Before the birth of my son, I spent hours researching various brands of products that I assumed I needed. I scoured bookstores and tried to decide which books to purchase and which philosophies made the most sense to me. One year after Max’s birth, I took inventory of the products and books that I had purchased or was given. Most of them were unused or had been a total waste of money. In the end, it was really getting back to old-fashioned basics that had benefited us the most.
Max was born with infant reflux. He rarely slept for longer than 20 minutes at a stretch unless held or carried. He spit-up or vomited frequently and was in acute physical distress for hours during the night, moaning in pain. He cried for hours inconsolably and nursed for 45-90 minutes at a time, every 2 – 2½ hours for most of the day. He refused to be laid on his back and was unhappy in his seat or swing. Although he wanted to be constantly held, he hated the sling and only tolerated the front carrier, preferring instead to be held in arms in an upright position.
Modern Products and Advice Helpful? Not Always…
Luckily for Max, he has the type of personality that demands things. He was able to communicate in no uncertain terms what he did NOT want. It was a long list that covered many modern baby-raising practices such as:
• Scheduled feedings
• Formula and bottles
• Flat nursing pillows
• Play yards, swings and infant seats
• Modern slings or carriers that put pressure on the tummy
• Sleep training
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for products or advice that make the baby or the parent more comfortable, and above all assist in sleeping. However, I think that Max would have been better off if I had NOT read so many books or researched so many products and instead just listened to Max.
Old Fashioned Basics
Max wanted very few things really. He wanted things that babies in less developed countries get automatically, without the benefit of parenting books or expensive products. He wanted:
• On demand breastfeeding in an upright position
• Constant carrying in an upright but supported position, as with a Moby Wrap, Baby Cuddler, or Mai Tei
• Sleeping in physical contact with parents
Once we established what he did want, our lives changed dramatically.
Frequent Connection Between Fussiness, Colic, and Reflux
It is now commonly believed that fussiness and colic are often caused by undiagnosed baby reflux, or GER. It is also estimated that between 40 and 60% of all babies suffer from some degree of reflux in the early months due to an under-developed lower esophagus sphincter (LES). That means that half of all babies may experience physical distress due to gas or acid in the esophagus. It is important to realize that a baby need not spit up in order to be refluxing. This is called silent reflux. This does not necessarily mean these babies need medication. They may require or benefit from some simple lifestyle changes.
How Products, Advice and Schedules Can Aggravate the Problem
Many of the things you are currently using or doing may be making the problem worse.
• Choose breastmilk over formula. Human breastmilk is the most developmentally appropriate and easily digestible food source for a human baby. Formulas contain many ingredients that can cause intolerances. You may consider eliminating from your diet dairy or other foods that can cause intolerances to see if they are also aggravating your baby’s system. Food intolerances can aggravate reflux and increase gas.
• Choose breastfeeding over bottle feeding. The act of the tongue against the roof of the mouth improves disgestion by creating waves that push food through the digestive tract. This happens when a baby sucks on a breast and does not happen as effectively when a baby sucks on a bottle.
• Do not schedule or time feedings. Your baby knows how much milk he/she needs and will feed appropriately in order to establish the correct milk supply for you both. By timing, scheduling, or withholding feeds you are inhibiting your baby’s efforts. The correct frequency and number of feeds will be unique to every mother and baby team and should not be advised by a book. Overfeeding can aggravate reflux and increase gas.