. Changing from breast to bottle will not generally improve the problem.

  • The infant with reflux does not dislike their mother, or their mother’s milk!

  • You don’t need to wean……. however many times your relatives and friends tell you it would be best.

  • Look after yourself. Remember that you are important. If you are not happy and healthy, your family will not be happy either. If breastfeeding really is making you miserable don’t feel guilty about giving up, but do think about it long and hard first.

LLL also have a booklet entitled “Breastfeeding the baby with reflux”(L015 – $6). Available in New Zealand by contacting mailto:lllnz@clear.net.nz

Written by Roslyn Ballantyne (RN), National Coordinator for © Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust 14/11/2003. Edited March 2015.

This page may be printed for the personal use of families, as long as the copyright and source (i.e. Crying Over Spilt Milk’s URL) is also printed. It may not be copied to other websites or publications without permission.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Linkage's photo.

    Thank you Linkage!

    Something to live by....

  • Hi I have an 8 week old prem (6 weeks early so 2 weeks corrected) suffering from reflux. She is exclusively breastfeed and the dr has prescribed gaviscon. I am having real difficulty in getting her to take it. I have tried syringing it and also tried to feed via a bottle (she had never had a bottle for anything before) but she is just refusing it or spitting it back out. Does anybody have any tips for getting bubs to take the medicine?

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Plunket New Zealand's event.

    There might be some of you who are interested in joining Plunket's Chat on Toddler Sleep. Please head over to Plunket's Event.

    Join our PlunketLine nurse Carla for our 'Toddler Sleep' chat on Wednesday the 26th of August from 8-9pm. Post any questions you have below or private message us and we'll be sure to answer your question during our chat. The chat will take place on our timeline with a 'chat open' post at 8pm.

  • Wow yesterday Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ had 5 new members in one day! I think this is a record.

    If you want to join also: http://www.reflux.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/grsnnz-membership-confidentiality-agreement-form/

    I haven't processed most new members from this week as my middle daughter has been very sick with glandular fever. I'll do this as soon as I can.

    Roslyn Ballantyne, National Coordinator

    Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants & Children Charitable Trust Membership & Confidentiality Agreement Form First Name: Last Name: Email Address: Street Address: City/Town: Area: Auckland Canterbury Gisborne Hawkes Bay Marlborough Nelson Northland Otago Southland Taranaki...

  • Hi there, im new to this page and I've just found out my 12week old has gastric reflux.
    We are currently going through a growth spurt and she appears to be in more pain from the extra milk intake, has anyone experienced this?
    I'm thinking about taking her to the hospital to get some pain medication....

  • Hi all, Just wondering if any of you have had a similar experience. My 7 month old is on omeprazole 2ml morning and night. For a few nights we have accidentally forgotten to give it to him... And then the last 2 nights he has screamed blue murder for hours. He would go down ok but then wake and cry for hours like he is in pain. Nothing will console him. Its the only thing we have done differently - has anyone has a similar experience??? Thanks! Bec

  • Hey! Day 4 on gaviscon for our 4 week son and he's constipated any suggestions to get him going?

  • Hallucinations on Omeprazole!? ... Forgive me if this has been discussed recently or at all (probably not I'm guessing) I was active on this page when my daughter was just a baby with terrible reflux. She was on omeprazole back then until about 8-9 months old. She is back on it as of a week and a half ago just to trial whether her frequent cough and waking in the night could be reflux back at age 3.5!!!!.... Anyway, for the last 4-5 nights she has woken terrified that there are worms in her bed and on her body. (It is not a nightmare or a night terror) last night was the worst night yet! Awake from 1-5am with the most frightening hallucinations yet. Worms and flies all through the bed, on the ceiling and even as I consoled her she screamed that they were all over my face :( it was heartbreaking. Even with all the lights on she could see them. I could go on describing this but I won't. My question is has anyone's child or you yourself experienced the very rare (but documented) side effect of hallucinations? Needless to say I am stopping the meds today.

  • Please tell me someone is in the same boat...

    Our son can't sleep for longer then a few minutes at a time without gagging on his reflux and waking himself up. Normally the only way for him to get any sleep is to sale him and hold him vertical against our chests.

    He is on Gaviscon, Omeprazole (losec) and we've just dropped Ranitidine (Zantac) and added Domperidone. Nothing so far is helping to resolve this sleep issue. His bed is on a steep incline but often the moment you put him in it he starts spluttering and throat clearing loudly until he wakes.

    He's 9 weeks and I've been dairy free breast feeding for about a month. He has now started Neocate formula.

    Anyone else have a baby who can't stay asleep because of reflux? Any tips?

  • There is a new post to the page asking for any feedback on experiences around surgery for reflux.

  • I would love some feedback from parents who kids that have had a fundo. Our daughter (6) has been suffering all of these years with reflux combined with eating disorder (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, basically associates food with pain) and now docs have suggested a fundo so I'd like to hear people experiences

  • http://www.healthshare.health.nz/home/2015/08/07/midland-dhbs-set-to-launch-free-breastfeeding-app
    We are being kept up to date with this, so will make sure this is added to the website links when it is available.

    Breastfeeding mums and pregnant women will soon have useful tips and advice at their fingertips with the launch of a new, free, breastfeeding app.

  • Has anyone found that omeprizole made a reflux baby worse??
    Ds is the worst he has ever been since starting losec, but I'm unsure whether its the losec causing it or something else.
    Has anyone seen improvement after stopping losec?? He's 4.5 months

  • There is a new question if anyone wants to share their experience. Remember no medical advice! :-)

  • I'm interested in chatting to anyone who may have been, or is, in a similar position to me. I have a beautiful 3 month old son, exclusively breast fed. I think he's suffering from silent reflux. He looks like he is going to vomit, sounds like liquid comes up, but doesn't spit anything up. He flicks quickly between happy and unhappy baby. He seems to want to feed a lot and doesn't seem to have an off switch when he is full. I'm worried I'm making him worse feeding him. He's always gained weight well until more recently. We had been using a dummy but stopped because I got sick of him waking wanting it in the night, but starting to use it again in desperation. He's thankfully a very good night sleeper. He is starting to get bottom teeth now to make things worse! He has a lot of dribble at times. He doesn't really spill a lot, and doesn't cry that much but just doesn't seem happy. Currently trying homeopathic wind drops, weleda colic powder and I take a tea that was made up for me with multiple herbs including fennel. I've also got an amber necklace on him. I am not a hippy but like the idea of natural solutions more than giving him meds if I can find something that works. Happy to use medication though if needed. He has no signs of any allergies so I don't think it's that. Interested in any suggestions or thoughts! Thanks!

  • Just for some fun. You have to watch the clip.

    Thinking back two years prior to pregnancy, this couple recalls how they thought they had everything about parenting all figured out. But they quickly realized all of their aspirations were not very realistic when their precious little one was born into the world.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Judy Arnold - Infant and child Consultant's photo.

    It is about time for another Coffee together and to ask Questions Thursday morning, 9.30-11. Looking forward to catching up.

  • Just wondering - is gaviscon like a fast acting relief - like for that feed only- or is it longer lasting ?

    I haven't used gaviscon for 3 days and my 10 week old has been good for 3 days so thought maybe he was getting a bit better - but then tonight spewed up quite a bit. Is that because the gaviscon was still working in his system and now has worn off ? Or does it have a shorter term effect ?

    We have also just started trying formula. 50ml yesterday and today and it was after that he spewed- so also wanting to rule out the fact that it's the gaviscon wearing off...to see if the formula is making him spew.

    I'm pretty sure he's reacting to the formula but just curious how long gaviscon relief works also.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Hope For The Broken Hearted's photo.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Interstitial Cystitis Association's photo.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Patient's photo.

    #sleep

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared a page.

    Empowering families of people with disabilities and health impairments through support and information.

  • Hi there, my daughter has been on omeprozole granules (5mg, twice daily) since 6 weeks old. I've talked to our GP about how and when to wean, his advice was to go cold turkey "whenever we felt like it"..!

    I'm looking for some advice from other families on how they went about weaning - Would like to take a gentle path.
    Are there signs of readiness?
    What age did you start?
    Did you drop one dose and see if there was any effect before fully weaning?
    Or is cold turkey the right thing to do, after all?

    Thanks.

  • Hi all,
    Does anyone know if its okay to mix kiwiherb stuff with losec to mask the taste if you stick to the correct dosages? Eg .5ml each of kids calm, echinature, and chest syrup mixed with 3.8ml of losec?

  • 10 day old baby showing signs of reflux already. Similar to his brother (who is now 22months).
    He has the "breath that smells like stomach acid", looks like he's got a bad taste in his mouth, the "cottage cheese" spit up at times and obviously a very sore tummy after feeds.
    I am babywearing to keep him upright which is helping.

    I suppose what I'm asking is at what point do I go to gp and ask for a paed referral? My husband says don't go looking for trouble until it becomes a much more obvious issue.