For Baby

How to deal with baby reflux and spilling

Have you taken to accessorising every outfit with a large cloth nappy draped over one shoulder? It could be a new layering trend – but more likely it’s the sign of a ‘spilly’ baby. Spilling or spitting up (sometimes called uncomplicated reflux) can be very frustrating, but rest assured it’s also very normal. It’s common in younger babies and usually resolves by the time baby is 1 year old.

If your baby is otherwise happy and growing well, there’s no need to worry about a bit of spit up. Arm yourself with plenty of cloths and towels for feeding and burping time, stock up on laundry powder when it’s on special, and hang in there!

However, if your baby seems to be in pain during or after a feed, or isn’t growing as well as they should be, it is possible your baby has a more complicated form of reflux which could require medication, so it important you see your baby’s doctor.

So what causes spit up and spilling?

Basically the valve at the top of baby’s stomach is still developing, and may not close properly yet. Because of the small size of baby’s tummy and the frequent milk feeds throughout the day, the valve may relax once the tummy is full of milk, allowing some of the stomach contents to travel into the oesophagus. This is normal and common and nothing to be concerned about unless your baby is clearly in pain.

Don’t despair – there are several things you can do to help.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with spilling:

  • Hold baby as upright as possible for half an hour after a feed. If your arms need a break, you could try a frontpack or bouncer chair.
  • Make sure you burp your baby during and after every feed. Use a gentle technique, holding baby upright over your shoulder.
  • Make sure nappies and clothing aren’t too tight around the tummy.
  • Try smaller, more frequent feeds – so there’s not too much pressure in baby’s tummy.
  • Keep the breastfeeding going as long as you and baby are comfortable - it’s the best nutrition for baby.

Most importantly, try to remember this is just a phase that your baby will grow out of, and make sure you talk to someone if you are finding it hard to cope. Your midwife, Plunket nurse, or Well Child provider can offer advice and support. There are also feed thickeners and medications available through your GP if the problem is severe. 

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