Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Awfulness of Reflux in Babies - Part One

If there is a word that sends shivers of horror down my spine it is reflux. It's just the most horrible thing and one of the reasons myself and my husband have been in zombie mode for the last 6 or 7 weeks.

Unfortunately J suffers from silent reflux. I had never heard of such a thing before I had a baby but I'm all too familiar with it now. I thought I would share our experiences in case there are any other parents out there reading this in the middle of the night holding a refluxy baby upright and feeling like there is no end in sight.

Most babies suffer from minor reflux. It's what causes a baby to spit up and is due to the fact that the sphincter muscle in their oesophagus is not fully developed, allowing contents from the stomach to "escape" and flow back up. Some babies have it worse than others and it causes them a lot of pain and/or to vomit their stomach contents a lot.  With J, this kicked in at about 3 weeks old. We noticed he seemed to be in pain and was quite uncomfortable. He was arching his back a lot, and had bad smelling spit-up that arrived sometimes 2 hours after a feed and had the texture of cottage cheese. The worst part of it all was his obvious discomfort, I can't describe very well the noises he made at night but they were quite distressing. It was like he was screaming in pain but not crying like a baby normally would, it was more of a screaming combined with grunting, groaning and moaning. Refluxy babies also sound very congested as if they have a cold due to the liquid rising up the oesophagus. At night. J used to sound like Darth Vadar on a bad day. As you can imagine none of us were getting much sleep. J did also not sleep much during the day so I (and to a lesser extent Mr HNW) was completely exhausted.

In hindsight, I know we were actually lucky in some ways because J does not projectile vomit very often (one spectacular time in our GPs waiting room does come to mind though, he managed to cover the walls!). Some babies have such severe reflux they have to have a procedure called a Nissen Fundiplication which involves surgery to reinforce the oesophageal sphincter. This is given to babies when the reflux causes them to fail to thrive as not enough food is staying down.

J's reflux is of the silent variety, meaning the acid goes up his throat and he swallows it back down. Basically it is heartburn and his throat was getting burned by his stomach acid, particularly at night when he was lying flat. Having had bad heartburn when I was pregnant I know how uncomfortable it is. During my third trimester I felt like a dragon breathing fire most of the time and had to sleep propped up on what felt like every cushion in the house.

As most new mums these days do I turned to Google straight away to see what it could be and got a lot of results saying it was reflux. Once I read the symptoms it made perfect sense. This coincided with a visit to the paediatrician in Holles Street for another issue (the Public Health Nurse had noticed some random twitching when she was visiting - it turned out to be nothing). I spoke to the paediatrician who recommended propping up the legs of his crib with telephone books and putting a rolled towel under his mattress to keep him propped up at night. And so our attempts to relieve the reflux began......

To be continued

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If anyone is out there I would love to hear any thoughts you have after reading this blog!