You have a beautiful baby. The vomit is less beautiful and the screaming is positively mind-blowing. What do you do? Wear the baby.
Babywearing can assist you to parent your infant with reflux. This post will cover different positions that are useful for the baby with reflux. It will also show you some ways to wear your baby now, even if you haven’t got a carrier yet. If you’ve been directed here by a well meaning friend that can see the desperation in your eyes, this is the post for you!
Why does babywearing help a baby with reflux?
Anyone who has ever cared for a baby with reflux knows that an upright baby is a much happier baby. In our daughter’s case, she wanted to be held upright almost from the moment she was born. Holding the reflux baby in an upright position reduces the amount of vomiting and can help keep acid out of a suffering baby’s throat. Up until your arms fall off with exhaustion, that is.
Enter babywearing. Just about every carrier allows you to hold your baby in an upright position and in my personal experience, my reflux baby was far more settled in a sling than in any other position. Backcarrying my newborn was also a lifesaver. When wrapping, the secured high back carry or ruck are two back carries many people find useful with a reflux baby. Here we are in a self-portrait of a ruck at two months old (no one else was around to take photographs for me!):
If back-carrying is too daunting for you at this point, other wrap carries you can try are the Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC), Front Cross Carry (FCC- this one is a little cooler), the kangaroo carry, rebozo carry tummy to tummy or the short cross carry variation. Here we are at two months old in the FCC:
A mei tai is also excellent for front carries with an infant, however, some mei tais can be very large on a very small baby. Froggying the legs of the baby, rolling the mei tai from the bottom and supporting the baby’s head with a towel are all ways of accomodating a small baby in a mei tai.
A ring sling in the tummy to tummy position is another great way to easily carry a newborn with reflux. My daughter spent the first two weeks of her life like this and was happiest when tucked up in the sling. Here we all are getting to know one another on the first day home from hospital:
Another way some babies find relief is breastfeeding. If your baby likes to comfort suck as a means of relief, then breastfeeding hands free may just save your sanity. If your baby has reflux, then it’s often beneficial to breastfeed in an upright position.
Depending on the age of your child and his/her head control, it’s possible to do this in a ringsling (a low tummy to tummy), mei tai (low front carry) or wrap (a low front cross carry is very easy, but it can also be done in a rebozo the same way as in a ring sling). Of course, these positions also work well whether or not the baby is actively feeding, however for comfort, you may wish to tie them higher on your body once baby is done.
If your baby has reflux and it’s been a week since you’ve last showered, for three days you’ve eaten nothing but jam sandwiches, you can’t remember when you got two hours of uninterrupted sleep and the crying has gone on since the dawn of time, then you don’t want to wait to start babywearing. It’s all very well and good to go and buy a carrier (here’s a good start to choosing the right one for you), but it won’t be with you instantly- and you need help now!
That’s OK. Start babywearing NOW. Do you have a shawl? Wonderful. Old sheets lying around at home? Perfect. Tablecloth from your grandmother? Great. There are four things you need to look for when rummaging through your closet:
- Can this fabric hold my baby safely?
- Is this fabric breatheable?
- Will it hold a knot? (Not too slippery)
- Is it washable?
If you have a baby with reflux, you do not need an explanation of the last point. A good explanation of improvised carriers can be found here. Our good friends at Magic City Slingers have an excellent video of how to use a twin bedsheet as a baby carrier that ought to keep you going until your chosen carrier arrives. Making your own wrap is also a possibility if you can get to a fabric store. Sewing isn’t necessary.
If you are wearing a newborn baby, or any baby at all, please bear in mind some simple safety precautions. Also, please bear your own mental health in mind when dealing with this highly stressful situation and know that there is help available if you need it.
It will end. I promise. But can someone tell me when?
Further Resources for the Infant with Reflux:
Karitane’s brochure on infants with reflux.
What’s your experience with infant reflux been? What helped you and your baby survive this time? When did it end for you?