Tips for making Babywise and reflux work together. You can still enjoy the benefits of Babywise with a reflux baby and get great sleep.
Reflux is not easy on anyone. Baby is of course in pain and discomfort. Babies with reflux typically do not sleep very well, and certainly don’t sleep as well as they would without the reflux. This makes it harder on mom in many ways. Mom is emotionally and mentally worried about her baby’s comfort and health. Mom is also more exhausted physically because she isn’t getting as much rest since baby can’t sleep as well.
Babywise and Reflux Reality
Can you do Babywise if your baby has reflux? YES! Babywise and reflux can go hand in hand. A baby with reflux will most likely be slower to reach sleep milestones than she would if she didn’t have reflux. Using Babywise, however, will help your reflux baby sleep leaps and bounds better than she would otherwise.
Kaitlyn, my second child, had reflux. I did Babywise with her since birth. She was not sleeping as well as I hoped she would and as I felt she could if not for the reflux. I went searching for help online and left feeling pretty good about our situation. While other mothers were sleeping all night holding there reflux babies sitting in a lazy boy, I was wondering how to get her to sleep longer than 8:30 PM-5:30 AM in her crib.
I think there are great benefits to doing Babywise with a reflux baby. I think it helps their acid regulate.
While sleep with a reflux Babywise baby is much better than it would be without Babywise, there are challenges just because of the reflux. You have the likelihood that the baby can wake more often due to the heartburn. It will pass, but it is something to be aware of if you are having problems with early waking from naps or waking in the night.
Sleep training can be difficult. Having your baby cry it out while they are in pain isn’t really going to accomplish anything, especially when you take into account the crying aggravating the reflux. I highly recommend using the Four S’s for sleep training any baby, but especially a reflux baby. This is a no-cry sleep solution.
Something that can help is to burp your baby frequently and efficiently during feeding and throughout waketime. Give burping another go right before nap or bedtime. I also love gripe water for soothing pain (affiliate link). I would use it before every nap. I always gave only 1/4 of the recommended dosage, but you might need to use more if your baby has a lot of discomfort.
Despite these possible challenges, you can successfully do Babywise even if your baby has reflux. There is an excellent chance sleep milestones will happen later than they would without the reflux interfering, but in your moments of frustration, just remember it could be worse.
Tips for Making Babywise and Reflux Work Together
Here are some standard tips for reflux:
- Avoid caffeine. I went off chocolate altogether when Kaitlyn was about a month old, and that made a huge difference. I don’t drink caffeine in any way, but people I have talked to who drank coffee and cut that out saw a HUGE difference. Every so often I would be at a reunion or party and forgot my chocolate strike (honestly, I forgot, but my mind probably blocked it out on purpose! Yum, chocolate) and eat a piece of chocolate cake or something and I would see a change (for the worse) the next day in Kaitlyn.
- I have heard to avoid citrus, including tomatoes, so that includes all sauces and soups made of tomatoes. Citrus didn’t seem to affect Kaitlyn, though.
- Think back to when you were pregnant and got heartburn (if you did). Think of the types of food that gave you heartburn. Spicy, etc. That will do it to your baby.
- I personally think the reflux is better to have more frequent meals in the day that are smaller rather than a few large meals. So I kept Kaitlyn on the 3 hour schedule (sometimes we did 3.5 sometimes 2.5) until she was almost 7 months old.
- I do think a schedule is good for the reflux. There are definitely more factors to consider while doing Babywise though. Like if they are having pain during a nap and that is what wakes them, or is it one of the many other possible things that affect all babies? You have to weed that out.
- Some moms find that their baby with reflux will reach the “milestones” later. The milestones I am referring to are sleeping through the night, sleeping 10-12 hours at night, or moving to a 4 hour schedule. Other moms see no difference. Just be aware that it is a possibility.
- You can put your baby to sleep on an incline. I had Kaitlyn in a bassinet that we inclined the mattress by putting foam we purchased at a fabric store under it. My husband simply cut it at an angle. In the crib, I bought a mattress incliner from Babies R Us. She would slide down it and I am sure it caused her to wake more often, but at least she wasn’t having her esophogus burned! I stopped the incline somewhere around 15 weeks. Many people go longer.
- Nurse your baby if it is a possibility at all. I know it is hard for many women, especially when you factor in the foods you have to cut out of your diet. It is so worth it for your baby. Breast milk changes with the baby. The calories in an ounce of milk increase as the baby gets older. Formula doesn’t do that, so you would have to give the baby more formula to get more calories, but that can aggravate their tummies. Breast milk is also easier on the digestive system. Here is an example from my life to illustrate this point. When Kaitlyn is 6.5 months old, I didn’t even use a burp rag to burp her at home. She still spit up every so often, but rarely. At church every week I give her a bottle with formula. This is so I can stay and listen to talks, lessons, etc. and also so she can maintain her familiarity with bottles and so she will be okay with eating formula if need be. Now here is the interesting part. Every week at church after her bottle, my baby went from not needing a burp rag to needing a BLANKET to cover my lap or else I would be soaking wet before long. So I went from no burp rag, to blanket just from a bottle/formula. You read that formula is not as gentle on the stomach so reflux babies will spit up more if they eat it. I have found this to be true.
- Some advice I got from a fellow Babywise mom who had a daughter with reflux was to not let the reflux become an excuse for you. Yes, you want to be sure you are attending to baby’s needs, but don’t be too quick to attribute all problems to the reflux. If you do, you may be ignoring the real problems.
- Check out Babycenter.com and look up reflux and nursing–you will find all sorts of information. You will also find a bunch of people who at 6 months are still up every two hours at night and who hold their child for all naps and sleep in recliners with the baby at night. They are frazzled, I feel bad for them. They have accepted that it is just really hard with reflux. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You will feel much better about any difficulties you experience with your reflux after checking this out.
Reflux is no reason to not follow the Babywise plan. Babywise and reflux can work together beautifully. You might need to make some adjustments for your baby, but that is true for all moms. You will likely find life with your baby with reflux much easier doing PDF (parent directed feeding) than moms who do otherwise.
If you are having trouble getting your reflux Babywise baby to sleep, read my post on How To Get Your Reflux Baby to Sleep.
Sympathy for Reflux
When I am pregnant, I get really bad heartburn. I remember with Brayden it got so bad in my third trimester that I just couldn’t sleep at night. I am not really a person who likes to take medicine, so Mylanta is as far as I go. It just didn’t help.
One night in my last pregnancyI had heartburn really bad. As I got in bed to go to sleep, it was painful for me. I tried laying on each side, but to no avail. It hurt. My husband offered to rub my back because that helps relax me to fall asleep. I can still lay on my tummy for short periods, so I lay on my tummy. Immediately my heartburn was relieved.
As I lay there trying to fall asleep, I had even more sympathy, and moving into empathy, for those little babies with reflux. It is hard to sleep if your esophagus is burning.
I know that many parents who have babies with reflux get discouraged because their little one takes longer to be able to sleep long for naps, sleep through the night, and move to a 4 hour schedule. Kaitlyn certainly took longer than average to sleep through the night and to move to a 4 hour schedule (she had reflux).
Take heart and have patience. Your baby will get there when it becomes possible. Have sympathy and know your little one is in pain. Do research to find out what you can do to help ease that pain. Try different things; remedies are different for every baby. Your baby will get there and you aren’t a failure if it takes extra time.
Reader Reflux Advice:
- John and Amanda said…
I had to comment on this one! My baby had (and still does at 6 months) severe reflux issues as well as extreme fussiness/colic issues. We saw the doctor at 5 weeks old and started Zantac and it helped take the burn away, but not the constant spitting (I’m talking 1 – 2 ounces at a time). For me, I slept my baby swaddled and in his car seat. I know it sounds silly, but it worked for us! We also used Gripe Water a lot although I don’t know how much it really worked because he still spit a lot. It wasn’t until he was 4 months old that he became a “happy spitter.” My advice to BW Moms with Reflux Babies: Babywise was a little more difficult to follow with a fussy/colicky/reflux baby, but it can be done. Things may look different in your routine with a reflux baby, but if you stick with it he/she will get there eventually!
- nessa said…
hi, I’m a mother of a 5 1/2 reflux baby named Garrett and i have followed babywise since he was born. There are a few things I wanted to share that helped my child with this issue, without taking medicine. I found that with his reflux cutting things out of my diet helped dramatically. I eliminate caffeine (including chocolate to my dismay) dairy, citrus, and minimized gas forming foods (broccoli, onions, etc). I even tested the food items by eating them one time in the week and found that he would have episodes of reflux for a few days after (especially to chocolate). I noticed after a few days of eliminating these items that his symptoms dramatically improved. Another item that helped was purchasing a wedge pillow from arpillow.com The pillow makes a huge difference. I wanted to let other reflux mom’s know about the pillow because i’ve seen it work for my lo. He slept through the night after purchasing this pillow. When he doesn’t sleep on it, he arches more after a few days and has more acid pain. (I’ve experimented) Another comment I wanted to make is at the dreamfeed. I held him up for 30-45 mins after feeding him, before putting him to bed. Another difficulty I found was giving him TUMMY TIME. Because laying on his stomach caused him to spit up more! So I started giving him tummy time when he awoke early from a nap, right before feeding him. In the beginning it only lasted about 5-10 mins. Depending on his hunger level. Then later around 4 1/2 months he started to enjoy it, and at 5 months became a rolly polly. There are ways naturally to help comfort our LO through reflux. AND yes they do need routine!
nessa, thanks for all of your tips! It is good to have a variety of tips. I couldn’t agree more about the caffeine.
- usmcfamily04 said…
Great post! I, too, suffered from HORRIBLE heartburn during pregnancy…I was taking the daily acid reducer and eating tums like nobody’s business! On top of that, my son had/has reflux…so he is still in the swing…but we are getting ready to transition to the crib after the holiday season (get through one stressor at a time!).
- Shelia said…
My reflux was somewhat “tolerable” while pregnant. But watching my baby girl experience it has been miserable. The Zantac doesn’t work well. She took it for three months to no availe. But the Prevacid is a gift from above! I immediately saw a change in her… though she’s still at times reluctant to eat and only weighs 17 lbs at nearly 14 months of age. The best advice I have is to get a referral to a Pediatric GI doctor if it continues very long. It turns out my daughter has a slight milk protein allergy that will just take a while for her body to “grow out of”. That was something that even shocked my pediatrician (who never even thought of the possibility). And… Get a good swing!
- Lorri said…
Hey I can feel your pain, I had really bad reflux with Scooter too!!Try eating an apple whenever you feel the heartburn coming on. It doesn’t work for all but it did for me-and I mean worked as in it COMPLETELY got rid of any discomfort. I ate close to 6-7 apples a day because no matter what I ate, I seemed to get heartburn.For babies with reflux-our doctor told us we had a bad case baby. We had him on prevacid and would have to stay up with him for an hour after eating-and when he was first born and on a 2 hour schedule, believe me, no fun. Even with the prevacid he still complained-so we ended up giving up the prevacid since it wasn’t doing any good and tried to work through it with him.I can say the reflux improved at 4 months and now by 6 months he is doing great!There are lots of things to try with a baby who has reflux-you can try them all, but sometimes you just have to tough it up. I can give the advice that when someone asks when it will get better-I can honestly say 6 months is a magical transition!
I agree with Lorri, there is something about that 6 month transition that helps with the baby’s reflux so much! I think it is because they are sitting up on their own by then. Something that helped when I was nursing her, was for me to drink two cups of chamomile tea a day, it helped calm her stomach. It worked better than Zantac (which she was on for one week, and made her act funny, so I took her off of it!).
But I also think that people should not be too discouraged if it does not clear up at 6 months because for others it doesn’t get better until 9 months or 12 months.
- Kara and Chris said…
Our child was diagnosed with reflux at 2 months. He was immediately put on zantac and enfamil nutramagin. We saw about 70% improvement. We elevated his bed with phone books and held him for 30min. after each feeding. Most of the terrible symptoms went away but he still had constant hiccups and refused to nap more than 20 min. at a time. We still haven’t managed the STTN, he is 14 wks this Sunday, but I feel we are getting really close. Two weeks ago he seemed to go downhill fast! I was at wits end watching him suffer like this. That evening a friend of mine told me her child had reflux and lactose issues. I asked her how she figured out the lactose part. She said it carried a few more symptoms than reflux such as, infant acne that doesn’t clear up (this should really start to disappear after 2 months) constant bloated tummy, constant diarrhea like stools (they should start to get harder after 2 months if baby is not breastfed)and a stage of bluish poop for about a week. My child exhibited all these signs. I rushed to get some soy formula figuring it couldn’t get any worse and after 2 bottles he was 100% better, no more zantac either! I wish my dr. would have caught this or at least pointed me in this direction. This was a lifesaver for us.
- Jessica Babcock said…
My son has reflux and it took us weeks to get the diagnosis. in the mean time he was screaming thru every feeding no matter what we tried. my husband and I had to take turns feeding him and help each other by watching close for each other’s frustration building. the honest truth is that there were times, especially in the middle of the night that both of us had to put him down and pace the room just to calm ourselves down. Your mind knows that something is very wrong and he’s not screaming to irritate you, but with sleep deprovation and the feeling that nothing or no one is helping its easy to lose your cool. I wanted to share this because i think its more common to feel this way that many want to admit. its important to recognise that you need help and find ways to cope that protect the baby as well as yourself. my son is now on zantac and everything has changed for the better!
- Rachel Stella said…
I wanted to mention that although I’m not a big fan of drugs, I think some situations like reflux call for them if they can’t be remedied by other ways like inclining the mattress etc. I try to always think of things from my baby’s perspective…if I was in pain, which was bad enough that I couldn’t even sleep or eat, I’d want something to help me out right?
Reader Reflux Questions
- Jordan & Nikki said…
A week & a half ago, my near 4 month old was diagnosed with acid reflux. I’m not sure what took me so long to figure it out…regardless, the hardest thing is that the medication isn’t yet fine-tuned & she is still highly bothered at least 2x/day. It kills me to see her so upset – and then the spit up comes & she is as happy as a lark. At our follow-up Dr. visit, we should be able to adjust the medication, but until then, with the early nap wakings (i.e. less than an hour into the nap, clearly due to the reflux), should I just start the cycle anew? I guess I just feel frustrated that attempts at a schedule can be pushed aside due to reflux at any time. Is that normal?
Jordan & Nikki said…
Aside from needing validation of my frustrations, I do have specific questions. She sleeps from 6 pm – 6 am, with a dreamfeed around 10. She wakes as happy as a lark…I can’t complain. During the day, she is able to fall asleep on her own, unless the reflux is acting up or she is overtired from it acting up. She does wake up in the middle of the night… she isn’t hungry but I don’t want to make her CIO to learn to go back to sleep, as it may aggravate the problem. She doesn’t take a pacifier, so if I start to nurse her, she immediately goes to sleep. Any suggestions on how to wean her from that dependency? Or should I just appreciate that she is doing so well, considering the occasional pain?
Nikki,I am glad you found it. I think if the NICU nurses hadn’t pointed it out in Kaitlyn, I never would have noticed. I think I would start the cycle new, but give her about 20 minutes before feeding her if she will so you can be closer to the right interval. Eating too often can aggravate reflux. Though some need smaller amounts more often :).I do think you should be happy she does as well as she does, but I also think it is something you can work through. Once the meds are in place and working well, then I would give it about a week and then start to work on the night stuff. See this post for ideas on breaking it gently: 5-6 AM “Night Wakings” I found that Kaitlyn was a little slower in reaching some of the big milestones because of the reflux, so if your daughter is the same way, keep that in mind (I mean STTN and 4 hour schedule).
- mkk23 said…
Hi there,Thank you so much for this blog! It has made this process so much easier. 🙂 I know that you have mentioned that Kaitlyn had reflux, how did you know or the nurses know that she had it? What are the signs of a reflux baby? My 6 week old spits up a lot but I don’t know how much is too much. We start our day at 7am and right now, it is 2:30pm… he has spit up about 12 times already. He definitely has had gas problems since birth – meaning he has always had a difficult time letting the gas/burps out. It has improved in the last week. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
You are welcome! I am glad it has helped. Kaitlyn had silent reflux, meaning she didn’t spit up. What happened was she would spit up, then swallow it back down. She did her best to hold it in; it would even often come out her nose because she was trying so hard to keep it down. There are a lot of signs of reflux. I would google it and see what you find. It is also known as GERD. Some babies just spit up a lot.
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