Homeopathy for Infant Reflux

By Gaela Nelson, Hom.

Few things are more distressing to a new mom than a crying, fussy baby who spits up or vomits frequently, and who may even be refusing to eat for fear of the pain that comes afterwards. All babies spit up from time to time, but ‘reflux’ occurs when the stomach contents consistently come back up the esophageal tract, often with vomiting and burning pains. Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder or GERD, is a more serious form of reflux, and only occurs in about 5% of babies with reflux.

If your baby is vomiting forcibly or having diarrhea after every feed it can lead to dehydration, and you should always seek help as soon as you can, from your family physician, midwife, or a Lactation Consultant.

There are many reasons why babies spit up, and often some simple solutions such as changing how you burp baby, holding baby upright after a feed or eliminating a certain food from your diet if you are breastfeeding, or switching formulas, can help enormously.  Breastfeeding is the most healthy food for your baby’s newly developing digestive tract,  and breastfed babies have  fewer reflux symptoms, naturally! Swaddling and carrying baby in a sling are also recommended. After measures such as these have been tried, homeopathic treatment can help with symptoms that persist.

There has been some concern that infants with reflux are being overprescribed antacid medications such as Prevacid and Zantac.  According to a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, Prevacid for infant reflux is no more effective than placebo and carries a significant risk of adverse side effects. As a result of the study many doctors are now recommending taking a non-medicinal approach first.

Homeopathic medicines are not the same as herbal remedies, gripe waters, or nursing teas. Homeopathy is a distinct system of medicine that uses diluted microdoses of substances found in nature to stimulate a healing response. This makes them very gentle and safe for use in pregnancy, breastfeeding and for babies. A homeopathic remedy is precisely individualized to ‘match’ the baby’s symptoms, and this can bring relief from symptoms surprisingly quickly, with no side effects.  During a homeopathic consultation, I would ask for many details of how the baby feels, and this will help to find an individualized prescription – for example if baby feels better from being held upright, or is worse at certain times of day, etc.

Homeopathic remedies made from minerals such as Calcarea carbonica, Silica, and Calcarea phosphoricum are often used for babies who can’t seem to absorb or digest their food. Each mineral corresponds to a specific ‘type’ of child; for example ‘Calc carb’ babies tend to be chubby and rosy and often perspire on the head while nursing or napping, while Silica babies tend to be frail and delicate, often underweight.

If the baby is in a lot of pain with reflux, medicines made from plants are often indicated. For example, Dioscorea is used for colicky pains that make baby arch back, while Lycopodium helps when there is a lot of gas along with reflux symptoms. Aethusa helps with forcible vomiting after every feed.

It is often said that mom and baby are like a ‘diad’, each affecting each other in subtle ways. Homeopathy’s holistic approach takes this into account in baby reflux.

For example, I treated a mother who was experiencing a lot of ‘stuck’ anger about her birth, whose baby was also crying a lot and having trouble nursing. The remedy I prescribed alleviated her mental state, she was able to work through her feelings about the birth, and the baby stopped crying as soon as mom felt better!

I once treated a 7 week old baby for colic. She was crying most of the day and night.  We tried one or two colic remedies but they didn’t help. Then her mother mentioned that the birth had happened very fast and was frightening for her. I prescribed a remedy usually used for fright and it worked immediately on baby’s colic, she even started sleeping through the night soon afterwards.

I have prescribed Phosphoricum acidum to mothers who are emotionally exhausted from a grief during pregnancy, with scanty milk, and the infant constantly spits up or vomits after nursing.  This remedy will help both child and mother.

Please note these remedy descriptions are for illustration only and do not provide enough information to self prescribe. Please see your health professional if you suspect your baby has reflux or GERD. For more background information about homeopathy please see www.homeopathyottawa.com.

About Gaela Nelson