Updated November 2020
Weaning a reflux baby is tricky, but this simple guide will help you along the way. Weaning my son was easy because he ate everything and had no allergies or health issues to consider. My daughter, however, has struggled with severe reflux from 6 weeks old. She also has a cow’s milk allergy and soya allergy, so weaning her has been a challenge. This guide shows everything we have learned along our weaning journey.
Is my Baby ready for Weaning?
Most babies begin their weaning journey at 6 months old. Medical professionals believe that before this age the baby gets all of his or her nutrients from breast milk or formula. By 6 months their digestive system and immune system are stronger, so they are less likely to develop food allergies or infections from food.
Common signs that your baby is ready to start on solids:
- Can sit up without too much support
- Has good neck control
- Can swallow food not just push it back out with their tongue (called the tongue thrust reflex)
- Can coordinate their eyes and hands, so they can put food into their mouth
- Shows an interest in food
- May make chewing motions with their mouth
I have read a lot of blogs that suggest starting weaning early if your baby has reflux. My baby had very slow weight gain, her reflux was severe and we later found out she has also had a milk allergy. With advice from the health visitor and GP, I decided against early weaning because I have didn’t want to risk her developing other food allergies. With a lot of patience and perseverance, she did begin to gain weight with breast milk, hypoallergenic formula, and medication.
Purée Vs Baby Led Weaning
Puree weaning is using a spoon to give your baby pureed vegetables or fruits as their first foods. If you start weaning early pureed foods are a good choice as baby can swallow these easily. Baby will then move on to mashed foods with slightly more texture and then chopped foods as they get older. You should also offer them finger foods alongside this.
Baby-led weaning is where baby uses their fingers to feeds them self , rather than you feeding them purees. If they start weaning at the WHO recommended age of 6 months they should be able to feed themselves small pieces of food rather than always needing to be fed with a spoon. Chip shaped pieces are the best shape to start with as babies find them easier to grip. When they get older and develop a pincer grip (picking things up with their thumb and forefinger) they can have smaller pieces.
Introducing a Reflux Baby to Food
When my baby reached 6 months I was advised to start her with fruit and vegetable purees. This was supposed to be a gentle start for her digestive system as she hadn’t yet seen a paediatrician or had a skin prick test to rule out other food allergies.
However starting with purees turned out to be a really bad idea.The purees were too much liquid for her and made her vomiting worse. The vomit was now coloured by whatever vegetable or fruit she had eaten, so it was great at staining clothes and carpets! I quickly decided to skip the purees and move straight on to more textured food and finger foods. This made a big difference because it was much thicker for her to digest which meant it was harder to vomit back up. She was a happier baby because she was hungry less often and the reflux symptoms settled down. Her reflux symptoms were then manageable unless she ate something with milk or soya in it (we are trying to reintroduce her to small amounts – it’s not working yet).
Using a Weaning Planner
Every baby is different and their reflux can be made worse by different things. I found it really hard to remember which foods I had introduced and if there had been any reaction. This was even harder to remember as some of her reactions were delayed and so we only saw them a few days after she had eaten it.
I found the best way to keep track of everything was to keep a written record that I could show the GP and paediatrician. I created this weaning and allergy planner as an easy and stress-free way to record any immediate or delayed reactions your child has to food whether that is because of reflux, an intolerance or an allergy.
First Foods for a Reflux Baby
Offering your reflux baby non-acidic and non-spicy foods is a good start to weaning. I found offering quite plain food like pear, sweet potato or porridge mixed with her regular formula was a good introduction to food. It also gave me some basic foods that I knew didn’t irritate my baby that I could then start to add to other foods.
Foods to introduce at 6 months
- Pears were a favourite either steamed and mashed or in strips. Also good for adding to porridge or custard.
- Sweet potato mash made with oil and dairy-free margarine or sweet potato roasted and in chip shapes
- White potato mash made with oil and dairy-free margarine
- Porridge made with her regular formula then I changed to oat/almond milk
- Custard made with her regular formula then I changed to almond milk
- Plain chicken in strips
- Fish in small pieces
- Parsnip steamed and in chip shapes
- Carrots steamed and in chip shapes
- Peanut butter on toast fingers (recommended by the paediatrician)
- Scrambled egg
Foods to Avoid
- Citric fruits such as oranges, apples and grapes.
- Spicy foods
- Tomatoes and peppers
All babies and young children should avoid these foods:
- Salty foods and adding salt to meals
- Sugary foods
- Honey before 12 months
- Whole nuts
- Some soft cheeses
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Rice milks until 5 years old
- Raw jelly cubes
- Raw shellfish
- Fish that contains high levels of mercury
Should I avoid food with allergens in it?
There are 8 common allergens in food: milk, egg, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy, fish and wheat.
Unless you know that your baby is allergic to any of them don’t avoid them. I was advised by the paediatrician to give all of the allergens that I could to my daughter at 6 months old. In fact, I was told to introduce her to the 6 allergens she could have as quickly as possible. Medical evidence now shows that children need to be introduced to the common allergens at 6 months to reduce the risk of them developing allergies.
Essential items for weaning a reflux baby
After every meal you will have a pile of things that need cleaning so only use items that are easy to wipe clean or you can throw in the washing machine or dishwasher. This blog post shows items that will make your life easier as a reflux parent:
How to start a dairy-free diet
I eliminated dairy from my diet and my daughter’s diet and we saw an immediate improvement in her symptoms. Although her health improved she continued to have some really bad episodes of reflux, so we were advised to eliminate soya as well. This really helped and her reflux became manageable.
Dairy is in a lot of products. I thought of the obvious things like yoghurt, butter, margarine, cheese, anything that has milk on the ingredients list. But there are a lot of other ingredients you need to check for when shopping for dairy-free food. The list from the Allergy UK website is really helpful.
Take a look at these blog posts for more information on going dairy free:
What should my Baby Drink?
Baby should continue with breastmilk or formula until they are 12 months old. As they eat more solid food they may reduce the amount of milk they want. I introduced both of my children to a cup at 6 months and offered them water with their meals.
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