Alleviating Reflux for Children with Special Needs

For families with children with special needs, reflux (and GERD) is a common problem that is faced.  This is often an issue that begins when the child is just an infant and parents are told that medication is the only solution.  Although this may offer some temporary relief, it hardly ever stops the problem and our kids come to us dependent on medications to keep reflux at bay. 

Often we can greatly reduce, and sometimes eliminate, issues of reflux in these children with simple, dietary changes.  That can mean no more medication! Reflux can be a very uncomfortable condition to deal with, and can get in the way of implementing a consistent Doman Method Program with your little one.   

What are simple steps that can be taken to help reduce these symptoms?

  1. Change your child's diet

In our experience at Doman International, one of the quickest ways to get rid of reflux in children is to eliminate processed and salty foods, sugar, gluten, and dairy.  Reflux is often a sign of allergy or intolerance to food, and by eliminating foods which are common intolerances is a big step in the right direction.  

It is estimated that 2.5% of kids 3 years and younger have some kind of milk/dairy allergy that often is developed in the the months after a child is born (foodallergy.org).   However, experts usually classify an allergic response as a severe reaction. Food intolerance or sensitivity is often not considered.

Gluten is also a food that can cause stomach issues, not just acid reflux. My husband had terrible heartburn issues for months, which completely disappeared after following a gluten-free diet.  

If your child has acid reflux, consider eliminating the foods listed above just for at least 2 weeks to see if there is a difference.  If symptoms subside or reduce, it's a pretty good chance that one of those foods was causing issues!  If eliminating these foods does not help reduce symptoms, make sure to reduce or eliminate any of these acid causing foods/beverages: carbonated drinks, chocolate, oranges, tomatoes, fruit juices, and certain vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, onions, or broccoli. 

  1. Breastfeed:

Breastfed babies have a reduced chance of having reflux issues.  If you are still breastfeeding and you suspect that your child could have a food sensitivity/intolerance/allergy, consider reducing or eliminating any of the foods in point number one from your own diet.  If you are eating foods that your child is intolerant to, your child can have a reaction through your breastmilk. 

  1. Give your child smaller meals, more frequently:

For some children with reflux issues, cutting down the size of meals, and giving feeds more frequently allows for proper digestion time and can alleviate symptoms.  For some children, the stomach cannot handle such big meals and needs more time to digest.  Along with this, positioning is key when feeding as well. Try to keep your child upright during feeding and for some time after. This allows gravity to keep food and stomach contents stay down.

  1. Don't feed your child too close to bedtime:

My recommendation is that if your child is dealing with reflux (especially at night), avoid feeding at least 2 hours before bedtime so the stomach can get a head start and digest a bit before returning to a horizontal position. If a child lies down after eating, the stomach acids can actually leak out into the esophagus causing a lot of discomfort.

If you’ve already implemented these changes consistently at home and you’re still struggling to resolve your child’s reflux issues, then contact us at Doman International! Although we may not be able to answer specific questions about your child if we have never evaluated him/her before, there are other tips that our staff would be happy to send to you.