Reflux seems to be a hot topic amongst parents in my studio, does my baby have it or is it just colic? This is a sentiment I can relate to a little too well, especially after having two boys in a row who suffered with silent reflux.
It’s so hard to know what’s wrong with our babies when they’re in distress, especially since their only way of communicating with us is to cry… babies cry when they want comfort, they cry when they’re hungry, they cry when they’re wet, they cry when their uncomfortable, let face it, in the first few months they spend most of their waking hours crying! So how on earth can we identify if the cries from our babies are anything more than our little ones just communicating that they need something, or if they are actually in pain?
If I was to rewind back to my last baby I already knew the signs and symptoms of reflux as my previous baby had suffered with a terrible case of it. I had a hunch that he had the dreaded reflux, yet I still had a niggling voice in my head telling me that maybe he wasn’t getting enough milk from me, or maybe something I had eaten had given him digestive upset, or maybe it was just plain colic. I was sleep deprived, emotional, and all I wanted to do was to make my baby happy and comfortable… I also wanted my baby to sleep! I sent my poor husband out on midnight trips to the chemist to buy me fenugreek to increase my milk supply, he trekked all around the countryside to find me brewers yeast to make me lactation cookies, we invested in the most expensive breast pump we could find, all with the intent of increasing my milk supply. My milk supply definitely increased, I was expressing and storing milk by the oz in our freezer, we had quite the little stash! But still my baby would scream. “It has to be colic” I thought, so we tried infants friend, herbal remedies for colic, lactose free formula, you name it, we tried it! yet my poor bubba would arch his back and pull his little legs up screaming in pain, he would also grunt constantly and squirm in his bassinet. I was still trying to convince myself that there was no way I could have had two babies in a row that had silent reflux so I continued on my experimental path and put my baby onto formula. I tried an A2 formula and what happened next is something that my husband and me would never forget. My poor baby started foaming at the mouth and choking, his formula had aggravated his stomach acid so much that he was foaming at the mouth, not a little bit of foam I’m talking copious amounts of foam, my sweet little babe looked like a demon had possessed him! In a state of panic we jumped into the car and raced over to the children’s hospital, it was only a half hour drive but it honestly felt like an eternity! My husband was in a panic, I was clutching my baby in the front seat of the car shouting at my husband to watch the road… I’m pretty sure we broke at least a dozen laws on the road but we were panic stricken! Once at the hospital we were admitted, and the on duty nurse checked my baby out and asked me to feed him. She watched him anxiously latch onto my breast then push away and scream. She gave me a very comforting smile picked my baby up and smelled his breath. She passed my baby back to me and asked me if I smelled it, oh yes I definitely smelled it… my babies breath was acidic, my poor baby had silent reflux. All the signs were there yet I still missed it! The grunting, the back arching, the grimacing, the frantic feed cycle, the breast refusal, the acidic breath, the lack of sleep, it was all there yet I was convinced it was something that I was or wasn’t doing that made my baby unsettled.
I wasn’t by any means a new mum yet I still doubted my ability to fulfill my babies needs. For anyone who has ever suffered with heartburn you will know how dreadfully uncomfortable it is, you just can’t get rid of that horrible constant presence, it’s even worse for these little babies who suffer with it. For my little guy we had a stint in hospital where he was fed a thickener prior to a feed which worked ok for a couple of days but then we were put on a prescription of losec which fixed him right up. It’s such a horrible process for any parent to work through but my advice is, if you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right and your baby is displaying any of the symptoms above please visit your pediatrician or family GP who can properly diagnose and treat your baby.
Most people have a theory on why the baby is crying. However, the reality is that at the top of the stomach there is a sphincter that keeps food down when we swallow. The stomach also has digestive juices that are required to help break down the food to be digested. Some newborn babies have a floppy or immature sphincter and when milk comes up, the acid in the stomach comes up too, causing burning and heartburn. This is a reflux babies discomfort and unfortunately as much as we try and alleviate it by natural methods some babies do need medication to keep it under control. This is usually short lived and most babies will cease the medication once they are sitting up and having solids. Keeping baby’s mattress elevated with a specialty cot wedge also helps. If your poor baby is unlucky enough to get the dreaded reflux please seek the services of a medical professional as soon as you can and remember, if your mummy instincts aren’t happy with the advice you get then always seek a second opinion! No one knows our babies better than we do so if something doesn’t feel right then check it out and, oh, one last thing, if someone offers you help, especially if it is in the form of a cooked meal or watching the baby for an hour so you can get some sleep or take a soak in the tub then take them up on it because you deserve it! Being a parent is tough but extremely rewarding 🙂