On the blog today, we have the second in our series of posts on reflux. Last week, I discussed my experiences of reflux in babies. This week, we have a guest post from Fi Star-Stone, who is a qualified Nursery Nurse with a degree in Childhood and Youth studies and diplomas in Childhood studies and Nursery Nursing. She’s also mum to two little ones aged 2 and 3 years old. With over 20 year experience in childcare, Fi runs a free parenting advice service to parents via her website Childcare is Fun. She shares her baby reflux experiences this week.
In my oh-so tired arms my little boy is screaming again. His little rigid body fights my cuddles and he simply will not settle.
He’s not a toddler having a tantrum – he’s 3 weeks old and fighting Silent Reflux.
My experience tells me to try everything – singing, talking, walking, patting, stroking, and yet nothing will pacify this little new life who is screaming louder than I thought a tiny baby could scream.
Knees raised, fists clenched, hours of crying, (Oscar – not me!); I knew these familiar symptoms and took a sigh of ‘oh here we go again’ as I paced the room talking and singing and watching the hours pass by.
Sadly, like his older sister Betsy, Oscar developed reflux after only a few weeks of life and the minute the tell-tale signs showed themselves I knew we needed medical help.
“What’s baby reflux?” I hear you ask!
Reflux is the name given when a baby regurgitates the contents of his stomach back into the oesophagus, or mouth.
Some babies won’t seem bothered by the condition, while for others, the stomach acid will burn their throat and make them uncomfortable, and unsettled, and for some babies, it can cause weight loss and a ‘failure to thrive.’
Babies have a tendency to reflux because:
- Babies have small stomachs.
- Babies spend a lot of their time in a lying position.
- Babies are fed mostly a fluid diet. (Milk can easily come up, particularly with a burp.)
- Handling, such as diaper changing and bouncing can increase the pressure on a baby’s full tummy, which then increases the risk of spitting up.
So, what happens?
Food is supposed to travel in one direction through your body, down the oesophagus, into the stomach and through the bowel. But in a child who suffers with reflux, there is a weakness in the band of muscles in the lower oesophagus. These join the stomach, acting as a valve. If this valve doesn’t shut properly, milk can travel back up, resulting in your baby vomiting (active reflux) or having a heartburn type of sensation,(silent reflux.)
The trouble for many new parents is actually recognising the symptoms and then managing to get help. So many parents struggle on, unaware their little one is suffering from the condition, and many who do try and get advice are often fobbed off by their doctors or health visitors.
At my website (www.childcareisfun.co.uk), I run a free parenting advice service which receives over 150 emails a week. Many if these emails are from new mothers whose babies are suffering from reflux and they are often sent away with no medication, no help, and left feeling helpless.
Recognsing the signs of reflux…
If your baby has reflux, you might notice that they regurgitate a little milk after feeding. It can also cause discomfort in their oesophagus and make them cough a little.
Don’t worry, as long as your baby is otherwise well and healthy, they’ll be fine. You just need to keep a cloth or tissue handy for catching their milk.
In some cases, where reflux symptoms are bad, (vomiting is bad, the baby is always unsettled after feeds), you might want to speak to your midwife, health visitor or doctor about treatment. This is worthwhile when:
- Reflux is happening more than five times a day on a regular basis.
- Your baby cries excessively after feeds.
- Your baby vomits regularly.
- Coughing becomes a regular occurrence.
How do you treat baby reflux?
Try feeding your baby in an upright position or holding them for 20 minutes after feeds and trying smaller but more frequent feeds first. This helped Oscar lots in the early days before medication.
Raise the head end of your baby’s cot/crib slightly to aid sleep – this helps keep milk in the tummy, and avoids silent relfux too. However – it doesn’t always work.
Medicate: Your doctor may prescribe infant Gaviscon or in extreme cases Ranitidine.
Infant Gaviscon works by mixing with the stomach contents, stabilising and thickening them to reduce the amount of reflux occurring. It is produced in a powder form and comes in one-dose sachets.
Ranitidine works by reducing the amount of stomach acid produced and thus prevents reflux causing inflammation in the oesophagus, and also allows existing inflammation to heal. It does not decrease the amount of spilling or vomiting. It may take from a few days to a few weeks to see an improvement in your baby/child after starting Ranitidine.
Although Ranitidine syrup contains ethanol (alcohol) and was not formulated for paediatric use, it has however been used successfully in the treatment of reflux in children for many years. While the infant Gaviscon worked for Betsy, it didn’t even touch the edges of pain for Oscar, and he was put on Ranitidine.
In only 24 hours after medication I noticed a difference with both my babies, but getting medication proved difficult. Even with my qualifications and experience the doctors failed to listen until my second visit when I insisted something was done.
Luckily for us, both Betsy and Oscar ‘grew’ out of their reflux when they were around 4 months old. They gradually weaned off the meds and by the time they were fully weaned, all symptoms had gone.
For most babies ‘spitting up’ has decreased remarkably by the age of 5 or 6 months and disappears completely by the age of 12 months, but in severe cases it may persist for up to 18 months or more.
If you think your baby might be suffering with reflux, talk to your health visitor or G.P as soon as you can. Don’t wait or worry you might be wrong, it’s better to get these things checked sooner rather than later. You know your baby, and you know when something is wrong. Don’t be fobbed off – if you are unhappy with diagnosis, ask for a second opinion.
If your baby is diagnosed with reflux, try not to worry. You’re not alone in your suffering! As many as 1 in 3 babies suffer with some form of reflux in the early days!
So when you’re pacing the room at night with your little bundle crying, just think to yourself
“It’ll get better soon, and there’s a million other parents pacing the room tonight too!”
Does this sound familiar, if it does, perhaps your little one is suffering from baby reflux – don’t feel you have to suffer in silence – do take them to your doctor or GP. If you are unsure, please comment here, and I hope that we can help out too, perhaps giving you the confidence to seek medical assistance. We have a linky on reflux in babies too; please feel free to pop over and add your relevant posts there too.