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Understanding Reflux: What is the Best Position to Breastfeed a baby with Reflux? 

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential bonding experience between a mother and a baby. However, for some babies dealing with reflux, this cherished time can become a source of discomfort and distress. 

Reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is a common condition that affects many babies during their early months of life.

For breastfeeding mothers, finding the right position while nursing can make a big difference in easing reflux symptoms for their babies. In this blog, we will explore what reflux is, which symptoms your baby may suffer from GER, the best breastfeeding positions to provide relief and comfort for babies experiencing reflux, and also my top 5 tips to deal with reflux. 

What is Reflux? 

Reflux is a normal physiological process in which the oesophageal sphincter; a muscle that acts as a valve between the stomach and the oesophagus, is not yet fully developed in babies and infants. As a result, stomach contents, including milk and stomach acid, can flow back into the oesophagus. This can lead to spitting up, regurgitation, and occasionally discomfort and pain. It happens sporadically and is more likely to happen after feeding. 

In most cases, it is accompanied by regurgitation; therefore, reflux doesn’t technically involve any posseting (bringing up milk). This is what we call silent reflux, which I’ll cover in another blog. 

What are the most important symptoms your baby may suffer from?

As we mentioned before, your baby may experience one or more symptoms, but the most common ones could be:

  • Regurgitations or vomiting
  • Irritability and fussiness during or after feeding
  • Arching their back (especially when feeding)
  • Refusing to feed or becoming agitated when offered your breast
  • Weight loss or not gaining weight 
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep

What are The Best Breastfeeding Positions for Babies with Reflux?
  • Koala Position: This is actually the best position to feed a baby with GER, because the most important thing is to feed them in the most vertical position we can. This is when your baby sits straddling your thigh, or on your hip, with their spine and head upright as they feed. Remember to support their head and neck, so they are more vertical while breastfeeding. With this position we reduce the pressure on your baby’s stomach and minimize the chances of regurgitation. The only downside is that it’s easier with older babies who are already sitting up on their own, whereas newborns obviously need a lot of support. 

  • Laid Back Position: This position is ideal because gravity aids digestion. Upright feeding positions for babies are one of the best-kept secrets to a happy, and comfortable baby.

My Top 5 Tips to Deal with your Baby’s Reflux

You know I love to share my best, tried and tested tips, so let me give you some general advice to make your baby feel a bit more comfortable and happier:

  • Keep your baby in an upright position after every feed for at least 15-20 minutes. 
  • Use a carrier to carry them around (upright position)
  • Avoid overfeeding by offering smaller and more frequent feeds
  • Elevate the mattress while sleeping
  • Non-nutritive sucking with an empty breast or a dummy to make more saliva, which is known to neutralizes the stomach acid. 

In conclusion, breastfeeding a baby with reflux may present some difficulties and challenges, but with the right position and technique, and with the support of a qualified IBCLC, it can be a more comfortable and rewarding experience for both mother and baby. 

And MOST IMPORTANTLY, remember that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from reflux because breastmilk is easier and faster to digest than formula. 

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