Holy over diagnosis, Batman! Every newborn has reflux?
*DISCLAIMER* I speak only from my own experience, I am not attempting to solicit medical advice. Always consult a physician with your concerns regarding your baby’s health.
As a mom, nothing is more disturbing to see than your newborn projectile spitting up what appears to be 8 ounces of breast milk with the violent force of a fire hose… But this happening one or two times daily is completely normal in the beginning, and increases slightly by around the 3-4 month mark.
Consider this: your infant hasn’t been digesting anything other than amniotic fluid before breast milk is introduced. So you have the novelty of a brand new digestive tract getting used to processing the sugars and proteins of breast milk. Second, the infant is still establishing gut flora. The bacteria that populate the digestive tract in a newborn come from the mother’s birth canal and breastmilk. This is significant for a couple reasons. 1) if mama has poor gut flora at the time of delivery, baby will inherit the imbalance. 2) If mom is on antibiotics during delivery for something like being GBS+, the antibiotics will wipe out the majority of the gut bacteria and bacteria in the vagina, leaving baby devoid of any inherited flora, and therefore nothing to break down food, in this case breast milk, efficiently. 3) if baby is delivered by cesarian section, there is no journey through the birth canal, and therefore no transfer of bacteria from mom to baby. The mother is in some cases additionally placed on antibiotics to preemptively eliminate any infection from surgery. So again, no probiotic bacteria is transferred.
This can lead to a host of issues in mother and baby such as IBS, leaky gut, gerd, autoimmune disorders, candida overgrowth, yeast infection, thrush, and more. The good news is that it is treatable.
Over the last 4 years, I have overcome digestive disorders, infertility, hormonal imbalance, leaky gut, and autoimmune disorders. My course of treatment? Anti-inflammation diet (think Paleo) yoga, essential oils, and dietary supplements.
I am GBS positive so I was on antibiotics for the deliveries of both my children. The result was a complete wiping out of my gut flora, and a systemic yeast infection that was then transferred to my kiddos as thrush. To put it mildly, breastfeeding felt like passing razor blades and shards of glass and mama and babies were miserable.
Luckily for my second child, I knew what to expect, so I caught the yeast infections early and stopped them before they got out of hand with prescription medication (fluconazole for me, Nystatin for the baby) and I started taking a potent probiotic, Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora with 50 billion live active cultures. This let both baby and me have a much easier time recovering from labor and delivery.
Back to reflux. My point is that I believe that too many times, a holistic view of baby’s health of digestion is overlooked and parents panic and jump to the conclusion that they have some sort of reflux requiring soy formula, or antacid medication. Am I discounting the legitimate diagnosis? Absolutely not- there are certainly some babies who don’t digest milk well, but I think the important question to ask is, “why?” Rather than treat the symptoms of “reflux” I would encourage parents to investigate the root cause. Is baby taking more breastmilk than they can hold because of comfort nursing? Is baby’s gut bacteria inferior? Is one of baby’s parents lactose intolerant? Is baby’s weight dropping?
My hope is that so long as your infant is still gaining weight appropriately, and isn’t spitting up more than 1-3 times a day, that you wouldn’t be discouraged from breastfeeding and giving your infant the probiotics that only come from breastmilk. Remember also, breastmilk is the natural nutrition for an infant, and regardless of the sometimes awkward, unnatural experiences we have trying to establish good nursing, it’s still the most well suited nutrition for your child.