Sunday, 3 February 2013

Reflux-from the POV of a parent who survived it

Firstly I'd just like to apoligise to the regular readers over my month long absence. For this there are two reasons: illness and I was busy working on my first Novel and well needed to get so much typed up I didn't get round to blogging. However I am now back, even though I am still busy working on other books. No rest for the wicked.

Although my little one is two, her baby days are still fresh in my head and I hope this doesn’t change as years go by. My little blessing was born at 38 weeks via C-section. It was a complicated birth but the outcome was positive-a healthy baby girl.

Due to some complications my little one was put on antibiotics as soon as she was born. It was heartbreaking and a testing time to see a little baby having an iv line put in but she needed it. She managed to rip out the one in her hand; so the staff had to reinsert it into her foot to prevent further incidents.

After an extended stay in Hospital (I had an emergency C-section, followed by complications, followed by two blood transfusions plus little one had complications too) we made it home. Unfortunately the path wasn’t yet smooth and we soon started to notice that our little girl wouldn’t take the recommended amount of milk, she threw most of her feeds up, and she cried a lot too as if she was in discomfort.

Now as a new parent what a lot of parents do is google symptoms and panic. However this gets you nowhere at all; in fact most medical professionals will tell you that all is normal, your child is just settling etc etc.

I decided to invest in a few books about sleep and sleeping patterns. I like my sleep; but then who doesn’t. I came across a chapter or three on what can effect a child’s sleep. Now to say my little one was a very bad unpredictable sleeper was an understatement. We couldn’t get her to sleep. She’d cry most of the time. It was exhausting and a very testing time.

So I joined online parenting forums, read medical articles and books to find out what was happening to my three week old. It took approximately three weeks of research and five trips to out of hours medical service (it’s the out of hours GP service ran by the NHS) before a diagnosis was made. The diagnosis that was made was:

Lactose intolerance: the name of a condition whereby the person is unable to digest the sugars (lactose) found in milk and other dairy products (but not necessarily all)

Reflux: also know as Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD (the more popular name for it in the States). It’s basically a chronic condition whereby acid travels from the stomach up the throat-often for babies resulting in projectile vomiting.

Now I am aware of parents who struggled for much longer to get their child’s condition looked at and diagnosed. What helped me was the following which I hope someone will find useful and help them out too:

  • We noted down all feeds, the amounts, her reaction and how long it took her to bring up her feed. We also noted what the feed looked like (e.g. curdled)

  • We noted down wet nappies

  • Her behavior

  • Any sleep and how she liked to sleep

  • Other symptoms e.g. stomach cramps, upset stomach

  • (Anything else that we thought was of interest to a medical professional-including the parents medical history


We did the above observations over a few days. We had been told it was colic but no colic treatments worked, but as many parents will tell you our gut instinct wasn’t happy with that. I felt my child had a Lactose intolerance and Reflux but I needed a medical professional to help us.

After we visited the GP who applauded our note making (as it did help him notice a pattern) we were sent to the local Hospitals Children’s Ward where the staff looked at the notes and the amount of times we had visited out GP and out of hours service. We kept our Health Visitor in the ‘loop’ too as she was a great help and actively supported our mission to get our little one seen and diagnosed as soon as possible.

The Hospital Registrar signed off a prescription of lactose free milk and a diagnosis of Lactose intolerance and Reflux was made. Our little one took an instant dislike to the milk (it smelt like vinegar) so we went back to the GP and a few calls later and little one was put onto Wysoy milk. And would you believe as soon as little one tasted it she was able to take slightly bigger feeds and the projectile vomiting ceased?

It just shows that doing your own research properly can actually help you to understand the medical problem and help you get a quicker response from your medical team.

Throughout our little ones progress we were given support by a Dietician-also via the NHS. She was the biggest help possible especially around Weaning time. In this day and age a dairy-free diet isn’t a curse; there are plenty of alternatives on the market. We are blessed. Plus how many times do you hear from a medical professional that they give you the green light to feed your child chocolate desserts if that’s what makes them happy?

Our little one still has Wysoy milk although we are gradually introducing diary products whilst monitoring her. So far we’ve been happy with the outcome-our little one hasn’t had any reactions which means her lactose intolerance is indeed fading. We were told by our Dietician that most children (not all!) grow out of Lactose Intolerance by School age so we were prepared for either or really.

So to recap Lactose is the sugar found in milk thus in cheese and yogurt. Not all of us are able to digest it and develop problems as my little girl did.

Reflux is to sum it up when acid in the stomach doesn’t allow your food/drink to be digested and throws it back up (with babies it’s usually projectile vomiting). It is controlled with various medication however dosages usually change as a baby/toddler gains weight. Most babies grow out of it as they start to walk as their upright position helps the acid stay down.

These of course are very simple explanations, if you use google you will get greatly detailed descriptions of both. If you are a parent just getting the hang of both I suggest you read up on a detailed report, and go from there. The more knowledge you have the better.

If you are dealing with reflux here is my advice; from a Mother that has dealt with the issue.

If your child is on medical to combat the reflux STAY on top of the dosages. If you notice that the vomiting is returning tell your GP as soon as possible; it maybe a simple case that your child has gained weight and needs their dosage reviewed. My little one was on the following: Gaviscon infant (to thicken the milk), Domperidone which helped speed up the process of digestion and the emptying of the stomach, and Ranitidine which in essence stopped the production of acid. Combined these medications helped our little one thrive. She’s a happy and healthy two year old so it shows that medical professionals know what they are doing and sometimes we do need to give our children a cocktail of drugs if we want to sort out a medical issue.

Babies hate being sick and once they are sick a few times they develop a fear of sickness and will only take small feeds-this is normal for a child with Reflux. Smaller dosages stay down easier for them. You will find that your baby has more frequent yet smaller feeds compared to a child who doesn’t have Reflux-relax there’s nothing to worry about.

Babies like being upright; you will find that a baby suffering from Reflux doesn’t want to be on their stomach. We avoided ‘tummy time’ activities.

Weaning will help your baby; your Dietician will help you with this. Sometimes early Weaning is recommended. Not a problem as long as you are all happy with the situation.

ALWAYS keep Health Visitors and other professionals in the ‘loop’ on developments. All Hospitals (as far as I am aware) inform your GP of visits to out of hour service visits; sometimes they will even give you a letter to pass onto your GP with an update. This is all good as the more up to date the team are around your child the less likely they are to either repeatedly ask questions.

Reflux babies hate sleeping on a flat surface. This is easily dealt with by either:

Propping up your child’s cot (with reliable props) at one end to create a slight angle OR

Using a ‘wedge’ pillow support. You can buy these online and they basically go under the fitted sheet directly on the mattress creating a 45 degree angle elevating your little ones head which in turn helps the acid stay down.

Your little one may struggle with sleeping especially the concept of ‘sleeping through the night’ you may find the sleeping books out there are wasted on your little one. Please don’t panic. My two year old still wakes at night. At first I’d cry and cry and cry about it. Now I’ve grown accustomed to it. Not all children are the same; authors often forget this. PLEASE don’t fall for the trap of comparing your child to someone else’s perfect angel who eats three times a day, takes full feeds and has slept threw the night since he was 6 months old. Your child has a medical condition and needs you to be strong and supportive not a critical eye.

Swings are a favourite toy-they gently lull a child whilst in the upright position. You may find your little one naps in this position. If this is the case speak to your health visitor and discuss if there is any harm in this.

Enjoy your baby-take them to the park, join a playgroup etc etc. Don’t let the fear of accidentally giving them a dairy produce destroy your precious time together. It’s not worth it; if you do join a baby group you’ll find staff will ask you about medical conditions and intolerance-these days we are all aware of how many health problems bundles of joy come with. We are more medically aware than we were back in 1913.

Your ‘gut feeling’ as a parent is often a signal there is something wrong. A GP won’t really take this as something to start alarm bells ringing, however if you do your research and prove that you know what you are on about and you simply haven’t pulled a medical term out of a dictionary.

Breastfeeding and reflux-this is a big kettle of fish I don’t want to discuss however I will say this-if you are breastfeeding and your child develops symptoms it maybe time for Mama to look at her own diet and consider non-lactose milk. Speak to a professional and do your own educated research.

REMEMBER-you are not alone.If you don’t have family to support you join an online parenting forum and soon you will have more family virtually then you know what to do with. Online communities provide support that is priceless.

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