Breastfeeding

(My story about breastfeeding a baby with gastric reflux.)

Gem was my third child, but the first with diagnosed treated gastric reflux.  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 well and was contented. By three weeks of age she started screaming after a feed 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. Please don’t stop reading at the end of my negatives of breastfeeding, as there are some positives included also. It is worthwhile and beneficial, and there are some tips to make breastfeeding easier further on. The negatives have been included to let you all know that you are not alone in your struggles, and to acknowledge that 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, while 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 read at the same time. (With my first child I breastfed and studied for my state final nursing exams, balancing a lovely chubby baby in my arms and a huge A4 folder on my knee.)

  • 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 any 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.

  • Giving Infant Gaviscon mixed with water/breast milk before feeding.

  • The resulting nipple confusion because we 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 soy formula 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 goat’s milk 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.

  • When she was sore the best position to feed was upright with her facing me and legs either side of my body (not elegant).

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 more easily digested than formula, and therefore the stomach is emptier quicker and results in less reflux.

  • 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, goat’s feta 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.

  • 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) 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.

  • 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 21/12/2003.

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.

  • http://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/gastricrefluxweek2014 National Infant Gastric Reflux Awareness Week occurs every year from 31st May to 6th June. In 2014, we would like to acknowledge the families coping with gastric reflux by printing and distributing Posters to Family Centres, Paediatricians, Tamariki Ora Services etc. This is a low cost project, but something that the Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand has not received funding for. Please help us to make this happen. Every $1 counts!

    National Infant Gastric Reflux Awareness Week occurs every year from 31st May to 6th June. In 2014, we would like to acknowledge the families coping with gastric reflux by printing and distributing brochures to Family Centres, Paediatricians, Tamariki Ora Services etc.

  • http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476%2813%2901596-5/abstract?elsca1=etoc&elsca2=email&elsca3=0022-3476_201405_164_5&elsca4=pediatrics

    The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 164, Issue 5, Pages 959-960, May 2014, Authors:William Tarnow-Mordi, BA, MBChB, DCH, FRCPCH; Roger F. Soll, MD

  • Hello - wondering if you can help, my now 5 year old had silent reflux, my 5 month old also has reflux, I saw a specialist in Auckland for my first child but cannot for the life of my remember his name - do you have a list of specialists in Auckland? Many thanks Misty

  • Hi :) just starting my five month old on solids , any foods worse or better for reflux sufferers ? She is quite constipated from losec and gaviscon so also foods that aren't constipating

  • We only have six members in our Hawkes Bay GRSNNZ Local Support Network on Facebook. If you are coping with reflux and living in this area, we would love you to join us. http://www.reflux.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/grsnnz-membership-confidentiality-agreement-form/

    Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants & Children Charitable Trust Membership & Confidentiality Agreement Form / Newsletter Admin PageFirst NameLast nameEmailStreet AddressCity/TownAreaPostcodeDo you live in NZ?Country and Area if not NZHome Phone (include area code)Partner's NameE...

  • A large randomized controlled trial has shown benefits of probiotic treatment in an unselected general population of neonates.

  • hi there, im desperate for help. my wee girl is 5 weeks old and has always been unsettled from birth. At first she was constipated and in pain so paed put her on pepti junior and after no improvement added lactulose syrup for bowels. She has a bowel motion now only every 5-6 days so not ideal. over the passed few days she has got alot worse, fussing at feeds, acidy smelling breath, after finishing bottles she squirms in pain, cramps up like a banana, screams/cries etc. she doesnt spill ever and winds pretty well. Clearly something is still not right but have seen 3 paeds and all havent considered silent reflux?? i feel silly going back again but i know they are missing something, could it be reflux?? thanks Nicole

  • I have been reading your website, thank you, it's helped me a lot. 5 weeks with a very unhappy baby is extremely difficult.

  • Do you live in Northland, New Zealand and have a child with gastric reflux? We would love you to become a member of the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ and join our latest Private Facebook Group - for the Northland GRSNNZ Local Support Network. We currently have five families who would be grateful to have contact with others in the Northland area and share their experiences. We have Local Support Networks throughout NZ and set up Private Facebook Groups as requested. We already have Yahoo Mailing Lists for each region, but many prefer Facebook. To join complete a membership and confidentiality form: http://www.reflux.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/grsnnz.../ Membership is free, and this gives you opportunities to discuss gastric reflux related issues with others in a safe, private and confidential setting. You will also get access to our newsletters.

    Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants & Children Charitable Trust Membership & Confidentiality Agreement Form / Newsletter Admin PageFirst NameLast nameEmailStreet AddressCity/TownAreaPostcodeDo you live in NZ?Country and Area if not NZHome Phone (include area code)Partner's NameE...

  • Hi there, I was on your website reading that doctors should prescribe the Losec granules instead of the suspension. Does this apply for 2 month old babies as well?

  • I am hijacking this photo. #gastricreflux

  • Hi, I am interested in people's opinion on advice from a dietician re my 13 month son who has reflux and lower GI issues, both currently well managed. I have posted before: he's on a restricted diet - no dairy, soy, gluten as well as a random no tomato/potato (latter done by me without paed knowledge following nasty flare up). He is still bf and not a great solids eater - picky, limited finger foods only, no mush. He is small (prem, lbw) but not at all underweight for size. He is on iron supplement (formerly anaemic) and trying to wean off losec. Dietician wants us a) to go on to neocate advanced and b) to reintroduce gluten. Neither of these sit well with me. I ate non-GF oats and small amount non-GF pasta yesterday - now I have an unsettled boy stretching and groaning after a month of calm. Coincidence?? Re neocate - is it really necessary to give him this or can I find the iron and vitamin boost elsewhere? He hates the taste and doesn't eat porridge/mash/stewed fruit to mix it into. The dietician really p***ed me off for her manner and lack of knowledge of son's history (in spite of having met before) and I don't trust her judgment. Thoughts? Sorry long post. Thank you for reading.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTHhWf_hGJI

    Pyrosis RGO mécanisme