Coping with Reflux
I found the worst thing about having a sick baby (apart from the fact my baby was unhappy and feeling pain, obviously) was that he was unable to tell me and others what was wrong and therefore it was all too easy for people to dismiss my concerns with “well he probably just has colic” and “he will grow out of it”
One doctor I saw is of the opinion that you should just live with an unsettled baby as they do eventually grow out of it. Coincidentally I met up with a mum who had a baby 2 days before me and discovered she had seen the same doctor with concerns over lactose intolerance – baby was bloated, obviously uncomfortable, doing explosive poos and projectile vomiting. He dismissed her too and she was a pharmacist so had some medical knowledge. She went on to try an LF formula and he was a totally different baby, so why should you and your baby just live with it when there may be such an easy solution? Yes in Ben’s case it wasn’t going to be life threatening but I wanted to make him more comfortable and me happier too - is that so selfish? (my friend had to see another doctor in order to get the milk on prescription as he still wouldn’t believe her).
Anyway, I suspected from very early on that Ben had reflux and even my Mum pointed out on day 2 that he appeared to gag on something all the time. Soon the constant vomiting started – and no it wasn’t just possetting as some people tried to tell me, it was not huge quantities, just all the time – after every feed and then a lot in between.
Ben fed frequently to compensate so appeared to be thriving, but again just because a baby is gaining weight does not mean they aren’t unhappy and in pain. Some people concentrate so much just on weight gain
Soon I was at my wits end, this was not a normal unsettled baby and I was exhausted.
Ben was feeding A LOT – through hunger from being sick and for comfort to soothe his pain. He would not sleep at all in the day unless held upright and spent much of the night awake – often Mark would end up trying to sleep sitting up in bed holding him so that I could grab a couple of hours. Ben was so tired his eyelids would close and then he would flail around and cry out. He would arch his back and would often be most comfortable with his head hanging back over your arm – I discovered later this is quite common as it extends the oesophagus and makes it more comfortable.
He developed a snuffly nose which I mistook for a cold but soon realised that it would develop through the night as he was lying down and the acid irritated his nose.
Having an extremely unsettled baby and a very demanding toddler was extremely hard and I was not enjoying being a Mum
It was also taking it’s toll on my relationship with my dh as we were both tired and short with each other.
My Health Visitor was great and came to see me weekly, she got me my first appointment with a doctor (no mean feat at our surgery, especially as Ben hadn’t been registered there and couldn’t be until I registered his birth for which there was a 4 week waiting list in Stockport at the time!).
Obviously all babies are different and reflux does manifest in a whole host of different ways and to varying degrees but some symptoms you may notice are:
• Vomiting after feeds and anytime up to the next feed
• Sleeping very little and disturbed easily. Waking frequently in the night
• Irritability. Screaming, whinging, crying, fussiness. Can be mistaken for colic, although it doesn’t follow a pattern like colic and the baby is usually consolable when distracted
• May be distressed before or after feeding. Arching their back in an attempt to relieve their pain or refuse to feed
• Comfort feeding
• Failure to thrive through reluctance to feed or vomiting
• Frequent hiccups
• Frequent coughs and runny nose and sore throat.
• Sore ears or ear infections
Again all babies are different and will respond to different treatments but some remedies we found helpful include:
• Raising the sleeping position – propping the cot up at one end or using a support cushion
• Or sleeping on the side – a sleep positioner is good for propping them on their side so they don’t roll over
• Feeding at an angle and keeping them upright for a while after feeding – for me this unfortunately prevented me feeding lying down in bed. There were two problems I found, if he was horizontal when feeding, it made the reflux worse, increasing his snuffly nose and hindering feeding and also I ended up having to change our sheets due to vomiting. When you are as sleep deprived as I felt even the simplest tasks like changing beds can seem like an enormous ordeal!
• Carrying in a sling – this frees up your hands to do things and saved my sanity. It also allowed Ben to sleep as he was vertical
• Infant gaviscon or carobel – infant gaviscon forms a raft at the top of the stomach, preventing milk coming back up and carobel is a natural thickener which helps to prevent vomiting
• Keep breastfeeding if you are able. Breast milk is more easily and quickly digested than formula and therefore is less likely to come back up (I also found it more watery and less smelly than formula sick!)
• Reducing milk intake if breastfeeding – some people find that reflux is caused or increased by an intolerance to milk protein or lactose and many people find it helps if they cut out dairy
• Osteopathy – we took Ben to see an osteopath and although we will never know if it was this which helped to ease his reflux, I believe it did
• Unfortunately despite all these actions, I found Ben was obviously still in discomfort and we did resort to medication – he was prescribed omeprazole which is a drug that stops the stomach producing acid and therefore preventing the burning sensation in the oesophagus. This worked like a miracle and almost immediately he seemed more comfortable despite continuing to be sick
The week after we started Ben on the omeprazole he started to settle for naps in the day and would sleep up to 3 hours at night which was a huge improvement. It might be a coincidence but that week he also started smiling!
5 months on from his dramatic birth! And we are a lot happier. He is still not a great sleeper but I guess that is just him and I am hopeful it will improve in time. He is still being sick, although not as frequently and I am confident now that he is just a normal happy and healthy little boy. Being a mum is a joy once more and both Ben and Charlotte are doing great
My advice – if you suspect your baby may have reflux and you are not entirely satisfied with what the doctors are telling you then persevere, it is worth it.