Living with silent infant reflux

Update: I wrote this post in April 2017. I have decided to re-share it as it may help others going through similar things. Ted is now 20 months old and has outgrown this issue thankfully. The cause in the end for us was mammalian (cow and goat) milk intolerance, once i stopped eating it, it was no longer in my breast milk, and we switched Ted from goats formula to soy, things changed almost overnight.

I am writing this post for a few reasons, firstly to shine a light on silent infant reflux and maybe to help someone else identify this in their baby, the reason I realised Ted had reflux was from reading Nadia Bartels’ blog about her son Aston and realising Ted had the exact same symptoms. The second reason I am writing this post is to remind people to be careful with what they imply or ask of new mums.

Firstly, what is infant silent reflux? Basically in newborn babies the oesophagous muscles haven’t fully developed meaning that food can often pop back up the babies throat, causing an awful burning sensation. Think heart burn from the last Indian curry you ate. Some babies then spit up this food, however in silent reflux, the baby will re-swallow the food. So what are Teds symptoms:

– inconsolable crying from the pain. I would estimate Ted would cry 80% of the time he is awake. Making it hard to stick to plans with friends, attend netball training or even do the shopping.

-coughing/choking

– wanting to feed constantly, because it feels like the new milk is pushing the contents trying to come up back down, leading to a vicious circle, Ted would literally claw at me for more food because of the pain.

– screaming in pain everytime he is placed directly on his back in bassinet, cot, pram or on floor to play. I always looked at other mums walking with prams and their contented babies and wondering what I was doing wrong.

– coughing when he cries due to the pain and trying to move the food.

-sleeping in short blocks and waking up screaming in pain.

-hear the food come up and Ted re-swallow.

I am not writing this to say poor me, feel sorry for me, I love my baby and when we chose to get pregnant we were ready for anything that came our way good or bad with our baby. Although it can be tough when your baby starts screaming in a cafe or is the only one crying at mothers group (not that anyone else cares I’m sure but it did make me feel like a failure at times) at least I am blessed with an otherwise healthy boy!

The reason I am writing this is because of how a number of people have made comments in relation to my parenting. Luckily I am surrounded by amazing friends who have been there when Ted has screamed for 2 hours straight, have brought us food over when we can’t put him down and have simply been a listening ear when I have questioned what I am doing. Not all people have this support network and I’m sure the negative comments and fears can take over. I’m not going to lie there were nights Ted was in pain and I couldn’t help so we are both sitting there crying, it breaks your heart seeing your baby in pain.

Comment number 1: so and so’s baby sleeps through the night because they are so relaxed. Unfortunately being relaxed won’t change whether or not your baby has reflux, and simply made me feel like shit especially before the diagnosis came through. Becoming a mum has changed me, I am far more relaxed and patient than I have ever been.

Comment number 2: I’m worried your milk isn’t strong enough, what the? I don’t even know what that means, but basically telling a new mum these things is wrong. No wonder we have a high rate of PND in our society with comments like that. Breastfeeding is hard enough, wondering if your baby is getting enough, dealing with the pain in the early days and the General fatigue can have on your body by not being able to share the feeding responsibilities.

Comment number 3: is that normal to cry that much?  I’m a first time mum, I’m trying to work it out, don’t put extra pressure on. This is where experiences like the blog written by Nadia helped so much. Do you know what is crazy? I cried when I realised Ted had reflux because I thought I should have known sooner! Initially I didn’t even know his crying was abnormal, I’m not a doctor, but these thoughts happen!

So what are we doing now?

– GP! Teds case was serious enough that he is on a medication called losec which helps lessen the acidity in the gut. So when the milk comes back up, it doesn’t burn so much.

– bassinet and cot raised by 30degrees

– we hold Ted upright for 15-30 minutes after a feed (yes even at 4am)

– removed bassinet attachment from pram and have the stroller attachment on full recline

– no lying on back or walks within 30 minutes of a feed

– a gap of 2 hours between feeds

– modified burping, no tapping, has to be a gentle rub on the back or moving his body in a circular motion

– no strong rocking or jiggly playtime

– baby massage to relieve wind

– nappy change before feeds, rather than inbetween sides or after

– baby chiropractic, the chiropractor in teds case believes the reflux is exaggerated by his neck being very tight from birth. This is currently being treated with massage. No cracking!

-stopped eating dairy and stopped Ted eating dairy

-and lastly I stopped being so dam hard on myself, I’m there for my baby when he needs and that’s all that matters.

Maybe it’s colic, maybe it’s reflux, or maybe you a blessed with a baby that never cries but just remember we are all trying our best, and just because something works for one family, doesn’t mean it will work for all.

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