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 – 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.

  • 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 August 2014.

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.

  • Hi there are there any formulas that you can get on prescription or financial assistance? Pretty sure my 8 week old isn't coping with his formula that he's on. He has reflux and on ranitidine but now he has green mucousy poo so im thinking he might need some different formula? But I see specialist formulas are expensive!!

  • Hi, my 5 month old has started solids and we have been ok'd to feed these before milk as otherwise he spills most of it. He takes losec granules, which was have been giving with pear 30mins before a milk feed. Can we now just give these with his solids with milk following half an hour+ later? Or not due to the higher volume of food in his stomach so it wouldn't be digested by the time he has his milk. Thanks

  • Hi. We've used the karicare thickener in our boys bottles on top of losec and neocate to control his reflux. Now he's 4 months old I was looking at using watties rice cereal to thicken his bottles before moving to solids at 6 months. Looking to find anyone who thickens with rice cereal. Advice? Thank you

  • Argh! I don't know if I'm doing the right thing for my wee girl. We discovered her reflux early 8 days old and has been on goats milk formula for 3 months. Did it help? Hard to say but she was happy enough. We were reffered to the hosp dietician by our plunket nurse and on Thursday started neocate. Its made things worse and she seems in pain.. her poops are slimy green. We gave her a few gaviscon feeds with it to help her tum cos she seems to have a sore tummy a lot. So its Sunday, we've been on it three days but I am continually second guessing myself. Should we have seen a change in her by now. Is it normal to take a few days for the tummy to get used to it? I hate putting her through all this esp if it doesn't end up working... sometimes I just want to throw it in and put her back on goats milk... would love some advice from others on neocate or just any advice/encouragement please and thank you :)

  • Hi mums I have recently taken my daughter off losec on advise from a paed to see how she went. We didn't notice the symptoms coming back and also started solids around same time with it going great. She's had a cough and cold but is over it except this nagging cough which is day and night until she eventually throws up. My question is could the cough actually be the reflux and should I start losec again.

  • A Good News Story ... http://www.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/his-gastric-reflux-stopped/

    Hi Roslyn, Thanks for the updates over the past several months. I am leaving the group as my little boy no longer suffers from gastric reflux and is also no longer dairy intolerant! FYI he was on Neocate from 3 months old and had a combination of formula and my milk until he was 7.5 months. ...

  • Hi. My boy is 6.5 wks. He started screaming at 3 wks. Became unsettled for periods of up to nearly 12hrs without sleep. He's been on formula as my milk never came in. He gets about 100-200 ml breastmilk /dy I pump. He started spilling/vomiting a lot at 4.5wks old.started losec 9 dys ago-frm GP. Saw paediatriciAn 4 dys ago and started amino acid formula to check for CMA. I feel things improved a bit about 4 dys after losec started. Also he seemed great once on th amino acid formula but thn yesterday was his old really bad self - fussed all day 10am-4pm thn really distressed n frantic 4-9pm. He's been ok today.i also started adding karicare thickener 2 dys ago. His first poo day after starting amino acid formula was soft n ok but I thnk he might b constipated with th thickener. He really had to push to get yesterday's out n was very sticky. Anyone else experience this? What do you do? I've heard lactulose and prune juice etc can make reflux/ wind worse. I thought about halving th amt thickener I'm using.also his vomiting better on th new formula I think but still occasional. He vomited Sunday night n mayb brought th losec up- could 1 missed dose like thts make him bad th next day like he was? Any opinions greatly appreciated

  • Please consider joining Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust for access to our Newsletters and Private Local and National Support Networks: http://www.reflux.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/grsnnz-membership-confidentiality-agreement-form/ Membership is free, and this gives you opportunities to discuss gastric reflux related issues with others in a safe and confidential setting. If you have completed a membership form previously, but never received anything further, please message me (Roslyn Ballantyne at https://www.facebook.com/roslyn.ballantyne.rn ) or comment below. The membership sign-up had been a double opt-in with a confirmation email, but as some people have had trouble with this, I've now changed it to a single opt-in. (I do still need to process applications and add you manually to your Local Support Networks though.)

    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 I'm a bit confused. I filled out th membership form on th cryingspiltmilk main page. Do I need to do anything else? I see there's a forum somewhere else - kiwi health or something? Or do I just post n use this Facebook page? I'm thnking you hav th older site but most people jst use this Facebook page now yeah? Ta :) I hav a 6 wks old beautiful boy who has been in so much pain been breaking my heart but I'm jst getting things in motion now to help I thnk. Saw paediatriciAn few dys ago n hav started losec gaviscon mylanta and amino acid formula with karicare thickener

  • Hiya, I'm starting to introduce solids to my almost 6 month old and just wondering if there are any foods that any of you have found to be better than others and which ones to avoid? TIA. :-)

  • Other information here: http://www.lalecheleague.org.nz/news-a-events/lllnz-conference-2014/312-lllnz-50th-anniversary-conference-2014