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.

  • Is infant gaviscon at all effective for 2.5 yesr old? my son reacts to ranitadine and omeprozole but has had a reflux flare up which is now resulting in vomiting after lying down in bed. He's even coughing and gaging on water during the day probably from the irritation in his throat etc. I'm having to wait quite some time after dinner to give him rice milk and again before attempting bed. It's pushing bedtime out too far with him not napping. Any suggestions? Can't pinpoint anything dietry wise that may be causing it.

  • Hi everyone. I'm after a bit of advice, my 20month old has recently commenced on liquid iron supplement (after we were told his iron levels are low from blood tests) but we've found its giving him a really sore tummy. Have tried halving the dose but I still have a tearful distressed little man on my hands. Does anyone have any ideas? Or can recommend something else.

  • Hi there, I'm wondering if someone could please advise me. I have been dairy free for 3 weeks today and introduced some back in today; just butter on one piece of toast and a splash of cows milk in 2 hot drinks. My daughter's been crying and not sleeping most of the day unless held. I've also been block feeding to try to prevent her choking etc on my fast flow, however Plunket advised I may like to rethink that now she's 8 weeks old so my supply doesn't diminish. She's a frequent feeder and I've managed to push her out to 2 1/2 hourly feeds over the last few weeks (on Plunket and Dr advice as they said her always feeding would make the reflux worse). She had been quite a bit better over the last week. Tonight I offered her the other breast at her feed as well, instead of the same one as usual and she had a good feed, so obviously needed it. But my goodness, the reflux has been really bad afterwards with lots of gagging and choking and pained crying etc etc (she's not much of a puker). I don't know if this is from having both breasts at the one feed (surely not) or she's super sensitive to the dairy? I'm wondering how long it will now take to see if there's improvement now that I've quit the dairy again? Please tell me it won't be a whole other 3 weeks again!! As I said, it was only a small amount reintroduced today.

  • Paging Rebecca who left a message on the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ Support Answer Phone on Monday!
    Sorry, for some reason I can't return your call. Can you either text us again on 022 585 5935 or send us an email through the website (which is now working) - http://www.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/contact/

    Contact Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust Phone/Text 022 585 5935 Phone 0800 380 517 * indicates required field Name:* Email:* Subject:* Message:* CAPTCHA Code:* Request Skype Call/Conversation using the form above. Page last updated…

  • Just trying to access the website about allowances in nz.. nothing will load?

  • In all the reading I've done about reflux babies it seems common that they don't settle to sleep to well
    During the day but will at night? Why is that?

  • I don't know if any of you have noticed, but as the website is having a lot of updates at the moment, I have started adding a blog about it to the website. The posts appear on the home page, under the Facebook Preview. Roslyn, National Coordinator.

    For infant and child gastric reflux support in New Zealand: Phone/Text 022 585 5935 Phone 0800 380 517 Contact GRSNNZ via email form Join Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust for access to our Newsletters and Private Local and National Support Networ…

  • Interesting article on dreamfeeds:

    Will ‘dream feeds’ work for your baby? Dorothy Waide shares her insights on this late night option.

  • does a thickener help for Elecare formula? It seems to be so thin and my little granddaughter is spilling a lot with this formula.Would welcome your feedback thanks

  • Christchurch people - there is a new post from someone needing help finding Karicare Aptamil Food Thickener. If you know where to find it, can you please reply on their post?
    Thank you!

  • Does anyone in CHCH know where to find the formula thickener for Elecare formula?? My wee one has just been put onto Elecare and I am finding it needs to be a bit thicker as she is bringing up a lot just like the breast milk. Not all pharmacies sell it

  • After some advice, I have a 10 week old with possible silent reflux ( just started gaviscon) we are wanting to progress to help him achieve self settling. Does anyone have any methods that worked? Absolutely no comfort in patting and shushing... Or am I asking too much from my little man that finds a lot of comfort in being rocked to sleep?

  • Hi all, Just wondering if someone could confirm for me that going dairy free means you can still have non cows milk products like sheep or goat products? I read the spilt milk site and seems to be a cows milk protein issues, not other types of animal products? I just ate sheeps feta then second guessed if it's OK.

  • My 16 month old just saw an allergist today and he told me it sounded like he had reflux. He had it as an infant but around 9 months he stopped needing meds and was fine, but now this winter he has stayed sick! So I'm really trying hard to wrap my head around this... I feel like my baby has been sick for months (stuffy, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, fever.. the list goes on and on) and it's just reflux! I mean if that's the case I guess I'm relieved because that seems like a simple fix. I just feel like he's really been suffering. His pedi was thinking he had asthma and sinus infections. The allergist did swab his nose to see if anything comes back on it but for now he is just taking nexxium(sp?) and a nasal spray.

  • Ignore my previous message (If you saw it), http://www.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz is back!

    For infant and child gastric reflux support in New Zealand: Phone/Text 022 585 5935 Phone 0800 380 517 Contact GRSNNZ via email form Join Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust for access to our Newsletters and Private Local and National Suppor…

  • I asked for a script for infant gaviscon and was given Acidex. Whats the difference?

  • Hoping for a bit of help/more advice. My now 8 week old baby has what we believe to be silent reflux, no one has actually diagnosed her with it, but have been given meds to help. She definitely regurgitates milk, and sometimes projectile vomits (she has only started doing this recently). I am getting so lost of what to do next, we have another appointment with the GP on Thursday, but in the mean time would love any advice on what I can do to help her.

    We started out on Infant Gaviscon, which didn't help much at all. Then onto Ranitidine, which didn't help either. We got prescribed Losec by my GP to use with gaviscon. Which seemed to help for two weeks, but now she is back to being so unsettled and unhappy. From birth she could only ever drink a small amount before she got really uncomfortable and started screaming, I started expressing to get an idea of what she is really drinking, which turned out to be bugger all, this was why i was feeding her 20 odd ml every 1/2 hr to an hour. I'm doing everything I can to help her, have got the bassinet head raised, burp after what seems to be every mouthful! I wear her in my wrap a fair bit during the day for some of her naps.

    I took her to the osteopath last week, and her said she was very sore and had a very tight diaphragm. Two nights later she slept 6 hours! But the next night she was back to a couple of hours at a time. I have another appointment on Thursday.

    As I have a 20 1/2 month old toddler and, expressing got too much as I could never find the time to do it, so now have her on Karicare Formula, which i'm not 100% sure if this is upsetting her stomach aswell. She was induced at 38 weeks as they were concerned about her growth, she was 6lb 3 oz at birth.

    What would be the best formula to have her on? She is still currently on losec and gaviscon. AND how can I ease the screaming after every feed? I'm really starting to stress alot about it and find myself getting pretty emotional.

    Thanks and sorry for the long story!
    Emma

  • Hi everyone, my daughter had severe gerd up until about 9 months and was treated with losec and gaviscon and eurthymician (sp). Four about 3 months she was really good, not needing any meds at all so we weened her off them. She has been med free for about 6 months, but the past two months we are back to screaming and crying every hour each night ( was previously a good night sleeper!) very unsettled etc, but no vomit . My question is can reflux suddenly come back ?

  • Just popping in to clarify our website/forum guidelines.
    Please see this page: http://www.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/guidelines/
    In particular:

    "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

    where dosages of medications are being compared (especially in an unsafe manner) as each child is an individual with differing needs
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    where volumes of fluid drunken are counted and compared
    with personal attacks against other users including GRSNNZ staff

    Medications and prescription foods and formula may not be offered for sale/give away on these forums."

    And:

    "Please seek assistance from your Doctor, Midwife, Health Professional or Dietician about feeding your baby. "

    We are getting a lot of requests for advice regarding choosing formulas over the phone, by email and on the forum. Members can tell you their experiences, but they are only their experiences and do not apply to your baby. Please contact your health professional for advice in the first instance or Nutricia also have qualified dieticians.

    GRSNNZ supports the Baby Friendly Initiative and promotes Breastfeeding. GRSNNZ will not give personal advice on formula.

    Kind regards
    GRSNNZ Committee

    Site Guidelines Most of the information on Crying Over Spilt Milk is copyrighted and may not be reproduced on another site/publication without permission, but some may be printed for the personal use of families (and these pages will be clearly marked at the bottom with instructions.) Some material…

  • Please help i am desperate! My wee 9 week old is under a paediatrician forbreflux and a maybe dairy allergy. My milk supply is starring to drop and she has been given Elecare but she refuses to drink it. Have tried vanilla essence and mixing it with my breast milk but still no luck. Any help/advice will be greatly appreciated 😊

  • Hi. I am having real trouble settling my 9 week old baby, especially at night. I would like to wean her off me and have tried both pepti Jr and neocate but no luck. Also on ranitidine for refulx. Am i just best to breast feed or is there other options?

  • Sharing for your information. Please read the whole article - there are safe options.

    A survey of portable cots for sale in New Zealand has uncovered potentially fatal safety defects - including folding mechanisms that could trap a child's neck. - New Zealand Herald

  • I don't know if this is the right site but my mum is being treated for reflux which has brought on burning mouth syndrome.
    All her food tasted awful and was wondering if anyone has any tips if dealing or getting rid of this?
    Thank you x

  • May your heart be warmed by the sweet magic that Christmas brings, and may all your dreams be fulfilled.
    Christmas Greetings from the Trustees of the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust.

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