GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms are incredibly painful for babies. Also known as Acid Reflux, GERD is a condition affecting two-thirds of babies according to the U.S. national statistics. The great news is that GERD statistics are much lower in breastfed babies. According to this clinical study, babies who fed with a device most similar to the breast which provided air-free milk, while feeding in an upright position and let the baby control the flow and pace, showed up to 52% less GERD symptoms than the same babies fed with traditional baby bottles.
Instruction in the test indicated that parents shouldn’t change the contents. Some were feeding breastmilk, regular formula or expensively branded formula for ‘sensitive tummies.’ Parents were asked to change their baby bottle and use the device tested. The conclusion was that the elimination of air infiltration from traditional vented bottles and feeding the baby in a vertical, upright position, made a vast difference in symptomology. The device tested dispensed food upon suction only and independently of gravity, much like the breast. These benefits allowed the babies to comfortably feed in an upright position, even while facing down. It also allowed the babies to control the flow and pace of feeding with suction strength, thus preventing overfeeding. What this means for breastfed babies is that what you eat doesn’t magically affects your baby, it’s the positioning that matters.
GERD and GER prevention while breastfeeding
We all know breasts don’t have air-vents that can infiltrate air. However, air infiltration can happen if the baby’s latch is not correct. So if your baby is showing GERD symptoms or has been diagnosed with GERD, read the following suggestion that can dramatically help minimize the GERD symptoms:
- Work with a feeding professional to help you determine if your baby’s latch is adequate. If not, they will work with you and your baby to achieve a perfect latch.
- Nipple shields often infiltrate air between the breast and the shield and between the shield and the baby’s mouth. If you are using a nipple shield and your baby is showing symptoms of GER/GERD, talk to a feeding professional.
- Hold your baby in an upright position. Try the “Australian hold” while feeding. According to the study mentioned above, hold the baby vertically during and after feeding for about 20~30 minutes. This posture lets gravity keep the acids and food in the belly while the digestion process is happening.
GERD and GER prevention, what not to do
- Do not hold your baby horizontally. The Lower Esophageal Sphincter is a muscle between the stomach and esophagus that relaxes to let food in and contracts to keep acids digesting the food. Babies have their LES undeveloped. It stays opened or opens sporadically. Holding the baby in horizontal position induces the acids to back up into the esophagus. As recommended by Pediatricians, upright position is by far much healthier and better for baby.
- Please do your research on prescription drugs!! There’s a lot of literature available on effectiveness vs. side effects. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) suggests staying away from these drugs as it’s proven they don’t work and render a long list of side effects.
Lactose intolerance, allergies, and indigestion can present similar symptoms as GERD. Consult with your doctor right the way if your baby is uncomfortable after feeding, cries for long periods of time, or spits up after meals.