When I gave birth to my younger daughter, Annika, I thought, as a second-time nursing mom, I’d be more prepared for any breastfeeding curveballs she threw my way. I was wrong. Annika would arch her back during feedings, spit up, and have long crying fits afterwards. Her nose was also always stuffy. I worried that she was allergic to something I was eating, or that she had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the food pipe, or esophagus. Confused, and getting different advice from my pediatrician, lactation consultants, and breastfeeding friends, I gave Annika three different reflux medications and then stopped eating dairy for nearly two months. At the end of it, my daughter was no better, I missed my decaf lattes, and my whole family was still drenched in spit-up. If your baby is fussy and you’re concerned that your diet has something to do with it, read on before you ditch your favorite foods.
A newborn’s digestive system is immature, and often the valve at the top of the esophagus that keeps stomach acid down doesn’t tighten as it should. As a result, most infants spit up, but the majority stop doing so by age 1. Some have gas and are fussy on top of spitting up, and it may be because they’re swallowing too much air during feedings. As long as an infant who spits up and is fussy is gaining weight and has no serious complications, all he needs is a little TLC, says Leo A. Heitlinger, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.