“Oh dear, you’ve got a sicky one!” a good friend exclaimed on meeting my puke-covered son for the first time, but it wasn’t until about four weeks in that I began to suspect that something might really be up.
All babies posset to some degree, but from about three weeks in, my son was sick constantly.
Puking huge amounts immediately after feeds, and then again and again (often curdled) in between times, he arched and cried constantly and would only sleep if propped up in the crook of my arm or positioned upright in the sling.
Of course, I suspected reflux but when I mentioned it to the GP at his six week check, she said simply that if he was gaining weight he was probably fine. I know now that reflux can manifest in different ways.
- Classic reflux – this describes those babies that refuse to feed (associating it with pain) and therefore fail to gain weight.
- Happy reflux – this describes those babies that are sick all day long yet gain weight and never seem uncomfortable.
- Silent reflux – this describes those babies who aren’t sick at all beyond the usual posseting (they are often swallowing it back down), gaining wait, and yet are in clear digestive discomfort a lot of the time.
In fact, my son didn’t fit the mould for any of these.
He fed a lot – for comfort because he was in pain, and out of hunger because feeds simply weren’t staying down – and gained weight steadily. BUT, this was not a sign that he did not have reflux.
I knew this, but after seeing my GP, I struggled on against my better instincts for another painful two weeks.
Eventually, exhausted, I was put in touch with a highly experienced West Indian night-nanny, a mother of six herself, who came in to relieve us for a night.
In the morning, she said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world (which of course it was): “You know he has reflux, don’t you?”
Baffled that he wasn’t already on medication, she recommended something called Ranitidine and warned me off Infant Gaviscon which she said caused constipation.
The next day, I booked to see a private doctor at vast expense and started giving ranitidine three times a day. It was the best £160 I have ever spent as, within three days, our boy was like a new baby.
Still puking but not as much and, crucially, not in near-constant pain, it was a complete game-changer for our whole family.
Now nine months old, we have tried weaning our son off this miracle medicine several times, but at each attempt, the symptoms have returned very quickly.
I’m told that, by age one, he will most certainly be over it, and the days of puke-covered everything will be over… until the next baby, that is.
WHAT IS ACID REFLUX?
Acid reflux is when the stomach contents (milk and acid) come back up into the gullet or the mouth. It is caused by an undeveloped valve where the food pipe joins the stomach and can cause a lot of discomfort.
Top tips for a reflux baby
Never lay flat
Lying a reflux baby flat is an invitation to hours or wind, sick and discomfort. We propped the head-end of our son’s cot up until he was nearly seven months old. During the day, I put him in the bouncy chair at its most vertical setting or carried him around in the sling. He also went into a normal pushchair (rather than a carrycot) at six weeks so I could keep him propped up.
Feed little and often
The idea behind this is that there is more chance of the milk staying down if there is less in the tummy.
Wind, wind and wind again
Even after my son was put on Ranitidine, I would keep him upright for at least 20 minutes after each feed and wind constantly.
Reflux babies tend to cry more, sleep worse and are generally a lot more work and a lot more stressful, so be sure to get help (I wish I had got more).
Even if you are breastfeeding, get someone (a mother, a friend, a neighbour, a nanny) to come in on a regular basis and take him or her off your hands for an hour or two.
Meanwhile, make sure your husband or partner is pulling his weight at night with the endless winding.
Don’t be surprised if there is no routine
I found Gina Ford a godsend with my daughter, but with my son, it was almost impossible to establish a sleep or feed pattern as the days were so inconsistent and unpredictable.
If you are the sort of person that might torment yourself about this, just don’t. I tried to stick to a 7pm bedtime as my one nod to Gina and accept that everything else was going to be fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. At the end of the day, if you are keeping him or her alive – and you yourself are also just about surviving – you are doing a very good job.
Trust your instincts
I knew that something wasn’t right with my son, but after seeing my GP, very nearly, had months of misery. You know your baby best and live with him or her 24/7. If your GP isn’t listening to what you are saying and offering solutions, see someone else.
If Infant Gaviscon isn’t working, ask about Ranitidine
Or better yet, bypass the Infant Gaviscon completely.
I can only speak from my own experience, but for our son, who was genuinely suffering from persistent, painful and aggravating reflux, Ranitidine was a miracle medicine that transformed our lives completely in a matter of days.
Please note, I am not an expert on reflux. This article is written from my own experience only. There are other medications and many experts recommend different formulas.
Expert opinion should be sought if you suspect your baby has reflux!