So the Baby Has Reflux

It’s not that I thought caring for a baby would be easy. I just never imagined it would be this hard.

We found out the other day that poor little David has “silent reflux.” Basically, after he eats, his stomach acid comes up and burns his throat. He rarely spits up, though, so the acid would do its thing on the way up and down.

It’s a relief to know there’s actually something wrong. From the day after he was born, we knew the kid could cry. Shriek, actually. Things that he’d enjoy one day—like playing on his activity mat or sitting in his bouncy chair—would make him scream in agony the next, so we couldn’t get a handle on what, if anything, was wrong.

When I’d mention how unhappy he seemed all the time, people would say, in an irritatingly offhanded manner, “Oh, all babies cry.” And being a new mom, I thought maybe he was just a loud little guy who needed to be carried around on my shoulder all the time.

But he was also sleeping poorly, and then his breathing started sounding odd—sort of wheezy or gurgly, as though he was choking on phlegm.

I took him to the doctor last week, and she quickly diagnosed reflux. She recommended cutting dairy, soy, citrus, spices, and green leafy vegetables out of my diet (I don’t eat chocolate or caffeine anyway, so those were moot points); propping David’s mattress up by putting a pillow underneath it; limiting the amount of foremilk he ingests; giving him small, frequent feedings; and holding him upright for 30 minutes after he eats.

She was reluctant to give him medication, but when I told her that he seemed to be in pain all the time, she prescribed Zantac. He’s been taking for a week and in the last two days it appears to have begun making him feel at least a little bit better for a while after he takes it.

We took him back to the doctor this morning, and she saw him in his normal fussy state. She said, “This is not typical; he’s an extreme case. We need to do something to give you a little peace.”

We’re going to try adding gripe water to his regimen for the next few days, and if that doesn’t help, we’re going to add Prevacid first thing in the morning.

The good news is that kids who suffer from such bad cases of reflux, according to the doctor, are usually very bright. They’re alert and aware and taking everything in, but when the acid comes up, they feel it.

So it’s been a long two months, and I haven’t had time for anything, really, other than taking care of the baby. Which is okay. I’m on maternity leave; taking care of him is my job.

But it’s certainly given me a new appreciation for parents of children with mental illness. I understand now, in a way I didn’t before, how consuming it can be to care for a sick child. And at least I know there’s light at the end of the tunnel for David—a lot of babies outgrow reflux once they can sit up by themselves. Parents with mentally ill children are often responsible for caring for them not just throughout their childhood years, but well into adulthood.

I can also see how caring for a sick child can strain a marriage. First there’s the time factor; it’s a great night in the Whistler household these days when John and I can steal away into our bedroom for a late-night dinner and an episode of Parks and Recreation turned way down low.

Then there’s the worry. Even when John and I do find a moment for ourselves, I’m constantly thinking about how much I wish David wasn’t suffering, how I hate the sound of his wheezy breathing, and how much I hope he doesn’t wake up before he gets a few good hours of sleep.

At any rate, if sending thoughts and prayers is your thing, please throw some out there for my little refluxy baby. Thanks!

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7 Responses to So the Baby Has Reflux

  1. Lyz says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the reflux that must be so stressful. I agree with you about this being harder than I thought. Not that I thought it would be a cake walk, I just never anticipated how draining it would be to have someone so totally dependent upon me for everything. And it is hard to keep up our relationship too. I’ve noticed that being a mom does not equal being a wife.

    Sending prayers for your little guy. And as always, I love your words.

    • Thank you so much, Lyz. It was more stressful before we knew what was wrong — at least now we know not to put him down on his back right after he eats! I totally agree about the crazy responsibility of having a baby. David won’t take a bottle yet, so we’re pretty much attached at the hip. I get excited about Saturday mornings because John watches him while I sneak out for an hour to buy our groceries. Who knew grocery shopping could be so much fun?

      People tell me it starts getting easier around three months. Fingers crossed for both of us!

      • Lyz says:

        I totally relate to the grocery shopping thing. I take a yoga class on Monday nights and I LOVE IT. Seriously. I love coming back, of course. But I get so excited to go and just be.

  2. Heather, it *does* get easier. Reflux, colic, little baby pimples, rashes… babies are amazing, wonderful creatures, but they’re also a work in progress.

    As time goes on, and he’s not in so much distress, keep trying to have JOHN offer him a bottle. Nursing babies will often reject a bottle from Mommy (they’re no dummies) but eventually take it from Dad.

    Take it easy on YOU, and keep your own liquids going, grab as many naps as you can.

    • Thank you, Beverly! The doctor now thinks David has colitis as well as reflux, so we’ve had to switch to formula for a few days to see if removing the lactose from his diet helps ease his distress. The first day was terrible, but he’s now happily taking a bottle, so that’s the silver lining of the new diagnosis.

      I hired someone to help me out this week while John’s at work so that I can keep my milk supply up until we know if the formula is going to help or not, so even with the stress of the medical news, I’ve been able to get a little more rest than usual. We’re going to see a GI specialist in two weeks, and hopefully can get things on track.

  3. Anon. says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this — it’s excrutiating for baby and for parents. Lots of love, peace, and nurturing will help you all get through this!

    Some things that helped us:

    1.I highly recommend exclusive breastfeeding — it’s exactly what the baby needs, nutritionally and emotionally. We are finally past the worst of the GERD with our baby — and no longer have to deal with medication. He’s sleeping much better, he’s happy and developing well, and he continues to be an excellent breastfeeder. His stomach is in good shape, and he’s eating solids very well. If you have questions, check out KellyMom.com on infant GERD, breastfeeding, etc.

    2. Baby carriers — first a ring sling, then a Boba. We don’t use strollers, and we don’t cart him around in car seats or whatnot. No worries — he’s developing into a very secure, independent little guy!

    3. Lots of skin-to-skin contact. Very soothing for baby and for mom.

    4. Quiet environment, esp. during feedings.

    5. Don’t push him beyond what he can do — errands, social events, etc. Get him out before he tires so that the stress doesn’t set off the GERD.

    • Thanks for these suggestions — we definitely love our baby carrier! Unfortunately, little David also has colitis, so he had to stop breastfeeding a few weeks ago. His temperament is much improved from when I wrote this post, though, so we’re thankful for that!

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