Reflux suffers do not generally sleep well (There are some exceptions and I really hope for your sake that the exception is your baby!). They struggle to self soothe and calm themselves into a deep sleep. They generally need your help in the form of feeding, or some other crutch, like rocking or a dummy to get them to sleep.
On the matter of dummies – they really worked for me. When a baby sucks a dummy he secretes additional saliva which helps to neutralise the stomach acid and this can ease the baby’s discomfort. Dummies are especially useful for babies that comfort feed, as they will help to stretch the gaps between feeds and prevent over-feeding which often aggravates the situation. Having said that everyone from your Mother to the dentist has an opinion about dummies. So do what works for you! It took me 8 months to get my little one to take a dummy and it really helped her to soothe herself. You are either a Dummy Mom or not. And just remember there are very few adults walking around with a Dummy – so the habit is fairly easy to kick. Do anything to save yourself a few more grey hairs and hours of rocking!
Reflux babies tend to take very short naps during the day. It can nearly destroy you to rock, calm and settle your baby for about an hour, and when she eventually falls asleep you leopard crawl out the room so as not to disturb the light sleeper! And then, not even 5 minutes later, you go cold at the sound of a blood curdling scream and she is awake again.(My little one would wake at the sound of bare feet on the carpet!! I then introduced a little blow fan (white noise) and that has significantly improved the depth of her sleep)
The other problem we experienced in the early days, was putting her down into her cot. We would rock and bounce her on a ball (subsequent research suggests this is NOT a good idea, as it can worsen the Reflux!! You live and learn!!) and the second we put her down, her eyes would shoot open and the cries would start. It was as if the sheets were electrically charged and shocked her as we put her down. We would then pick her up and start again. It could sometimes take up to 15 attempts to finally get her to sleep. I have since read some very good advice, do what works, to get both of you some sleep. If it means the baby sleeps on your chest and you can also sleep then by all means do that! Just be very careful in terms of sleep safety, to prevent any harm coming to your baby.
I made three very brave attempts at sleep training, and all failed (well not exactly failed, but certainly did not make ground breaking improvements after a very long time. I must have hung over that cot for over a week in hours!). She would lie there, not cry, but just lie there for about an hour before falling asleep, and it quite frankly nearly destroyed me! My suggestion would be to do what works for you. I fed mine to sleep – not exactly what the experts advise – but it worked for me. Remember those who say don’t do it, are not sitting with you every night helping with a screaming baby, and they most likely have never had a Reflux baby! Night wakings are also often very frequent. At the worst stage I was getting up every half hour to hour at night to a screaming baby who would not be calmed, except by feeding which just aggravated the situation. I found that her worst stage was at about 8 months, well after the time the experts suggest it should have reached its peak. As I mentioned before every child is different.
Some suggestions to improve sleep
- Use white noise in the baby’s room to drown out other household sounds. A fan, classical music CD, Baby sleep CD, static on a radio or one of those fabulous toys that make the noises for you.
- Try and be flexible in terms of when and how you get your baby to sleep. If she sleeps best in a wrap or carrier attached to you, then do that – if your back is up to it.
- Elevate the head of the cot to achieve a 30 degree angle, using a sleep wedge positioner. However there now conflicting opinions as to the safety and effectiveness of elevating the cot head. Discuss this option with your doctor, and always ensure there is no chance of your baby slipping down under the blankets.
- Use a Sleep Monitor with an apnoea mat, for your peace of mind. In some extreme cases Reflux babies can suffer from sleep apnoea (a condition where the baby stops breathing for a short period of time). The baby monitor will alert you to any problems.
- Try and keep your baby upright for at least 20-30 minutes after a feed.
- Have plenty of linen and blankets for the bed, in case of vomiting, so that you can change quickly without having to worry about doing extra laundry.
- Try and rest when you can, so that you have the capacity to keep going at night. Babies with Reflux have a higher chance of suffering from Shaken Baby syndrome. So when it gets too much, just put your baby somewhere safely, where they cannot be harmed, and walk away. Take a few deep breaths, have a cup of tea or eat something, step outside for a couple of minutes and then try again. Ask for help! If not for your sake – for the baby’s sake.
- Once your baby has outgrown the Reflux, then seek advice from an expert on getting your baby into a routine and teaching him how to sleep on his own, if he hasn’t mastered the art. Having said this, some Reflux babies have no problem sleeping and you can introduce a routine much earlier, which will make your life significantly easier. Babies, and Mommies for that matter, love routine!
- If your baby is restless, Swaddling Blankets him in a stretch cotton blanket, this will help him to feel secure, as he did in his Mother’s womb.