Foods to help breastfeeding moms of reflux or colicky babies

Understanding why a baby has reflux or colic isn’t always as straightforward as many of us hope. Luckily Aine Homer, aka The Baby Reflux Lady is here to share some advice on how you can change your diet when breastfeeding to help with your little one’s reflux or colic issues.

Wind in breastfed babies can come from several sources such as taking in too much air. This can be spotted if your little one clicks, gulps, feeds noisily, or spills milk whilst feeding. If your baby is doing any of these whilst being fed, you should visit a Tongue Tie Practitioner or a certified lactation consultant for latch support. Tongue ties can be difficult to spot which is why it’s important to visit a specialist rather than your doctor as they are specifically trained to identify a tie.

If everything is ok with your baby’s latch and they still have signs of colic or reflux (either with or without vomiting - silent reflux), then there may be something in your milk that your little one can’t digest properly. When this ferments it causes wind and gas that becomes hard to move and uncomfortable.

I hear and read of so many stories of moms stopping breastfeeding because of their baby’s reflux, only to spend weeks or longer still trying to resolve their baby’s pain and discomfort. However, unless there is a reason that your baby cannot medically digest breastmilk, I believe that breastmilk is the best option for a baby suffering from reflux.

Why is breastmilk still best for a reflux or colicky baby?

If a little one is breastfed and showing signs of being a reflux or colic baby, the milk is the best source of nutrition and the easiest product to influence, as the mother can adapt its content. If your breastmilk has food molecules that your baby cannot digest properly, you can change these with ease, unlike formulas that usually contain indigestible products.

Aside from this, there are a few other reasons that breastmilk will help:

  1. it has a natural analgesic effect, so it is a natural painkiller for your baby
  2. the act of suckling and feeding stimulates peristalsis, helping to make sure everything moves in a downwards direction. 
  3. Milk will wash back down any acid that has been annoying your baby

For these three reasons alone, you may notice that your unsettled baby wants boob “all the time”, and can often over-feed themselves purely for comfort reasons.

How to support your baby with your diet

Once you’ve been assured that your baby’s latch is as good as it can be and they’re no longer drinking in air with their milk, you can start to look at modifying your diet. I always recommend keeping a detailed food and symptom diary, this will allow you to pinpoint potential irritants whilst giving you reliable reference points. There are a lot of symptoms outside of vomiting in a reflux baby that could be indicative of food intolerances.

The most common culprit for intolerances is cow’s milk and soy (these two rarely go uncoupled). I see many moms who have gone a strict diet without results as many parents don’t understand there is a difference between their digestive system and their babies.

The difference is due to your baby being born underdeveloped, unlike many other mammals our babies are unable to stand and walk within hours of birth. We hear lots about the various stages of physical, cognitive, and emotional development, but very little about the development of a baby’s digestive system. For example, they are designed to live on milk alone for the first 6 or so months and are born without teeth to grind any solid foods.

Also, young babies do not produce many of the digestive enzymes needed to completely break down food.

Herein lies the secret. If you recognize their systems as developing rather than developed and adapt to this, you will have a much happier and healthier baby with far less discomfort.

As your baby can be reacting to anything you eat, I suggest you do 3-5 days of your ‘normal’ diet, noting down the symptoms so you have a clear picture of where you’re starting from. Then, cut out all major allergen foods such as dairy (including any hidden dairy proteins and sugars such as beef, gelatin, and lacto-anything), soy, eggs, and nuts. You should also avoid any foods that give you wind or tummy troubles.

In my practice, I see quicker improvements through a faster and greater elimination diet, so suggest restricting your diet for a few days (3-4 should do) and gradually reintroduce the foods according to your baby’s ease of digestion. If you see a flare in any symptoms whilst reintroducing, stop eating that food immediately and wait until your baby has returned to a good place before reintroducing anything else.

Aine Homer is a mother to two girls who were both diagnosed with colic, reflux, tongue-tie issues and other food intolerances and allergies. Whilst experiencing the ‘trial and error’ approach of the medical community, Aine felt unsupported, dismissed and like it was all in her head. She took matters into her owns using her unique background to research and discover the causes of her daughter’s discomforts - something she now applies to babies worldwide.

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