(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 have a booklet entitled “Breastfeeding the baby with reflux”(L015 – $6). Available in New Zealand by contacting

The Midland Maternity Action Group have created a free app “BreastFedNZ” for iPhones and Androids to support breastfeeding. This has lots of useful information:BreastFedNZ

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 September 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.

  • Vikky Wintersgill-Taylor I used this page hundreds of times for help ya might get some tips x

  • Questions, questions...more people have posted questions on our page. Help me out and share your experiences. :-)

  • Does anyone with a baby with silent reflux use infacol as well as rhuger? I used rhuger for my first child but doesn't seem to be helping as much woth number 2 I just like that was its natural, rhuger has helped a bit but he's spilling up more now for some reason (10weeks old) advise appreciated ☺

  • Hi guys how do you feed your reflux babies? Do you find it best to let the baby drink the milk in 2-3 goes or do you find it best to have larger 20 minutes breaks?

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ looking for answers

    Hi everyone - there are more questions to the page that you might be able to share your experience around.

  • Hi. Have a question for any parents who have used zantac to control silent reflux. Baby is responding really well to it but almost 3 weeks in it seems to be causing a bit if constipation. Have just started using coloxyl drops for that but I suspect it is making the reflux worse , has anyone noticed this with these two medications ? And are there any alternatives that you have found work well for constipation ? Baby is 8 weeks old . Thanks in advance 😊

  • Hi all. My lil(literally) 9 weeks old bubba born 2.1kgs at 37 weeks *iugr baby* has been diagnosed with GORD and has cyanotic/apnea episodes from it. He is on omeprazole, gaviscon and pepti junior but all these doesnt seem to help much and he still has these cyanotic episodes randomly (awake or asleep). He was admitted to the kids ward at waitakere hospital when he was 2 weeks old. Hubs and i resorted in taking turns in staying up taking care of him at night as he needs constant supervision. These episodes happen very silently and randomly so we dont know when it will happen or when it happens.. We also have 2 older toddlers.. anyway anyone else went through/going through the same thing? Should we bring bubs back to his gp? how do you get seen by a specialist?

  • ... And more posts to the page. :-)

  • Hi there, does anyone have experience/success with getting their baby allergy tested? I went to a herbalist on recommendation of a friend. He tested me for intolerances and as a result I am now on a strict dairy/gluten/yeast/egg/soy and corn free diet ($430 poorer and starving...the herbs have done nothing). I've been dairy and gluten free since miss 3 months was diagnosed with GERD at 3 weeks but I'm sure there is more to it as her poos are full of mucous and she is still in pain dispite being medicated. Any suggestions? :)

  • What is someone called who specialises in GERD? What kind of specialist are they? I think it's time for us to delve further into this issue that my 3.5 year old is dealing with. Recommendations appreciated. We are CHCH based. :) Will obviously go through my GP but nice to know if there is anyone in particular who is great? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi there, I have a three month daughter who has a NG tube in due to reflux and being lactose intolerant and not feeding. My daughter is currently on prescription formula as there was still lactose in my milk even though I had cut out all dairy. She is more comfortable and settled now but its still a battle to get her to take her formula, she had associated drinking with a sore tummy so we had to put tube in as last resort. I offer her the bottle first at each feed (currently trialling Dr Browns bottles) and give her a big break when she starts fussing and then try again, what she doesn't drink goes down the tube. I'm wanting to hear from anyone who's had a similar experience and any success stories, what worked etc. Thanks

  • There a couple of new posts to the page that some of you might be able to share your experiences about. Just an update on our Guidelines, as our Guidelines are also being updated: Please do not mention health professionals by name. You may be praising them but someone else may have a concern and the post could become damaging to the health professional concerned. As the moderators GRSNNZ reserves the right to remove or edit any posts: -that recommend another medication as being better or to treat conditions that it is not indicated for -any discussion where actual dosages of medications are mentioned as each child is an individual with differing needs (These are the most important ones in relation to this Page.)

  • My 3 month old baby girl has reflux and is very spilly. Just lately she's started bringing back up lots more of her feed, I'd say at least 1/2 of it every time. She's EBF and I wondered whether it was normal or if there's anything I can do to her get keep the milk down. Not just for her, but as we know, breastmilk is precious!

  • Hi there . Have a 7 week old who is breastfeed with silent reflux. We have just started zantac a week ago and it seems to be starting to work but still have had some bad moments where she is clearly in a lot of pain. Fingers crossed it will improve things. I discussed going dairy free with my gp but she wasn't convinced this would have any positive effect however I would like to try so as not to rely only on meds as baby has not put on any weight in the last week . Can anyone recommend online resources or books that provide info on a healthy dairy free diet plan for breastfeeding mums. Or lists of all foods to avoid that aren't obvious such as milk, cheese etc. Also has anyone also had nil or minimal weight gain on zantac ? She put on a kilo in the first 5 weeks and then just stopped despite good feeds and being otherwise happy when reflux isn't causing pain. She doesn't vomit either so confused over the weight issue as seems to have slowed prior to starting zantac. Thanks heaps in advance as this has me pulling my hair out almost 😕

  • <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a&gt;

    Does teething have a direct relationship to systemic symptoms? And what non-pharmacological approaches are effective in relieving teething symptoms?

  • <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a&gt; Pacifier Campaigns from Sesame Street - not what I was looking for, but for any of you trying to loose the Pacifier with an older child this could be useful. Now back to looking for my colouring in supplies!

  • Hi everyone I'm looking for some advice for my toddler. He is now 2 years old and was a reflux baby and with the help of medicine he came right at about 6 months old . Ever since I started solids training at 6 months old food has been a nightmare and it's only just taken me til now to wonder whether his food aversions have anything to do with the reflux as a baby? He has never eaten fruit or veges voluntarily and I have to sneak them into to foods and even then he sometimes catches on - how can you know you don't like something if you've never tried it ? He basically wants to live on bread and crackers and hot chips, he won't eat most meat except chicken, won't eat pasta, I have tried everyone for help and no one knows what to do as I've tried everything and it's doing My head in. If this is connected to his reflux as a baby what can I do ? Sorry if this isn't the right place but every meal is a battle - I don't yell, I'm calm, I sit with him and feed him the same meals as me and he just says no :( I want to wean him off formula completely (have already cut the formula right down) but at this stage it's the only way I can get any nutrients and vitamins in him. And no he won't touch yoghurt or smoothies or juices - only water :(

  • 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: <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a&gt; 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.