Infant Acid Reflux Survival Guide

Welcome to the infant acid reflux club!

Infant acid reflux occurs when the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach doesn’t fully mature, causing food to head back north. Your beautiful bundle of joy has either been diagnosed with infant acid reflux, or you highly suspect he/she has it.

If you’re not sure, it may be prudent to see your pediatrician if the following is your life:

  1. Baby spits up a lot. Like everything you just worked so hard to get in him/her. Whether you’re feeding breast milk or formula, it’s frustrating, and messy, and scary to see such a volume of liquid come back out of your infant.
  2. Baby screams/cries after spitting up. This could be an “I’m still hungry” cry, or it could be pain from their stomach acid. Either way, you want to fix it so your little one can enjoy the full-belly feeling of a good meal, and you can enjoy the post-meal snuggles with a happy, content baby.
  3. You feel like you’re constantly feeding your child. Or cleaning up the mess. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

If your baby has been diagnosed with acid reflux:

Congratulations! You’re one step closer to helping your baby enjoy eating and feeling satisfied. And you’ve joined a club that many parents have been admitted to. A sloppy, smelly, messy, frustrating club. It sucks, but you’re not alone. (And keep reminding yourself – there are worse problems to have.)

I was told this stage should clear up by 18 months. “Eighteen months!” I cried. “But that’s solid food!” My son’s doctor patted my hand and said, “It could be sooner.” And he was right. My son’s massive spit-ups stopped at 9 months old. I was able to enjoy feeding him again and not always smelling like sour milk.

Here are some tips for getting through infant acid reflux:

  1. Ask your pediatrician about medicine.
    We were given a prescription for the generic form of baby Zantac. We were supposed to give it to him 20 minutes before we fed him a bottle, but we often forgot, so he got it just beforehand, and eventually, we just added it to his bottle. We got lazy, but it still worked its magic. Keep in mind, it can take a week or two to start working.
  2. Know that the medicine won’t stop the spit-ups – it just stops the acidy pain your baby feels after he/she throws up.
    I know… it’s not fair. Why isn’t there a medicine that will stop the puking? The puking will continue until the valve in your baby’s throat fully forms to stop the food from returning. But at least the painful screams/cries are gone.
  3. Consider a safe way to put your baby to sleep propped up.
    We kept ours in a bassinet, and we propped it up slightly in the crib using rolled blankets and towels, so he was elevated while he slept. It helped reduce the bedtime crying. There are products for elevating a crib mattress, or you can elevate one side of the whole crib. (Just make sure you consult your doctor and do it safely!) An incline can’t be too severe or your baby will roll to an unsafe place. Also, we placed our baby on his left side, which helped keep food down. (You may remember sleeping on your left side during pregnancy. With the shape of the stomach, it helps reduce heart burn.)
  4. Become a burp master.
    Feed small amounts, an ounce or two at a time, between burp sessions. If we burped as we fed him, the amount of spit-up was lessened. There is nothing worse than feeling the entire bottle empty down your back or your front the second you lift your child. Learn different burp techniques. You may find one way works better than others for letting out the air. For a hot minute, this technique worked wonders for us.
  5. Always have multiple burp cloths around.
    Not the ones marketed as “burp cloths” that you probably got at your baby shower. Those thin, flimsy things are not prepared for acid reflux. Get the generic cloth diapers that come in packs of 10. Get at least 30 of them. (Besides, you have a child now. There will always be messes to clean up, and they work great!) They are superior at soaking up liquid. We had a stack of them in every room in our house. There was always one within arm’s reach, in my purse, in our cars, diaper bag, etc. We never handed our baby off to a family member without first giving them a burp cloth or two. It’s also convenient if you have an older child who likes to pour water everywhere or smear yogurt from her breakfast all over her face. There’s always a cloth nearby.
These things are your new best friend.
  1. Be prepared to do a lot of laundry, and find a good stain remover/laundry detergent.
    The baby’s clothes and your clothes will always have spit-up stains. Don’t wear your fancy clothes until this stage passes, because your baby will puke on them. Or wear a robe or sweatshirt over your outfit until you get free of the baby. You’ll be doing laundry a lot, unless you’ve got a good stock of clothes to go through. I always washed clothes when the kids’ laundry baskets got half full. It helped to reduce the unpleasant smell in the house. (I also enjoy doing laundry for some reason. I’m weird like that.)
  2. Stock up on bibs and keep one on your child.
    You’ll often get so good at burping your child, you’ll be able to catch the returned food in the bib before it hits your lap or the floor. We also kept a stack of bibs on the couch where we fed the baby, right next to the burp cloths. My son dirtied at least 10 a day.
  3. Consider rolling away the nice area rug to avoid the spills. And cover the couch.
    Rugs are awful to clean — get them out of the way. Also, we put beach towels down on our couch. It didn’t look pretty, but wet scrubbing spots on the couch don’t either. And whatever chemical concoction makes up formula spit-up doesn’t want to come out. You can spot scrub all day, but only a spray, soak and full wash would get it out of our couch covers.
  4. Find a non-toxic air freshener or candle you enjoy, or open the windows.
    I was horrified when my best friend came over and told me my house smells like baby puke. It’s amazing what you can get used to. Don’t get nose blind.
  5. Enjoy the clean smell of your partner and your baby after a bath or shower.
    It is fleeting.

Acid reflux is a frustrating stage but you will get through it! One day, not far from now, you’ll realize your baby hasn’t puked on you in a day or two. And it’ll be time to wean him/her off the medicine and put this yucky time behind you. Until then, hang in there! You got this!

Got a suggestion or question? Leave it in the comments!

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