Updated: July 17, 2023
Introducing solid foods to a baby with reflux can feel daunting, especially if you feel you’ve just started to get baby’s flare-ups under control.
These tips will help minimize the problems that transitioning to solid foods may cause.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information presented here is meant as a guide and does not replace professional medical advice.
If you are concerned that your baby is displaying symptoms of infant reflux, or if you are introducing solid foods to a baby with reflux for the first time, you should always consult your child’s doctor.
Reflux is a condition where the contents of the stomach reflux into the esophagus, causing discomfort or pain.
A more complicated form of the condition is Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (or Pediatric GERD).
It is believed that approximately 50% of babies are born with some degree of infant reflux. Unfortunately, it is often mis-diagnosed as colic.
This can mean that many miserable months may go by before some babies receive the treatment, or simple feeding modifications, they need.
Most children grow out of their infant reflux by the age of 2 – in fact, many parents notice an improvement when solid foods are introduced.
Sadly, though, this isn’t always the case and – for some babies – reflux can be a persistent condition.
Whilst it would be wonderful to have a list of foods that are well tolerated by babies with reflux, the reality is that every baby is different… and so are their reactions to different foods.
The pattern of introduction of solid foods to babies WITHOUT reflux is normally cereal–veggies–fruits, beginning at 6 months of age (see baby’s first foods for more detailed guidelines).
However, some doctors recommend using cereal to thicken the formula or expressed breastmilk of a baby with reflux BEFORE the age of 6 months, in an attempt to “keep the milk down”.
Whilst there is not a huge amount of evidence that this really helps, doctors often prefer parents to try this before prescribing any kind of medication.
Alternatively, many doctors will recommend that babies with reflux start solid foods earlier than is considered necessary for their “non-reflux” peers.
Although rice cereal is commonly suggested as a first food, it doesn’t HAVE to be the first food you offer your baby –
while one baby with reflux may be able to tolerate it well, it may cause a flare up in another.
Rice cereal can also contribute to excess gas/wind and constipation – additional discomforts your baby could well do without!
Tomatoes and tomato juice are also commonly responsible for flare-ups.
Pears are the least acidic fruit and may be the best fruit to try first.
Foods that cause a lot of burping can aggravate the pain of reflux. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid…
The following foods (which may not all be suitable for very young babies) are also notorious for triggering reflux flare ups:
It is very important that you follow the four day rule when introducing solid foods to a baby with reflux, so that you are able to quickly identify which foods trigger a flare-up in your baby.
Doctors usually recommend introducing foods with a fairly thick consistency, as it is felt that these “stay down” better and provide your baby with more calories.
But parents of some babies with severe oral aversion (unwillingness to eat) find that they have more success with thinly pureed foods.
It seems that the key is to experiment a little, under your doctor’s supervision, to see what works best for your child and to ensure that the food you give is smooth.
Gagging on lumps often worsens reflux.
Typically, when a baby refuses to eat or is fussy at mealtimes, parents are advised that – as long as their babies are gaining weight – then there is no cause for concern…
He’ll eat when he’s hungry!
However, a baby with acid reflux may find it uncomfortable – or downright painful – to eat and will either refuse foods even when he IS hungry, or will vomit excessively.
This can lead to weight loss or failure to thrive and is a serious situation requiring supervision by a pediatrician. In extreme cases, feeding by tube may be required.
If you are concerned that your baby’s reluctance to eat may be caused by reflux, it is essential that you discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor.
If your baby is only able to eat small amounts, then it is often recommended that the foods you DO offer are high in calories.
With your doctor’s consent, try: