Reflux and the little baby.

warning, this might hit a nerve with some mothers…

I keep reading and hearing things on reflux in babies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not a thing and doesn’t effect some kids, but it got me thinking…are doctors over diagnosing it? Is it just an excuse for an upset baby who won’t settle? Let me explain myself before all you mums with reflux bubs jump down my throat…

When a baby is born, their tiny little stomachs are the size of their tiny little fist. It holds about 5mils, that’s not a lot. Actually, that really nothing. No wonder babies are fed so frequently. The sphincter on top of the oesophagus does not close fully which let’s some milk back up, and can cause pain. If you’ve ever had reflux, you know it’s not pleasant. Now imagine that in a baby. Someone who hasn’t been in this world for very long, breaks your heart seeing them in pain.

All babies suffer from some sort of reflux, as their bodies just don’t have the ability to keep it down while they are still young. I believe this is also one reason for the ending of breastfeeding, as doctors then prescribe Losec or another medicine to thicken formula to help reduce the acidity in the baby’s stomach. You can’t add the medicine to breast milk unless it’s pumped, but in those first few months, who wants to express then bottle feed unless you need too? So the switch to formula happens.

Again, I remind you this is not to take a stab at those mothers that bottle feed their babies. Please don’t think that!

I would think that breast milk, being the perfect drink, would help with this reflux issue. The baby feeds until it’s full, and that’s it. Yes, some babies are more prone to vomiting than others, I’m glad my two aren’t spewers. But isn’t that just their way to say ‘I’ve had enough mum!’ Breast milk has the perfect balance of goodness for their little bellies.

When we had to make the decision to feed my first formula, due to my health, it was awful. Along with the fear that I’d failed, the midwifes were making up the formula and telling us he had to drink it all as he was a big baby. Does that matter? No wonder he put on weight very quickly. I think back now, and maybe it was too much for him at the time. My friends remind me that he threw up all over my husband in the hospital. I was out of it, I don’t remember. Probably trying to put too much into him, too often. He was on the 4 hourly feed from the beginning. Not demand fed as is possible with breastfeeding. I’m sure it’s not the only time he threw up. Glad he wasn’t diagnosed with reflux.

I see some mums with these tiny babies bottle feeding trying to shove masses of formula into their tiny bellies and then the baby throws up. All baby’s are different and not all of them can take in the “recommended” dose of formula all the time on the “recommended” 4 hourly feeding schedule. As the vomiting goes on, the baby is taken to the doctor and diagnosed with reflux. Sometimes silent reflux. Are the doctors giving babies medicine as a quick fix to get the emotional mother out of their office and hoping it’s the cure-all? What are the side effects of this medicine?

I know what it’s like to have a baby that cries for hours and hours, who won’t sleep, who drives you mad. You try everything you can to get some peace. Even if that means medicating them. You love this squishy little thing so much, you want to take away the pain.

I’m sure the medicines help keep the milk down, but the baby seems to grow out of it around 6 months of age, when surprise surprise, the oesophagus starts to work correctly. And he starts to be more mobile and can sit up…hmmmm.

My question is this, if the mother continued to feed the baby the correct amount or breastfed where possible, and waited the 6 months, would the reflux stop on its own? What did our mothers do 30 or so years ago?

I’ve read some mothers try changing formulas to soy free, dairy free…does it help? Does reflux only effect formula fed babies? Are breastfed babies affected too? Tell me your story. I’m interested to know. Were you a reflux baby?

**For those wonderful mums out there with those poor babies who have suffered reflux and tried everything, you are doing a fantastic job. Tell me your experience.

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2 thoughts on “Reflux and the little baby.

  1. Hi Jen, Trisse here. Jack is a silent reflux baby. We have had an horrendous time with feeding, which culminated in me, absolutely beside myself when he was 17 weeks old and during/after EVERY feed, would scream – unlike anything i’ve ever heard in my life. He was in obvious pain. I was in tears, and contacted a couple of girlfriends who said to me “you can’t get to the doctor (it was a public holiday), so do what the paed told me to do – give him 1.25ml of mylanta before a feed and if it stops him crying, you have your answer”. I did, and wouldn’t you know it, at his next feed, he had his full bottle, not one tear and settled beautifully to sleep. I, however was crying rivers – mainly with relief. The pain Jack was feeling due to his reflux was causing him to not want to eat, slow weight gain and an all-round very distressed household.

    While i agree that at times, reflux is over-diagnosed (it happened to one of my friends with her baby daughter), there is definitely a place for meds like Losec – which have meant that Jack can feed without pain. He does spit up, but isn’t a spewy baby – except when he has a cold. If he was just spewy but was gaining weight and wasn’t in pain, i wouldn’t have medicated him, but we really had no choice. He was also diagnosed with Lactose intolerance at the same time – his poos were bright green, quite foamy and very mucousy at times.

    Regarding you question about reflux babies and breast milk, Jack was exclusively fed with expressed breast milk (and was partially breastfed for 3 months) for almost 6 months. We found that he was in less pain when bottle-fed because he could sit up. He would breastfeed for a short time and then pull off in obvious pain; arching his back and screaming. Once he was diagnosed lactose intolerant, I continued to express, but treated my milk with Lacteeze drops, and then I made the decision to start introducing Lactose free formula slowly. There came a point where i couldn’t sustain pumping 6+ times per day, and spend time with Jack, so decided to wean off the pump. I luckily had a good supply of milk so froze a lot of EBM, and now he is on almost all LF formula, with a couple of stick of frozen breastmilk put in to the mix.

    We see the paediatrician again in a couple of weeks and will discuss weaning him off the Losec and re-introducing him to lactose formula- reflux and infant lactose intolerance are things kids grow out of, so hopefully we can get him off that stuff.

    As for what our mums did 30 years ago, babies were generally diagnosed with Colic (I was diagnosed with colic as a baby – and apparently it was 5 months of hell for my parents) and parents just had to deal with 6 or so months of screaming. In my opinion, if the medication helps to stop the pain, why wouldn’t you give it to them, and save the baby from a heap of pain, distress, hunger and potentially a long-term feeding aversion and us from having to watch that. When Jack and I were at the Nurture Centre (there to work out why he wouldn’t breastfeed – before his diagnosis) there was a mum and baby there – the baby had a naso-gastric tube permanently inserted as he had developed a huge feeding aversion due to reflux pain. He was 8 months old and borderline failure to thrive, the poor little love. He was being medicated, but the aversion (due to fear of pain) had already been established. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch him refuse his bottle or spoon. I’m furious that noone actually mentioned reflux to us until Jack was 17 weeks – if he had’ve been diagnosed earlier, we may have had a chance at breastfeeding (not breastfeeding him is something that i’m still grieving and working through)

    I hope my post gives you a bit of insight into a reflux baby and his mum ❤

    • Thanks for the inside info. I understand premmies have this more often because they are born with less muscle to stop the reflux than the ‘normal’ baby.

      I’m surprised with all our sleeping issues no one mentioned it to us. We did try the mylanta trick on e advice of a friend who’s prem (27 weeker) had reflux and it didn’t do anything for us.

      It’s just every new baby I seem to meet has reflux, every post I read on an online group someone is asking about reflux. I guess it’s getting more and more common, like allergies…don’t get me started.

      I’m glad little jack is better now and is growing as that’s the main thing.

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