If you want to start sleep training your reflux baby, then you have come to the right page!
Call it GERD, Reflux, Acid reflux, or Silent reflux; it is one of the leading sleep train concerns parents have when they start sleep training their little ones. Though sleep training reflux baby can be challenging, it is not impossible. The key is to understand what Reflux or GERD is, its symptoms, and how to minimize them.
We have addressed the issue of acid reflux and sleep training reflux babies through this blog post!
Table of Contents
What Is Reflux in Babies?
Reflux is something both adults and babies may experience. In adults, reflux causes heartburn and is also often referred to by this term. However, it is more common and uncomfortable for babies, awakening them from sleep at night. Reflux occurs when the food and stomach acid goes back up to the esophagus. It is usually the result of quick or fast eating.
In infants, reflux can cause constant drooling or even spit-up. As the babies eat food or drink milk often too quickly, the lower muscles of the esophagus relax, resulting in the contents pushing back to the stomach.
Baby’s Reflux Common Symptoms That You Shouldn’t Ignore
If you notice any or more of the following symptoms in your baby, then they may be suffering from reflux:
- Abdomen bulging or bloatedness.
- Excessive spitting up, especially after eating or drinking milk.
- When babies spit up, there’s a sour odor from the mouth and nose. Their drool may have a sour scent or be foamy.
- Difficulty swallowing while the baby makes gagging sounds or drools excessively.
- Frequent bouts of crying that last for hours at a time and won’t stop no matter what you do – whether it’s feeding the child or changing the diaper.
Is Reflux Painful For The Babies?
No doubt, baby reflux is uncomfortable and disturbing for the little ones, but usually, it is not painful. In fact, for most babies, reflux is not even a primary concern, and they are referred to as “Happy Spitters.” However, for some babies, reflux may be a concern. The stomach acids may cause pain in the esophagus in some babies. If that’s the case with your baby, you should consult a pediatrician for proper diagnosis and remedy.
Here are the symptoms of painful reflux in the babies:
- Spitting up and vomiting are associated with pain
- Difficulty being soothed/constant crying
- Becoming fussy following feedings
- Arching away from the nipple during feedings
- Frequent or chronic cough or congestion in the absence of illness
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Irritability during feedings
- Refusal to eat
- Poor weight gain
- Difficult and disrupted sleep
Why Reflux/GERD Cause Sleep Deprivation in Babies?
Babies with reflux/GERD tend to awaken several times every night. It is due to the acidity and irritation of their throats. It is difficult for parents, but it is also disturbing for infants. They often wake up crying and even choking on the stomach contents that go back up to their throats.
Like adults, heartburn, aka reflux, causes discomfort for babies. Heartburn is more painful for the little ones. It is also a leading cause of disrupted sleep in infants.
In most cases, babies clench their fists while sleeping and make sounds resemble snoring. They may even experience a change in breathing patterns when reflux issues. Some may even develop a chronic cough.
Sleep Training Tips For Healthy Sleep Habits for a Baby With Reflux
With reflux babies, parents often when to start sleep training. A simple answer is that it’s better to wait until your baby’s reflux condition gets better. However, it applies only to parents who haven’t started sleep training their reflux babies.
For those moms and dads who are in the middle of sleep training, you can continue to sleep train your baby. While there is no guarantee that sleep training will help your little one enjoy a night of deep sleep, it will surely help them establish healthy sleep habits. It is also effective for the baby to fall asleep independently.
Whether you are in the middle of sleep training or want to start it, the following tips may help your little one fall asleep better at night.
Refer To Pediatricians First
It is always better to consult your baby’s doctor before trying anything when it comes to babies. This is especially true if your baby has a reflux diagnosis. Not all babies indeed suffer from severe reflux symptoms. If your baby gets minor reflux issues, it gets better over time without medication. However, for severe and painful reflux, your baby would require medication. So it’s better to consult a pediatrician to ensure the reflux is under control before you start sleep training reflux baby.
Give Last Feeding of the Night Earlier
One of the causes behind gastroesophageal reflux in babies is that the stomach acids don’t get enough time to settle. Usually, parents feed their babies right before putting them in the crib. This feeding disturbs the process of digestion, and the stomach contents are pushed back into the lower esophagus. It is best to feed the babies at least half an hour or 60 minutes before putting them in the crib.
If you think that feeding your reflux baby full before sleeping will aid them to sleep better throughout the night, then you’re mistaken. While it may work for babies without esophageal reflux, it’s not recommended for reflux babies. It is best to prevent reflux if the baby’s tummy is not overly full. Pediatric Sleep consultants and doctors advise mothers to give small and frequent meals or feedings if their little one suffers from reflux. According to experts, reflux babies require longer night feedings than the ones without it. However, frequent night feedings may cause pain or discomfort, especially for a colicky baby. Therefore if you want to adopt this feeding pattern, consult your pediatrician to avoid any inconvenience.
Keep the Baby Upright While Feeding
The feeding position is an essential factor that impacts reflux symptoms in babies suffering from it. According to sleep consultant experts, you must feed your baby in an upright position. It applies to babies regardless of whether they suffer from reflux or not. When you feed the baby in a good position, gravity comes into action. The gravity pulls down the milk into the esophagus, preventing the risk of reflux during feeding.
Hold Baby Upright For up to 30 minutes.
Feeding the baby in an upright position is one thing, but to prevent esophageal reflux, try to hold the baby in an upright position post-feeding. It means that you shouldn’t put the baby in the crib or bassinet right after feeding them. Sleep consultant experts suggest that babies must be held upright or semi-upright for a duration of 20 to 30 minutes after feeding. What’s the logic? It’s again the gravity! This position helps the milk and stomach contents to be pushed down the esophagus and remain there. It gives enough time for the stomach contents and acids to settle in. It means that there’s less chance that your baby will experience discomfort or pain during the night.
A pro tip to pass this time with your baby without exhausting you both is to bathe your baby after a nighttime feeding.
Make sure that your baby burps.
With babies, you can’t ignore the burp. It is an important step that helps prevent any discomfort to your baby. Burping reduces the pressure applied on the lower esophageal sphincter. Moreover, burping ensures no air bubble inside the esophagus may cause spit-up. For breastfeeding mothers, it is best to give your baby burp after every 2-3 ounces of feed or when switching the breast. Burping applies to both nighttime and daytime schedules.
Use Crib Mattress With a Slight Gentle Tilt
Pediatricians and midwives have suggested that an elevated upper body is quite helpful for reflux sleep problems. Usually, the crib mattresses are not elevated. However, particular mattresses have a slight gentle tilt of 5 to 10 degrees. If you couldn’t find a crib mattress with an angle, you can always use a wedge or a wedged pillow to elevate your infant’s upper body. However, in such a case, put the wedge under the mattress. According to AAP (American Association of Pediatricians), the safest sleep position for babies is on their back on a flat surface. This position is ideal for preventing the risk of SIDs, but it makes the reflux condition even worse for babies. Therefore putting your baby on a slightly elevated mattress is the safest sleeping position for reflux babies.
Don’t Let The Baby Develop any negative sleep associations.
When sleep training babies with reflux, make sure that they do not develop any negative associations with sleep. Suppose the baby grows a pattern of waking up at night every time they spit up or whenever they feel thirsty or hungry. In that case, it can be frustrating for them and distressing for you both towards an improved sleep environment.
Also, make sure that your baby doesn’t develop any sleep associations. It’s an instinct for parents to comfort their little ones, especially when in pain or discomfort. But if you want to sleep train reflux babies, you shouldn’t do this. When your baby is in a newborn stage, you can rock them or do anything to comfort them so that the baby sleep. However, as the baby grows, you must wean away from any such sleep associations. It’s essential to develop independent sleep skills in babies.
Pacifiers Are Not Your Enemy
Babies with reflux usually struggle to sleep when they are in pain. This leads them to wake up during the night, leading parents to be worried, frustrated, and exhausted. Many sleep consultants suggest that providing a pacifier at nighttime is one of the most convenient ways to help babies with reflux get some uninterrupted nights’ sleep.
You May Want to Consider a Probiotic
Probiotics are good bacteria that help in food digestion. Babies with reflux most often face difficulty digesting lactose found in breast milk or formulas. They lack these lactase enzymes, which help break down the sugars in the body’s foods and ingest them with minimum discomfort. Probiotic supplements can ease your baby’s digestive problems. It may help the babies sleep better during the night. Suppose your baby has reflux and you want to give them probiotics. In that case, it is best to ask your pediatrician to offer medical advice about probiotic use.
Taking care of babies with reflux can be very challenging. Because in addition to the discomfort they experience, they also need proper sleep for healthy growth and development. As a parent, you may feel like everything is not working when sleeping at night. Still, your baby is responding well to all the suggestions you are trying out. So stick to the routine and be patient. It may take some time, but eventually, your baby with reflux will develop healthy sleep patterns and fall asleep independently.