Having a baby with reflux is incredibly overwhelming. This is not at all what I anticipated having a baby to be like. My expectations included a little bundle of smiles, cooing, and snuggles, along with late night, early morning feedings, crying and stinky diapers. It did NOT include a screaming little one, arching his back, looking at me in desperation for me to stop his pains and discomfort. Oh, my poor little darling. All I want is to help him feel better and feel the joy from living and learning in this world.
Last week, I got a cold, which wrecks my sinuses and causes headaches and almost constant blowing of my nose. So it was already feeling under the weather, and then on Friday, my baby boy screamed and screamed and screamed. He arched his back, would hardly eat anything and couldn’t nap. When he did eat, it was only 1-2 ounces at a time and he would start spitting it out, unable to get it down. Normally he was eating at least 3 ounces, and sometimes 4-5 ounces in a feeding. It was torture to hear those, not so little, cries and be unable to comfort him. I bawled for about an hour while trying to soothe him and to calm myself enough to do so. When my husband called to see how my day was going, I started crying again. He deciphered through the tears that I was not doing well and said he would pick up dinner and be home as soon as he could.
We already knew that little guy has reflux, but because he wasn’t eating or sleeping, we were more concerned and decided to go to UrgentCare. Of course, he was good for most of the time we were there. We were secretly happy when he started screaming, so that the doctor could see what was really happening. Doesn’t it seem like they are always perfect angels the second you are trying to explain the problem. He was able to calm down quite quickly and fall asleep out of exhaustion though thankfully.
We were sure little guy must have an ear infection or some other pain inducing problem, but the doctor checked him and all looked good… besides the screaming and arching back. He asked what dosage and concentration the medication was, but we didn’t know the concentration. He said it sounds like he might need to go on a higher dosage. Even though it doesn’t really change anything we are doing or give us a timeline for when the reflux will end, it did help us to feel okay knowing that he doesn’t have something worse going on in that little body of his.
The symptoms of reflux often look similar to and are often mistaken for colic and so nothing is done initially. Here is what to look for (and what we saw as it escalated):
- Screaming/crying, especially during or after eating
- Arching back
- Won’t eat as much at one time
- Spitting up
- Sounds like there is fluid in his throat, gurgly maybe
- Might not be gaining weight
- Poor sleeping
- Doesn’t like to lay flat on back
My baby has silent reflux, which means that the reflux doesn’t generally come out as spit up. It just comes back into his esophagus and causes irritation. This was confusing for us in determining what was wrong, because we didn’t realize that a baby can have reflux without spitting up. My cousin’s baby, on the other hand, projectile vomited when he spit up, so there is a wide range of what you might see.
We are bottle feeding at this time, so if you are breastfeeding, some of these might not work for you. Breastfeeding is better for babies with reflux, so that is a benefit you will have. Some things that we have tried to do to alleviate his discomfort (and the screaming):
- Eating more upright. When he is eating, we make sure that he is held more upright than laying down.
- Use a bouncer or other inclined seat to feed. This seems to have helped my little guy be able to get more formula in.
- Feed your baby smaller amounts, more frequently – My little guy is eating around every 2-2 1/2 hours right now, instead of the 3 hour increments he was doing before.
- Feed a small amount, wait 10-15 minutes and then see if your baby will take any more.
- Keep your baby upright for 30 minutes following eating.
- Baby massage. Our doctor suggested doing bicycle legs and clockwise rubbing of the baby’s tummy. This seems to help with his gas if he isn’t already worked up. He won’t let me bend his legs if he is really upset.
- Use an exercise ball to bounce him. This has calmed my baby just about every time, no matter how upset he was.
- Use a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. They are inclined, which will help with your baby’s reflux while he sleeps.
- For those breastfeeding, diet changes may help or supplements that you take, since the baby will get some of this through breast milk.
Some things that I haven’t yet tried so I can’t say if they work or not, but I have seen these suggested:
- Infant probiotics
- Chiropractic care with an infant certified chiropractor. My pediatrician says they don’t recommend this until after 12 months. From what I have read, it is more like a massage. It isn’t like the cracking you probably imagine.
- Essential oils
Having a baby with reflux is exhausting and heart wrenching. It can wear you down in a day, but it generally lasts much longer. Finding support is critical, even just someone to talk to. Feel free to email me if you have questions or need someone to bounce ideas off of (though I am only going on my experience thus far). Also, comment if you have any ideas of how to help with infant reflux.