Your baby sleep questions answered!
Alison Scott-Wright, the ‘Magic Sleep Fairy’, is a leading expert in the field of baby care, sleep and managing infant reflux. She has recently written a new book ‘The Sensational Toddler Sleep Plan’, which focusses on the first year of a baby’s sleep journey and we were lucky to catch up with her to talk all things sleep, reflux and more…
What have you seen change surrounding the issues of colic and reflux over the years?
It was always called colic back in the day rather than being given its proper name of reflux. Colic is a non-descriptive term for abdominal pain, so we accept that the baby is in pain but don’t do anything about it. Reflux is quite simply the backward flow of stomach contents. For whatever reason the contents don’t stay down in the stomach and they fluctuate back up into the oesophagus and the food pipe and what comes with the stomach content is gastric acid and it is this acid that causes the problem. A lot of adults suffer with it and certainly a lot of babies do. T.
Is there anything about the birth that might trigger reflux? Are you more likely to get it after caesarean section for example?
Not necessarily. There is one connection that can set off digestive issues in a baby, which is an immature gut exposure to antibiotics, so if your baby is in special care or if mum had to take them during pregnancy birth or breastfeeding then this can trigger reflux. You can create a cow’s milk intolerance from immature gut exposure to antibiotics and I just wish that when doctors need to prescribe antibiotics, they would talk about giving a probiotic at the same time.
When does reflux start?
It can be right from the beginning, or some babies will just eat and sleep for the first week and then come to acknowledge that they don’t feel very comfortable. Then at around 2 or 3 weeks, and almost just overnight, they could suddenly start screaming, they stop feeding or start projectile vomiting. There are various stages and no general one size fits all, as every baby is individual and has an individual situation. There are trends, but it can manifest at any time, with one of the typical ones being when the baby is around 8 weeks old. This tends to be because when the baby is first born people expect them to demand feed every few hours and that can help manage some reflux symptoms as the milk will wash away the acid. When they try to establish more of a routine after 8 weeks with them feeding less frequently, the reflux begins.
What should a mum do when she first notices reflux?
There are many things to do, start to keep a journal or log. Take pictures of the poo and videos of the baby screaming.
What should the poo look like?
There is a whole rainbow of colours when it comes to baby poo. A healthy baby’s poo, whether formula or breast-fed, should be a nice yellow, not watery or explosive but with some consistency. In the first few weeks the baby will poo after every feed, but as the digestive system settles down you would expect this to decrease and as you start to put day and night into place, the digestive system will assimilate and you will tend to see the baby poo more in the day and not so much at night.
What are the common issues with poo?
I often see orange poo that people mistake for yellow and this indicates exposure to antibiotics. If your baby has painful and smelly wind, this shouldn’t be the case as they’re only drinking a small amount of milk and it is an indication they aren’t coping with something in the breast milk or formula. Green poo is a response to having too much lactose from drip feeding, which is what reflux babies do where they’re only getting the lactose rich fore milk and not the hind milk. Mucus in the poo is often because of a reflux issue because when acid comes into the oesophagus the body produces mucus, flushes it into the gut and as we can’t digest mucus it comes out in the poo.
How can you tell between a baby who has an intolerance to dairy or has colic or reflux?
Often, they’ll have both. The intolerance will go into the gut and the gut will try to expel it – which creates the reflux. If there’s a true dairy intolerance you will often find genetic links, or the baby was exposed to antibiotics before birth. My grandson is 3 weeks old and he’s already on the Bifikalm because there is a huge dairy intolerance in my family. Often when they have an intolerance, they have an imbalance of gut flora and it causes problems further down the line, so the research done on these probiotics is a good thing.
Should a mum start taking probiotics before the baby arrives?
Absolutely, it’s important for mothers to build up their gut microbiome as well.
Is there a reason why my baby sleeps well at night but doesn’t nap in the day?
Our body craves sleep to thrive and survive. The only things that hinder this will indicate an underlying digestive issue. I will tend to start by looking at what milk the baby is drinking and, if they are breastfeeding, what the mother is eating, as well as looking at the routine and schedule. I will also look to see if the baby has excess wind, bloating, explosive poos or any skin issues like eczema and dry skin. There is a lot to look at and to potentially work out, but the solution may just be as simple as changing your diet or baby’s formula.
Can a baby suffer from sleep deprivation?
Yes, they can, and many babies and children do. A lot of these children will be labelled as bad sleepers because they cope but our bodies can start to lose adrenalin and may become ‘challenging’, ‘overactive’ or ‘hyperactive’, but all because they’re sleep deprived.
What can you do about that?
Look at why. The first place I start is the gut and what is going into it – there may be some degree of intolerance to milk or other foods. Let’s say the baby slept well for 4-6 months while breast feeding and then when they start solids or formula and slowly the sleep unravelled, maybe the baby isn’t coping with the formula. There are so many aspects to pick apart.
My little one is 4 months old and a picky eater. Why?
It can come down to stresses built up around food and mealtimes, or it could be that your baby is still suffering from reflux – you can have active acid reflux at various ages. Let’s take a 3-year-old who may have an underlying dairy or gluten intolerance, they may have acid reflux because what goes into the gut the gut will try to expel and they will have a tummy ache as the digestive system is not coping. Typically, these children will be hot and sweaty at night or may have night terror dreams, as we produce adrenalin in response to pain and discomfort.
For more information on the Magic Sleep Fairy, head to her website here.