Infant Reflux and Food Sensitivities – What Finally Worked

So there I was, Christmas was only one week away and it was like the tenth day in a row where I just could NOT put my little one down.

I don’t mean that he wouldn’t just go down as in “down for a nap”. I literally could not lay his little 2-month old body anywhere that wasn’t in my arms or he would for sure burst out screaming in tears.

Wait… you’ve been there too? Of course you have. That’s why you’re here right now reading this post.

So let’s sit down, you and me, and talk about what we can do to get our unhappy babies healthy again. Or at least, let me share with you what I did and maybe something in my story will be able to help you and your baby too.

Here’s where it began with Hudson (baby #2) and my path to getting him where he’s at today. And that is… a super happy baby!!

Acid Reflux and Food Intolerances

These are what Hudson’s symptoms looked like…

  • Choking – He would often choke in the middle of a deep sleep and wake up sputtering and gasping for air. This started as soon as we got back from the hospital and was the first of many signs that something wasn’t right.

  • Vomiting – Instead of just a little dribble of spit-up after feedings, Hudson regularly regurgitated large amounts of milk multiple times after each feeding, even hours later.

  • Painful Gas – Not the kind that can be eased out by moving his legs around or just waited out by bouncing him around in my arms. This kind was PAINFUL and persistent. It could wake him out of a deep sleep and would sound like an adult fart lol (but seriously, not so funny at the time).

  • Lack of Sleep – As weeks the weeks went on, Hudson’s naps started getting interrupted more and more often by all the choking, vomiting, and gas to the point where he couldn’t stay asleep for more than 20 minutes at a time during the day.

  • The Bewitching Hour – It’s really typical for babies to get fussy for a few minutes somewhere between 5-8pm before they go down for the night. But for Hudson his fussy time started going from a few minutes and working its way up to lasting for HOURS. 😦 Our bedtime routine became what felt like the longest merry-go-round ride ever of pacing, swaying, nursing, burping, repeat. Then sometime around 9:30 pm he would finally fall asleep at the breast and pass out from sheer exhaustion.

  • Mucus in his Stool – This started showing up slowly and inconsistently around week two. It wasn’t until he was about one month old that it became really alarming when his diapers had gotten to the point where every single one of them were a greenish-brown, puddly mucus-filled mess.

  • Diaper Rash – This showed up the first week. At its worst there were lots of small round circles of completely raw skin where it looked like the flesh had been burnt away. (I know, poor little guy!) The rash just Kept. Getting. Worse. and then one day, it disappeared. I attributed it a new diaper cream I had just switched to a few days earlier, but then just as fast as it had vanished it reappeared. Whaaaaat??

So when you add it all up, those are some really concerning symptoms. Gaahhh! There had to be something we could do!

Enter late-night feedings + frantic googling

Yep, “Uh oh” is right.

We’re not just talking the run of the mill stuff that shows up on the first few pages of google like “Be sure to burp your baby thoroughly and keep him upright for at least 30 min after his feeding.”

I was much further down the rabbit hole than that.

I’d been lured in by the essential oil “cure”, tried the homeopathic cell salts, committed to $50 chiropractic visits multiple times a week. And don’t forget the desperate purchase of the Rock n’ Play (deluxe version of course, uhhg) in the hopes that I could be of those lucky parents who had all their parenting woes solved by this one miraculous baby-soothing machine.

Siggggghhhhh. If only.

At this point, I could write a whole book on what didn’t help Hudson feel better and sleep better. Yet there I was glued to my chair in spite of my long list of holiday to-do’s, holding poor little Hudson – my congested, refluxing, painfully gassy, blow out his diaper at any moment, sweet little angel of a baby.

Doesn't he look SO sweet and comfortable here?! :-D This was taken the day we were leaving the hospital... So before all the symptoms started popping up.
Doesn’t he look SO sweet and comfortable here?! *heart melts* This was taken the day we were leaving the hospital… before all the symptoms started popping up.

If you ask a doctor (and I did… several actually, including a Pediatric GI Specialist) my baby has acid reflux and food intolerances, and the cure is simple: Formula + Meds + Wait it out. But if you talk to other moms or dive into online forums, the overall cause is not that simple and neither is the remedy.

The Big Picture – My baby has poor digestion

This is what I truly believe. Hudson’s gut is compromised due to his c-section birth. Thanks to a combination of antibiotics and not going through the birth canal (meaning he missed out on a lot of good bacteria) his digestive system is not up to snuff.

To me, acid reflux and food intolerances are two different symptoms stemming from one overall issue. I believe that if we heal his gut, those two issues and all connected symptoms will go away.

How to Fix It

Hudson is 6 months old now and we have almost completely alleviated his symptoms. This tells me that his gut is well on its way to recovery! You can see what I’ve listed below that has worked for us.

Spoiler: It’s not one product that magically did the trick. And it’s not some crazy idea that you’d be afraid to try. Its simply just a very carefully thought-out regimen that can ONLY benefit my little one’s gut. There’s absolutely no way to lose with this method. 

Each of the four element listed below have helped Hudson in very specific ways. They are all effective to some point, but it’s by using them all together that we’ve had so much success. 

My Regimen

  1. Prescription Zantac
  2. Elimination Diet
  3. GI Revive Supplement
  4. Probiotics

Breakdown

Zantac

What

Zantac (which is the brand name for the drug Ranitidine) is a histamine-2 blocker. It is used to reduce the amount of acid secreted by the stomach.  

How it helps

Histamines are naturally produced and released by your body as a response to an allergen. This is your immune system at work. When we consume a food that we are allergic to, our immune system is triggered to produce extra histamines. The histamines then increase blood flow to the affected area which results in inflammation.

Now imagine that your breastfed baby is allergic to multiple different foods that you consume. This means that every time she eats, her immune system is triggered. This would result in a gut that is constantly inflamed. And a constantly inflamed gut will not be able to heal.

Me personally…

First of all, I’m sure none of us moms love the idea of giving our newborn a prescription medication. But I really do think that in many cases the benefits are greater than the risks.

One of the main arguments against using prescriptions like Zantac is that babies who have reflux do so not because their stomachs are too acidic, but instead the opposite is true – they don’t have enough stomach acid. Since Zantac decreases the production of stomach acid, those on that side of the argument believe that it only alleviates the symptoms instead of solving the underlying issue.

I believe this is true for some babies. My first born, Harrison, for example may have had the issue of too little stomach acid. I say this because we were able to pretty much cure his silent reflux with Digestive Enzymes. (you can read his story here)

Digestive enzymes help our stomachs break down food. If we do not have enough enzymes and/or stomach acid, supplementing with digestive enzymes can help not only remedy the symptoms but also restore balance to our gut.

I started giving digestive enzymes to Hudson by week two. I had hoped I would have the same awesome results that I did with Harrison. That didn’t happen. He still refluxed so much.

The goal of using Zantac for Hudson is to calm the inflammation in his gut and give it a chance to heal.

Elimination diet

What

This is a passive yet essential means to healing Hudson’s gut.

My elimination diet consists of avoiding the 8 most common allergens: Dairy, Soy, Gluten, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, and Corn.

The idea is to cut out all 8 allergens for at least two weeks and then add them back in very slowly just one at a time. If you notice any adverse reactions after a food has been reintroduced, you can assume that your little one has an intolerance towards it.

How it helps

In order to allow a baby’s gut to heal with the help of supplements, you first have make sure that any food that may be irritating their system is out of your system.

No matter how many gut-loving nutrients I give Hudson, the negative effects of consuming irritating foods will hinder him from being able to heal.

As my naturopath loves to say, “ You can’t out-supplement a crappy diet!”

If you don’t eliminate the allergens it will just be a continuous loop of: baby consumes allergen – immune response gets triggered – histamines are released – gut is further inflamed – a higher dosage of histamine-2 medication is needed.

Me personally…

What led me to going on a strict elimination diet was my appointment with a Pediatric GI Specialist.

At our one and only appointment, the specialist diagnosed Hudson with a dairy and soy protein intolerance.

We didn’t run any blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. According to the specialist, sensitivities to dairy and soy proteins are common enough that she felt that it was safe to assume that those two were most likely the offending foods. Although I wasn’t a fan of her one-size-fits-all approach, I decided to hear her out anyways.

The specialist’s solution was to replace my breast milk with a hypoallergenic formula (Alimentum by Similac). It still contains dairy (casein hydrolysate ) and soy (soy oil) but the proteins are broken down and are therefore supposedly more easily digestable.

I left the specialist’s office carrying out a tub of that crazy expensive hypoallergenic formula. I was feeling on the edge of defeat. Then I got home and looked at the less than impressive ingredient list on the formula. (i.e. corn maltodextrin is the first ingredient @ 35%, and sugar is the third @ 18%. No thanks Similac, I’d rather not.) I made up my mind then that I would go on the elimination diet and continue breastfeeding.

At this point it would have been so much easier to have been able to run a blood test that could pinpoint Hudson’s exact food allergies, but as both the GI specialist and later my pediatrician explained to me, the test often times comes up with false negatives and positives. The only sure-fire way to determine the offending foods was to eliminate them all until Hudson’s symptoms subside before adding them back in one at a time.

The elimination diet has been BY FAR the hardest thing I’ve had to do for my little guy’s health. But if I had to choose the one thing that’s made the most drastic improvement for Hudson, it would seriously be this diet that makes the most difference.

GI Revive:

What

GI Revive is a combination of natural herbs and supplements in a powder form.

How it helps

In short, GI Revive calms, repairs, and regulates the intestines. It’s a super potent formula of some of the most healing and restorative ingredients. To really get a good idea of what it does, there’s a breakdown and explanation of all of the ingredients via this PDF.

Me personally…

This supplement was recommended to me by my naturopathic doctor.

Since optimal health is the goal for our kids, my hope is that with such a powerfully healing supplement Hudson will not just grow out of the symptoms, he will overcome the root cause.

One dose of GI Revive is 1TB for an adult but I use just ½ tsp for Hudson (per my naturopath’s instructions). I mix it with about 4 ML of water and give it to him through a syringe right before bed. You could administer it any time of the day but because of the high dose of chamomile I like to do it in the evening.

This particular brand is pretty pricey. Are you ready for this??…… $72 on Amazon! (I’ve seen it at other online stores for more like $63-$68). But honestly I’m able to stomach the high cost knowing how incredibly impactful it is when it comes to healing the gut. Plus, have you checked the price of the hypoallergenic formulas? Seeing as this powder is making it possible for me to continue to breastfeed, I’m really saving plenty of money.

If you don’t want to use GI Revive, I absolutely recommend substituting with something like it that would offer similar calming/healing benefits. Seriously, don’t skip this part!

Probiotics:

How it helps

Most pediatricians these days recommend probiotics for babies regardless of whether there are any signs of digestive distress. But theyprobiotics are particularly important for restoring a healthy microbiome in a gut that has been compromised.

Me personally…

Because Hudson was born via C-section, he missed out on the benefits of the bacteria in the birth canal. I also received antibiotics in an IV prior to surgery which is typical of c-sections. So from the start I knew we had some catching up to do when it came to repopulating the probiotics in both our systems.

I’ve been taking a strong probiotic (MegaSporeBiotic by Microbiome Labs) to restore my own microbiome which in turn will partially pass on to Hudson when he nurses. I also give Hudson a small amount of the same probiotic as well on a daily basis – just a couple dabs which he sucks off my finger tip.

I chose to use MegaSporeBiotic in the beginning phase because it is specifically formulated to recondition the gut. Also I knew from both my husband and my brother in law who have struggled with underline gut issues that it has worked WONDERS for them.

After Hudson was on MegaSporeBiotic for about a month I switched him over to a probiotic specific for babies. (ProBiota Infant by Seeking Health )

Progress Report

Week 3 of Regimen:

  • Smiling a little more
  • Easier to soothe
  • Spit up a little less
  • Still could not be laid down much
  • Overall he has some good days and some bad days

Week 4 of Regimen:

  • Smiles constantly!
  • Rarely has painful gas anymore
  • Keeps the majority of his food down
  • No choking in his sleep
  • Able to be set down a few times throughout the day
  • All of the allergens seem to be out of both our systems
  • Finding correlations of other trigger foods outside of the main 8

Week 6 of Regimen:

  • Able to set him down regularly
  • On our way to sleep training!!!!
  • Occasional flare-ups only
  • Overall, it feels like he’s finally able to be the happy little guy I knew he could be!
Hudson 6+ weeks after starting our regimen - He's 3mo old here
Hudson 6+ weeks after starting our regimen – 3 months old here

I’ll be back with more updates and will keep you posted on our continued journey to a happier, healthy gut for Hudson!

I am (definitely!) not a doctor. This article is based on my own personal experiences. Please consult a doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby’s health or your own. Thank you and be well. 🙂

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