Colic, Reflux, and the Babywise Method

The Babywise Method can help even infants with the most severe reflux.

With a houseful of kids (five in total), we find ourselves facing new situations almost daily. Just when we thought we had parenting somewhat figured out one of our kids does something that throws us for a loop.

Sometimes it's just a silly antic, but over the years we’ve had our share of medical concerns that leave us scratching our heads (and calling the pediatrician). This happened when our second, and again our third, children were born. All of a sudden, just before three weeks of age, our newborns changed from a sleepy infants to a fussy, spitty, and gassy babies.

The order we were beginning to find throughout our days was shattered. We switched into survival mode as our days became a whirlwind of consoling a gassy baby and cleaning up neverending spit up.

If you have a baby that’s developed colic or reflux (or even GERD), portions of your day are likely similarly stressful.

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While the thought of trying something new may be overwhelming, the Babywise Method can help even infants with the most severe reflux. Take a look at how to build a Babywise routine, adjust feedings and waketimes, and approach sleep and crying for an infant with colic or reflux.

Routines for Babies with Colic or Reflux

By systematically thinking through feeding times, wake times, and sleep times, the Babywise Method works to bring order to a baby’s day. It includes Parent Directed Feeding (PDF), which combines aspects of scheduled feedings with a mother’s intuition to look for her child’s hunger cues.

For a baby with colic or reflux, the Babywise Method has slight variations from a baby without these challenges. Keep in mind the following when thinking through your baby’s day:

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  • A routine is important. Experiment to find how often your baby prefers feeding (it’s likely going to be smaller feedings closer together for a baby with reflux). The time increment that helps lessen baby’s symptoms becomes your new routine.
  • The Babywise Method of feed-wake-sleep still applies to babies with colic or reflux. While it may take more than 12 weeks to accomplish uninterrupted nighttime sleep, it will come. Continue the consistency of feed-wake-sleep.
  • Attempt to keep the environment calm. Consider routinely swaddling baby and avoid the urge to constantly bounce, pat, or move with baby.
  • On Becoming Babywise is only a guide; especially for the baby with colic or reflux. Enjoy your baby’s uniqueness and don’t worry if baby’s plan differs slightly from the blueprint.

Feeding Times and Wake Times for Babies with Colic or Reflux

As a new parent, your days will focus on three main tasks: feeding baby, baby’s wake time, and baby’s sleep. Feeding and wake times can become stressful if your baby has colic or reflux. Knowing how to approach feedings and helping an inconsolable awake baby can be a trial for any parent.

Here are some tips for feeding and wake times for babies with colic or reflux:

  • Plan to feed baby more often than the recommended 2 ½ - 3 hours. This allows baby to take a bit less at each feeding; avoiding aggravating baby’s reflux with a full stomach.
  • Burp your baby often. This includes after she’s been crying.
  • Consider propping or holding your baby upright after a feeding to aid digestion. Chat with your pediatrician about slightly elevating his crib mattress.
  • Feedings that reach the 45 minute mark need to be stopped. Give your baby (and yourself) a break and consider laying baby down. You may need to do your next feeding earlier than anticipated but a hungry baby will take a full feed easier.
  • For babies who spit up excessive quantities, avoid re-feeding and let his stomach settle. Plan to feed at the next scheduled feeding time.

Sleep Tips for Babies with Colic or Reflux

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Sleep can seem elusive for babies who wake up every hour crying in pain. Here are some suggestions for increasing sleep time for babies with colic or reflux:

  • Swaddle your baby. Swaddling can help calm a fussy baby or reset an overstimulated one. Swaddle, gently rock, and lay down for sleep.
  • Help baby through the 45 minute nap interruptor. If your baby continually wakes after 45 minutes, it’s likely this has become a habit. Try going into her room at the 40 minute mark and rocking or patting his back so he doesn’t fully wake himself while crying. This works well for babies younger than three months.
  • Try using a pacifier. If your baby who’s older then three months habitually wakes early from a nap, try giving him a pacifier before he’s fully awake. Alternatively, rocking or walking baby for a few moments may help before laying him back to sleep.

Minimizing Crying for Babies with Colic or Reflux

It’s natural to want to minimize your baby’s crying. For parents of babies with colic or reflux, this can become an unending challenge. While it may feel like the crying may never stop, it will.

Here are a few tips to minimize crying for babies with colic or reflux:

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  • Feed baby upon waking from a nap in order to avoid letting your baby with reflux get into a full-out cry.
  • Stop, soothe, and relax your stressed baby during a feeding. A relaxed baby will take a full feed easier.
  • Chat with your pediatrician about what position to lay your baby for sleeping. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends back is best, laying baby on her back could exacerbate reflux symptoms. Work with your pediatrician to come up with a safe alternative.

While your long-term goal is a consistent feed-wake-sleep pattern, focus on one day at a time. Be patient with yourself and your baby. Some days will go well and others may need a redo. Do the best you can to enjoy this precious time with your little one.


Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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