Reflux in babies: Don’t worry, projectile vomit ISN’T normal

Projective vomit in your babies ISN'T normal - here is MY story - I hope it helps some of you to get your docs/peads to listen to you #babies #parenting #reflux #health

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Projective vomit in your babies ISN'T normal - here is MY story - I hope it helps some of you to get your docs/peads to listen to you #babies #parenting #reflux #health

My son is now five years old; he sleeps well, and he’s a relaxed, if slightly manic, little boy. But barely two weeks into his life, it was all very different. He was a reflux baby, and so his early days were far from calm and sleep-filled.

He struggled to nap, and when he did go down he was unsettled and would wake up again, so I fed him. It felt like he was constantly on the boob, and I was alternately feeding him, trying to stop his distress, or trying to get him to sleep. There was no let up.

In the end we read. I am a librarian and an analyst by training. Books are my refuge. The internet is my advice centre. I went to wherever I could to get information on what was going on with my little bundle.

We diagnosed him ourselves as having reflux. his symptoms literally screamed it to us:

  • Wailing in pain after feeds,
  • Being desperate to suck; whether it was on me, on my finger, on a dummy, anything to ease his pain,
  • Thrashing about and arching his back, even though he was only a few weeks old,
  • Refusing to sleep, even when he had just been breastfeed,
  • Instantly waking up when we put him down to sleep,
  • Preference of sleeping on his tummy. This was something which I wasn’t happy doing because we all know the advice about cot death and lying our babies on their tummies. He seemed much happier sleeping in a car seat, or in his bouncy chair,
  • Grunting like an old man in the corner of the pub when we did manage to get him to sleep, a bit like he was trying to get comfortable,
  • Projectile vomiting pretty much after every feed we gave him.

Reflux is a sort of acid indigestion; the acid comes back up from a babies immature tummy after food and burns them – put very crudely. It is not pleasant for them and hurts like hell.

We managed on a couple of hours sleep a night for what felt like an eternity. For some reason the last feed of the night was generally OK for a couple of hours; I never worked out why this was, but I was grateful for those small mercies.

He would wake up for a feed in the night and that’s when the trouble started. Anytime 9-10pm was his cue. From then on, I was constantly trying to comfort him. Holding him upright on my chest, his tummy against my shoulder.

At first we tried bouncing him up and down on the birthing ball we had. Something his sister had loved when she was little. Looking back it was THE worst thing to do, but we just didn’t know. It made him worse, and I still feel terrible for trying it even now. Now I know what he had, and I realise that the acid was probably pushed higher up by my bouncing, by my attempts to comfort, I shudder. We were just trying to help him…

Typically, I would wake up, having found out he had fallen asleep, upright, on my chest, as we were both so tired. I would try not to do it, but I simply couldn’t help it, and neither could he. It felt like the only way he would ever get to sleep and stop screaming.

This round robin lasted for five weeks…..

….Then I snapped.

Don’t be afraid to push the doctor about reflux – I did and it worked

Reflux in Babies: Always happiest sitting up!
Reflux in Babies: Always happiest sitting up!

I don’t know whether it was the sleepless nights, the realisation that he was in pain, or pig-headedness, but whatever it was, I went against the advice of my health visitor who said he was just being a baby. She said that he was perfectly normal, he was gaining weight, and so it couldn’t be reflux. Reflux babies didn’t gain weight, they lost it. However, I knew how much I was feeding him; to comfort him. I realised that with that amount of feeding, he would put on weight no matter what he was losing with his phenomenal cosmic vomiting powers!

I ignored the health visitor and took him to the GP.

The GP told me it was probably nothing and would pass; he was colicky and so would go away soon. He was the professional, I was just a book-loving internet geek. So….I went away with my tail between my legs.

Lucky for me, I had another child.

Over the next few days, I looked at her; she was only 20 months then, not the seven she is now.

It was recent enough to remember what she was like; and she wasn’t like this.

She was a newborn yes, and she cried, but she didn’t seem to be in constant pain. And most importantly, her vomit couldn’t have felled a deer at 2 metres. There was something not quite right with Stuntboy; sick shouldn’t be able to take out animals.

I went back to the GP, and deliberately asked for the senior practise partner whom I had a feeling might listen. I was right. He did. Within an hour my husband had come home to get my daughter, and I was in paediatric A&E as they thought it might be pyloric stenosis. This is a narrowing of the opening from the stomach to the small intestine and it causes prolific vomiting.

The doctor gets it in the neck; the projectile vomit naturally…

We waited a while, I fed him twice there as he was either hungry or in pain, I was never quite sure which, and the paediatrics doctor eventually came to see us. He took him from my arms, laid him down to examine him…







He projectile vomited all over him right on cue.

That’s the first and only time my kids have performed for the doctors. Usually if there is something wrong with them, or they see someone in a green uniform or at a GP surgery; we are miraculously cured. Not this time.

“Is there usually this much?”

Was the rather stunned response from the doctor. Oh yes, there most definitely is….

So we were packed off with some advice, some Infant Gaviscon, and told to go back to the GP if things didn’t improve.

Combating reflux in babies….

Reflux in babies; Sleeping upright seemed to help a lot
Reflux in babies; Sleeping upright seemed to help a lot – as do all the toys your sister brings you while you are crying…

And oh my god, what a difference that little bottle of Infant Gaviscon made. It was a bit of a mission, but to combat the reflux we were to:

  • Sterilise a syringe
  • Give him his medication after every, single breastfeed. At eight weeks old, he was still feeding day a night, a fair bit
  • Hold him upright for at least 30 minutes after every feed, including the night ones
  • NEVER change a nappy immediately after a feed, even in the night. The only times I ignored this because I was too sleep deprived to think straight, we got new wallpaper…
  • Raise his cot and his change table off the ground
  • Allow him to suck for comfort; we tried a dummy and that didn’t work, so we helped him find his thumb. That worked a treat, though it’s not quite as easy to stop thumb sucking as it is if they have a dummy of course…
  • Put him to sleep on his tummy; this wasn’t the advice of the doctor’s – this was us trying to stay sane. I know it won’t be for everyone. We did get a monitor with a sensor though that worked brilliantly. However, this combined with the raising of his cot did give us a bit of a problem one night, but that’s for another post…

Just a little medicine and a syringe, but it changed our lives. And most importantly, our little boy wasn’t in pain anymore.

He was only 8 weeks old, so I am one of the lucky ones. I know many other mothers, often first time mums, who have suffered with their babies longer because some professionals find it so hard to trust a new mums instinct. Particularly in the case of silent reflux where vomiting is absent, or where the Infant Gaviscon just doesn’t agree with their little ones, or the reflux needs stronger medication.

If you are looking for posts about reflux check out our series of blog posts about reflux in babies. I hope that it will give other new mums, or even some old ones like me, the ammunition needed when talking to health visitors about it. I know some health visitors are happy to listen, but there are others that dismiss it as the ramblings of over-protective, neurotic new mothers. Some other mothers who have experienced the problems reflux can cause will be coming over here to share their experiences too.

Thank you for reading this post. We hope that it has been helpful to you. If you are looking for more baby tips then check out these other posts from KiddyCharts.

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  • Has anyone had experience with a preemie who vomited a ton in the beginning but then once every three days at about four months. We’ve tried so much. It’s now back to almost every day. It doesn’t hurt him. He doesn’t arch his back. Comes out his nose. Full bottle out his nose.

  • This made me cry. I wish I had read this many many sleepless nights ago. My son is now three and still doesn’t sleep through the night but at least he is out of pain now. But no doctor would listen to me. They told me it was normal. The first TWO YEARS of his life were almost identical to what you explained, and I kept taking him back and they kept telling me it was nothing. But he was my first. Now having a four month old little girl I KNOW that’s not normal. I mourn the pain he went through, and I mourn the loss of an amazing first two years experience with my baby. Thank you for sharing this, I really hope someone else in the same situation reads this and feels empowered enough to push back and get what they need for their child.

  • My son was projectile vomiting and ended up with cancer – a tumor the size of a grapefruit in his abdomen was causing the “reflux”. Doctor just shrugged it off until the tumor started crushing his liver and he turned jaundice.

  • My little boy is 2 and still doing projectile vomiting. We are now waiting for a camera to beput ddownhis throat to see whats going on. Thats 2 years after he first started doing it at 3days old. I complained for ages no one helped. He now complains of stomach ached after eating then vomits. Hope yhey diagnose this now.

  • My son was actually wrongly diagnosed with reflux -after what seemed like forever on gaviscon, ranitidine etc and the GP refusing to believe there was anything wrong, I finally took him to a&e and he was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis. He had surgery at 5 weeks old and is now 4 yrs old!The message here is persist if you think there is something wrong-trust your instincts!

  • Great post, luckily none of mine had reflux but had lots of friends who’s did and saw how stressful it was for them

  • My little girl was the same and I had so many problems getting it sorted in the end she also was lactose intolerent and we’ve had a 16 month battle. Drs are supposed to be fully qualified yet things like this baffle even the most qualified leaving mothers totally panicking. Glad he’s a happy bot now gives me hope

  • My middle one had reflux and I tried everything. I went to a cranial osteopath in the early days and she diagnosed a malformed digestive system and did some work on it. She didn’t really grow out of it until she was about 1, when she spent more time upright. Such hard work. I feel for anyone who is going through it :(

  • Your poor son! Good on you for being so persistent, and getting him the help he needed. Yes you’re right – it sounds as though much more awareness is needed of this issue, considering it took you such a long time to get any of the professionals to listen to you.

  • I was concerned that my girl would have Reflux as she has a condition which tends to go hand in hand with it. Thankfully she escaped it but it’s posts like this which must be such a help to those new parents going through it.

  • wowzers! Good on ya for persevering & getting the treatment, sometimes our instincts are right & doctors are too quick to dismiss it!

  • Isn’t it sad that doctors don’t just listen to mothers! We know best! My little man suffer for 5 months until I absolutely lost it! My poor little man had suffered long enough, and it was just colic! Reflux is such an awful thing for our little ones to go through. It breaks my heart every time I feed him and he projectiles his entire feed right back out. Thank god for zantac to ease the pain! I can’t wait until he grows out of the projectiling part! There should really be more awareness about this! No one discusses these types of things at prenatal classes etc… So mums are forced to go online and diagnose our own children who then go to the drs and say ” he’s just be a baby.. Babies cry” ” he has colic… This too shall pass” I feel like drs just think moms over react to everything. I was ready to have a nervous breakdown and finally my dr sent me to a specialist. It just breaks my heart. I’ve learned I definitely have to go in with fun blaring to get what I want… So sad.

  • My son is 10 months old and still has reflux. He vomits on a daily basis whether its formula or solids and also had episodes of apnea. He is low in weight weighing in at 18lbs. He has been on 3 lots of medication since he was 3 months old and recently changed from ranitidine to omeprazole. It gets me down that any food he takes he vomits and It’s a constant battle to get him to eat or drink in the 1st place. When will he grow out of this? Should I be concerned that he is on Gaviscon, domperidone and omeprazole yet still vomiting his whole stomach contents?

    • Hi there – we aren’t qualified to give medical advice on here, of course. So sorry to hear your little one is still suffering. Have you been to the doctor and explained the situation? Is ur little one still gaining weight? Have you video-ed, perhaps with a smartphone, his discomfort after feeding? I hope u get some more help. Good luck.

  • Hi, I could have wrote that post myself! My little boy is 8 weeks tomorrow and only since 4 weeks I have noticed he wasn’t quite right. Hes suffering badly with silent reflux. It has taken 2 trips to out of hours and 2 trips to the doctors. I started him on the milk enfamil saturday( advice from a friend not doctor) and I think the doctor took pity on me as he wasnt going to prescribe anything but I asked for ranitadine. He rang the hospital who said yes.
    I actually searched reflux and so happy I found this link up :)

    • So pleased that this has helped you – its so hard to get people to listen isn’t it? Glad you are getting help for your little boy now. Fingers crossed things get easier faster for you xxx

  • It’s good 2 see the awareness of reflux raised , it was many years ago now but i remember feeling awful before we had heard of reflux and i had explained 2 a friend and she said but babies do cry. She didn’t have the foggiest about what our little one was going thro . We also amusingly remember an elderly lady peering in the pram and saying with a screwed up face “i’d send him back if I were you and get a different one “

  • My second little on is two and a half now, and she was an undiagnosed reflux baby until she was four and a half months. She wasn’t gaining weight, either vomited what she could eat, or she would just refuse to take anything at all. I cried every day and was at times, terrified about her health and survival. My heart breaks for anyone who has a baby with reflux. She was diagnosed after an upper GI at four months, and was also prescribed medication, although she took a compounded Prilosec. After bad advice from her pediatrician, I was able to wean her off the meds at about 15 months. We too had to be persistant to convince her pediatrician that something was not right, and I encourage others to do the same. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • A very welcome upcoming series! Reflux is close to my heart; my daughter was a similar serial projectile vomiter and at 2 and a bit still suffers from moderate-severe symptoms and we have tried out most things under the sun by now bar surgery! About time people shared so people realised reflux can be so much more than “just a bit of sick” or a bit more crying. It is so painful for child, and family. x

    • Hi there, Amy. Thanks so much for dropping by and for linking up as well. It sounds like you had a terrible time, and are still struggling. And you are right, people so need to take this seriously; it is far from easy for anyone. Much luck in getting the poor little one sorted – it sounds a long road for you :-(

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