We all have dreamy ideas of breastfeeding our babies. We want to believe getting them to latch will be no problem and everything will go smoothly. Reality is, sometimes you find yourself ending up to having to use formula! Whatever the circumstances are, it’s really okay. You can still have a great bond with your baby through formula feedings and you can provide them all the nutrients they need. There is one little thing that can make formula feeding extra tricky, though. I speak from experience when I say I understand the struggles of having a baby with reflux and the desperate search to find the best formula for reflux. It’s important to understand the signs of reflux and how to deal with it to reduce your baby’s struggles with eating and your own stress!
The Best Formula for Reflux
What is Reflux
When my little Olivia was fussy all the time and spitting up like crazy, I did not understand what was going on. I mean this was my fifth kid, I should be able to figure it out. Well, after a visit to the pediatrician here is basically what I found out. She had reflux and reflux is basically caused when the valve connecting the esophagus and stomach doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. The valve doesn’t close correctly, so it allows both food and stomach juices to flow back up into your baby’s mouth, which is quite painful. This isn’t necessarily permanent because it’s often just a result of the esophagus not being fully developed yet. Most babies grow out of their reflux within a year…my little babies did not, but after a couple years she had no more problems.
There are a few other reasons, besides the maturity of the esophagus, that can cause the reflux. GERD is a bit more serious of a condition where the acid coming back up is damaging the lining of the esophagus and causing serious irritation. It also may be a food intolerance that’s increasing the reflux, cows milk being the most common of all.
What are the Signs My Baby Has Acid Reflux
There are a few telling signs that your baby may have infant reflux. Disclaimer, I am definitely not a doctor but if you’re feeling concerned about your baby make sure to call one! They can help you work through what’s normal and what might be causing these kinds of symptoms in your baby.
– Spitting up
Every baby spits up (like in your car, on your favorite shirt, and down your backs where you won’t notice), so obviously take this symptom with a grain of salt. It should only become a concern if it seems that the act of spitting up is causing them pain or coming up with a greenish or yellow liquid. Spitting up is also a concern if it continues to happen past 12 months after meals. My youngest daughter was terribly grumpy after she spit up because of the pain from spitting up.
– Grumpy during feedings
Sometimes our kiddos are just grumpy, but feeding time should generally be comforting and something they look forward to. If every feeding is a battle, there might be something going on that you should get checked out. If they have infant reflux, this grumpiness is a result of their tummies or throats being irritated.
– Refusal or Difficulty Eating
When your baby starts to associate the discomforts caused by reflux with eating, they may begin to refuse food entirely. Refusal of food for an extended period is always a cause for concern and you should contact your doctor.
– Failure to gain weight
Failure to gain weight is also tied in with difficulty eating. Another reason to immediately contact your pediatrician is if you notice your baby is not gaining weight and meeting the markers they should.
– Frequent Gagging/Choking
The stomach contents making their way back up to the mouth can cause some gagging and choking. If this is happening often, try to keep your baby upright during feeding and for a little bit of time afterward while they digest. Know it may be a sign of reflux if this happens frequently.
– Wet Hiccups
I know with this one you are probably like, “um, what?” but hiccups are not supposed to be wet and if they are it’s likely a sign of reflux causing food to come back up.
Hard time with a sleep routine
There are many things that can cause your baby difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, but if this is paired with some of these other symptoms their sleep troubles are likely related to infant reflux.
Best Formula for Reflux
Dealing with infant reflux is by no means the end of the world, although somedays it feels like it. Sometimes it will just take a couple of little life changes to get everyone back on track and feeling good. One common change that often helps babies that have reflux is to change up their original formula, and while it may take a couple trial and error purchases I promise when you find the right one it will all be worth it. Picking which formula is best for a baby with reflux can be a little overwhelming at first, but hopefully, this list will set you down the right path! Some of these can be pricey, so once you’ve found the right one for your baby I highly recommend buying in bulk.
- Enfamil AR-
Many parents rave about this formula being the best formula for reflux. It is made specifically to help with frequent spit-up. Enfimail AR is made to be easy on their bellies, but just think enough to help them keep it all down and get the nutrients they need. This formula is based on cow’s milk, which means you should be able to easily switch over from your current formula without causing too much disruption to their digestion.
- Enfamil Prosobee– Not every baby with reflux will need to switch to a soy-based formula, but for those who do Prosobee is an awesome option. It will keep your baby from being gassy, just make sure to watch for constipation as that can be a result of the soy intake.
Best Non-GMO Formulas for Acid Reflux
- Enfamil Gentlease– This option is not completely lactose-free (so if lactose happens to be the problem this won’t be the one for you and your baby!), but it does have reduced levels of lactose. It also uses a special broken down protein blend, which makes it easy to digest. It is one of the only formulas that contain the full benefit of nutrients found in breastmilk. That’s probably why you have seen this formula mentioned on all the mommy discussion boards. It’s also rated a #1 option by pediatricians. You can take comfort in knowing you truly are not stripping your baby of any nutrients by feeding them Enfamil Gentlease.
- Similac for Spit-Up– Much like Enfamil AR, this is a cow milk-based pre-thickened formula. Being pre-thickened helps your baby to keep it all down, both filling their belly and getting them all their nutrients. It should be easy to switch your baby over to this as long as they were taking a cow milk-based formula previously.
- Similac Sensitive Non-GMO- You might take a little comfort in knowing that this is one of the most commonly used formulas in hospitals meaning it probably works pretty well, right? It’s a milk based formula but it contains no lactose, making it easy to digest. On top of that, it’s packed full of vitamins that are great for growth and development all while being easy to absorb. Going non-GMO is totally your own preference, but as it’s pretty common these days for people to want to avoid them this is a great way to do so.
- Gerber Good Start Soothe– This option contains lactose, so only try it out if you have not come to the conclusion of that being the cause. Some bacteria are actually good and your baby might need more. Gerber Good Start Soothe has some of this good stuff inside the formula. If this formula ends up working, your baby might not even actually have reflux and just need more L. reuteri, the good bacteria.
- Kabrita’s Goat Milk Formula- Maybe a goat milk formula is out of your comfort zone to feed your baby, but I say anything is worth a try if it will result in a healthier & happier little one. Goat’s milk is actually more similar to breast milk than cow’s milk in the way it is digested, meaning your baby’s tummy might just like it. Definitely, consult with your doctor about this one before giving it a try just because it is so different and may not be recommended for babies under 12 months.
Hypoallergenic Formulas for Reflux
In some cases switching your baby to a hypoallergenic formula can really help reduce acid reflux symptoms. Here are the two best choices for hypoallergenic formulas
- Enfamil’s Nutramigen– This formula is truly hypoallergenic and made for babies who cannot have milk-based options or soy. An added bonus is that it will actually help your little one to possibly outgrow their allergy.
- Similac Alimentum– So the ingredients in this bad boy are just a little bit complicated, but they are perfect for a baby who has lots of allergies and is having trouble with both regular milk-based options and soy. Basically, it is pre-digested. It is more pricey but very similar to Nutramigen listed above. Sometimes the price is worth everyone’s happiness though!
What if I don’t want to switch my babies formula.
If you are hesitant to switch your child’s formula from what they are used to, you can just add a thickener like rice cereal or rice starch to their bottle. This may help them to keep their food down. Personally, this was a disaster for me so I would avoid this and skip right to trying one of the formulas above due to the possible messes and nipple struggle that it can entail but you do you, mama.
What Else Can I Do to ease the Acid Reflux?
Finding the best formula for reflux often will help your baby, but it still might not be the end of the story when it comes to reflux issues. In my case, the formula helped but my daughter needed a little more to help ease the pain. Here are some extra things to try;
- More frequent feedings with a decreased amount of food
- Burp them extra between every 2 or so ounces, they need your help with this
- Hold your baby upright for 30 minutes to an hour after feeding
- Put them to sleep on their back on a firm mattress, it may be tempting to put them at an incline or in a seat but you MUST ask your doctor about this first
- Ask your doctor about possible medications to help with infant reflux
- Find a newborn chiropractor, just make sure they are highly rated because this is a delicate practice
- Rub their tummy in a clockwise motion to help relieve gas
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