Reflux baby: our journey

Reflux in babies is common but it can vary in extent and cause havoc for new mums. I thought I’d share my story in an attempt to show you aren’t alone.

Harris was born four weeks early and without us realising it, this meant some of his organs probably weren’t as mature as those babies born on or after their due date.

Our journey with our new born wasn’t easy. I could comfort him, feed him, change his wet nappy and lovingly gaze at him and his beauty. I couldn’t help his insides and that made me helpless.

Every day was a challenge and my god it was tough to stay sane! At first, Harris was screaming constantly with tummy trouble, it was clear he was uncomfortable even after winding so we were advised to switch to comfort formula. This helped but then we had an altogether different problem. He was frequently vomiting. I don’t mean a little milk coming up, I was covered in stinky milk most days. I had to change him a million times and I was extremely concerned that he wasn’t getting the calories, fats and vitamins he should. The health visitors agreed because at six weeks his weight did not improve and bumbled along the bottom percentile – a drop from when he was born. We changed to anti-reflux milk but it felt like a losing battle. I’d take on the advice of health visitors, doctors and even friends and family only to get nowhere. I’d spend most of my days at the doctors or the clinic and meanwhile Harris still wasn’t gaining weight.

I was the mum that had to hold her baby differently after a feed, even standing like a statue for 20 minutes in case any came up. At classes, he’d puke all over the equipment and I had a big bag of wet wipes at the ready to swipe it up before anyone noticed. I couldn’t put him down either as the reflux would give him heart burn and lying on his back, even with a wedge, could make things worse.

“To say it was difficult was an understatement. I knew he wasn’t getting enough milk too. I felt alone.”

When he grew so did the volume of sick. At five months, if he had any more than 5oz of milk, there were volcanoes of vomit. Especially at the night time feeds. My husband and I were cleaning our carpets constantly. There were times when we had to step straight into the shower with Harris. One of the epic reflux moments was when we went for a nice Spring day out at the zoo with family. Harris had his milk, let it settle and we were off to see the giraffes. I heard a strange noise and turned to see that he had projectile vomited everywhere. Much to our embarrassment, it had reached innocent zoo visitors too! Surprised the animals escaped splatters of sick to be honest. We had to lift him out of the pram and change him right there on the path, covered in curdled sick ourselves. 

We had tried so many different formulas, boxes of infant Gaviscon, thickeners etc. Enough was enough. One day I grabbed my phone and messaged my NCT friends on whatsapp with a lot of expletives. I shared my feelings and I cried a lot! They gave me the confidence I needed to turn up once more at the doctors but this time demand I get referred. Luckily, I didn’t have to go so far as having a big meltdown with a screaming child in the waiting room until someone saw me. Instead a doctor arranged to call me (probably the state of me showed I meant business). I explained for the millionth time all the reflux related problems and concerns. I also followed up with a well-drafted email detailing feeds, everything we had tried and requesting I was referred to a pediatrician at the hospital.

Two whole months of vomiting later, we attended our first visit with the pediatrician. I think what’s most difficult with reflux is there’s often no cure. There is a distinction though. Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GOR) and Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) are different. By definition, GOR is normal, whereas GORD is a disease.

We were prescribed a milk protein-free formula to trial (Nutramigen PURAMINO) and see if Harris had a dairy intolerance as well as an immature valve at the top of his tummy. The formula was hit and miss. It felt like it was working for six weeks but then we would be back to normal pukage. For us, the only option was to wean at six months and get some calories in him. He would still be sick and this lead us to a dairy free diet. We never gave him more than 5oz of formula so it would stay down and instead of vomit, we just had a bit of spit up to deal with.

At one year of age we are on three meals a day with one afternoon snack, all dairy free and offer no milk at all. Water and juice via a sippy cup are no problem. We must be really careful about attaining calcium from other sources but he’s finally thriving and gaining some chub. We have, what I hope will be our final visit to the hospital next week but I should warn you we have got here by staying strong and testing different methods ourselves. It’s time consuming, aggravating and robs you of some of the enjoyment of the early months.

However, there is support and information out there to help you on your journey. The UK national charity Living with Reflux, provide a wealth of information and support for families who have infants, children and young adults who suffer from the condition. Take a look at its website

I also found it has a fantastic closed Facebook group full of mums and dads experiencing tough times called Living with Reflux. Some of whom have babies who are regular patients at specialist hospitals.

Most reflux journeys are different, there’s no ‘best’ way of dealing with it but sharing gives you strength. Please do comment below if reflux, silent reflux or GORD has affected your baby, it could allow you to make contacts with those at a similar phase.

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