Infant reflux and early weaning
My son Henry was born at 32 weeks’ gestation with an incredibly rare skin condition called Ichthyosis of Prematurity, the odds were stacked against him, and he shouldn’t have survived but he did. I always assumed his skin would limit his life in some ways and cause our family a great deal of stress and trauma and in some respects, it has, and it does, but the biggest thing that impacted on Henry’s life was reflux.
Understanding infant reflux
One thing to know about infant reflux is that it is common, but it isn’t normal. I know that’s hard to hear. But there are so many causes of reflux and if we all were given the resources and knowledge to access what those causes were we would have happier and healthier children.
Parent’s will often say that they have been told to give their babies PPI medication such as Omeprazole and Gaviscon to ease our babies discomfort, but we need to understand as a population that even though these medications may have a positive impact on our children’s discomfort it is masking the underlying causes. Those medications also have their own side effects.
If you are reading this and have a baby with reflux you may have been advised to wean early,. The theory behind this is that if a baby’s stomach contents are thicker it will make it more difficult to regurgitate, but my experience of weaning my premature baby early was far from positive.
My experience with early weaning
Henry couldn’t sit or even hold his own head when we weaned him, at the time, I was a parent, probably like thousands of other parents out there, that didn’t understand there was a root cause, and that Henry would eventually grow out of his reflux, and I was desperate to do something that helped him.
Weaning was stressful; he gagged on most things I would put in his mouth, his tongue thrust reflex hadn’t gone and he found eating (and therefore digesting) that food uncomfortable, and it actually made his reflux worse.
I eventually stopped weaning him after a very stressful few weeks, I went back to milk feeds only and worked on his oral function, settled his gut with a probiotic and then revisited weaning when he could sit unaided and he took to baby led weaning like a dream.
Early weaning and reflux
The research on weaning early in relation to easing reflux symptoms is not robust enough to be warranted as a blanket statement of advice that parents are given. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that weaning should begin at around 6 months of age, with the NHS confirming this advice, so why is it we are told this will be the answer so often?
Often reflux can be caused by allergies, or a sensitive gut, and early weaning can exasperate these issues. So, having a good understanding of what flares or causes your baby’s reflux before you wean them is key.
The bottom line is that we need to have a wider understanding of infant reflux and when early weaning may not be appropriate. If you are concerned at all about weaning early then having a discussion with your health care provider is your first port of call. Always trust your gut instinct!
About Fox and the Moon
Founded by OCN Level 5 Certified Sleep Practitioner Emily Whalley, Fox and the Moon offers personalised sleep solutions for families. After her own experiences as a mother, Emily built and grew the company to help parents on their own journeys.
To find out more about infant reflux, you can check out Fox and the Moon’s free guide on the Common Reasons for Reflux here. You can also learn more about helping your baby become settled and sleep better via The Ultimate Settled Baby Solution.
Disclaimer: The views and advice given in this article are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Weaning Week or any other organisations represented on this platform