Acid reflux can be a temporary or long-term condition in breastfeeding infants. According to the La Leche League International, breastfeeding is often a method of treating gastroesophageal reflux, or GER, which is a more significant form of acid reflux that is characterized by profuse spit-up, breathing difficulties, pain, and even projectile vomiting. Although there are many reasons acid reflux may occur in your breastfeeding infant, they are commonly attributed to your diet.
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Significance of Your Diet
It's important for you to eat a well-balanced diet that isn't too restricted when you begins breastfeeding. In order for your body to produce nutritious milk and support itself, you must consume 500 extra calories per day, according to KidsHealth.com. MedlinePlus recommends a varied diet with minimal items excluded, unless your baby has given you reason to restrict your diet further, such as developing acid reflux after you consume certain foods. Alcohol, caffeine and any other stimulants should be limited or avoided when nursing. Because water is a key ingredient in breast milk, you need to drink at least 64 ounces of water or caffeine-free fluids per day.
Making small changes to your diet may eliminate or reduce acid reflux in your breastfed baby but not always. Some foods can change the taste of your breast milk, making it more or less appealing to your baby. You don't need to be overly concerned about omitting spices, dairy or other strong flavors from your diet, unless your baby shows signs of acid reflux or other digestive discomfort, says MedlinePlus. When your breastfed baby develops acid reflux, you'll want to identify any potential food sources in your diet that are causing your baby's tummy to get upset. If your baby seems to have reflux after every feeding—regardless of what you have eaten—then your diet may not be to blame. When a known allergy runs in your family, you should discuss it with a health care professional, such as a nutritionist or lactation consultant. It's possible for your baby to develop an allergy to the food because of exposure in the breast milk. Symptoms of a food allergy, including lactose intolerance, can present themselves in the form of refluxing or projectile vomiting.
Effects of Acid Relux
Babies with acid reflux can exhibit a variety of symptoms during and after nursing. Spitting up is common in any infant, but a baby with acid reflux will produce a greater quantity. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse suggests that an infant with reflux will vomit, cough, become irritable, have poor eating habits and may have blood in his stools. As time passes, the baby may not grow at a normal rate from ejecting so much food; however, this is more commonly associated with GER. Wheezing, persistent pneumonia and other respiratory or breathing problems are sometimes the result of untreated GER as well.
Identifying the cause of acid reflux requires some trial and error on the part of you, the parent. Feeding your baby in a more upright position, keeping her upright for 20 to 30 minutes after a meal, and avoiding over-feeding can lead to a reduction in acid reflux. When these steps fail to reduce reflux, you should consider your diet. Keep a journal of everything you eat and drink, including medications, and document how your baby responds after nursing, to help identify potential dietary culprits. Every baby is different when it comes to acid reflux caused by a mother's diet.
If keeping a food diary isn't effective in identifying the food source, you may need to carry out an elimination diet. This consists of avoiding all dairy sources for a period of no less than seven days. If, over time, your baby's reflux improves, then it is likely that he has trouble digesting breastmilk, which contains dairy proteins or lactose, states the La Leche League International. This is not always an indication of lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity. Further medical testing is needed to confirm an allergy or intolerance as your baby matures. More extreme forms of the elimination diet, such as one discussed by AskDrSears.com, suggest eating lamb, free-range turkey, boiled white or sweet potatoes with salt, rice, green and yellow squash and pears for two weeks. Following the two weeks, one food can be reintroduced to your diet every four days while monitoring your baby for signs of tummy problems or reflux.