From Baby to Toddler: Life with Reflux

09/25/2013 — Leave a comment

From the beginning, our Little Bear needed a lot of tender loving care.   As a newborn, he had an upset tummy with frequent episodes of projectile vomiting (across the room), severe colic, gas pains, regular hiccups, stop-breathing episodes, and lots of choking, gagging, and coughing.


Because he was so uncomfortable, he was unable to sleep for more than forty minutes at a time during the day or the night.  He was uncomfortable all the time and he cried constantly, unless my husband or I was pacing the floors with him.

In the evening, when my husband came home from work, he would entertain Little Bear until I made dinner.  Once Little Bear was tired, my husband bathed him while I ate dinner.   After I gulped down my food, I went upstairs to get Little Bear ready for bed and nurse him while my husband ate.  Then we would take turns walking him and rocking him for hours until he eventually exhausted himself from screaming and fell asleep.  Many people suggested that we take him for a car ride until he fell asleep.  However, he was miserable in his car seat and he screamed inconsolably whenever we put him in it.  Once our baby was asleep, I would collapse on the bed beside him.  Since I had to delay my return to work to care for our little one, my husband was now our primary breadwinner.  Because he needed to function during the day, he would sleep in the bedroom on the other side of the house where he wouldn’t hear us getting up every forty minutes throughout the night.

We were told over and over:

“It’s just reflux”

“All babies spit up a little.”

“He’ll outgrow it.”

“My baby had colic too.”

“Enjoy it.  They grow up so fast.”

Fast?  Time seemed to pass very slowly.  Every evening I lay down in bed wondering how I was going to make it through the night.  Then every morning I would get up and wonder how I would get through the day.

As weeks turned into months, Little Bear’s tummy troubles led to feeding problems, such as oral sensory problems and the inability to tolerate any pureed or solid food.  Whenever we would try to feed him, he would immediately vomit.  Little Bear’s distress only got worse in the evenings and he continued to wake up every forty minutes throughout the night.  We ignored advice to let him “cry-it-out” because we knew that he was in pain and he needed comfort.  As more months passed, Little Bear’s feeding difficulties (in addition to multiple food allergies and intolerances) eventually resulted in inadequate weight gain, failure to thrive, and some vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Over several months we tried various remedies and techniques to relieve his discomfort.  We gave him small frequent feeds and held him up for thirty minutes after each feed.  We elevated his crib mattress slightly.  We made sure that his diapers fit loosely and put him in one-piece outfits to avoid an elastic band around his waist.  We gave him castor oil tummy massages.  We tried probiotic drops, fennel tea, dill seed tea, camomile tea, slippery elm and marshmallow tea, and homeopathic colic remedies.  I tried several different elimination diets to see if he was reacting to something in my breastmilk.  We even went to see some alternative health care practitioners such as a naturopathic doctor and an acupuncturist.  Unfortunately, none of these measures seemed to make a difference.

By the time we were able to see a pediatric gastroenterologist, Little Bear was almost one year old.  He was immediately diagnosed with Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which explained the restless sleep, the vomiting, the stop-breathing episodes, the distress in his car seat, the arched back while sleeping, and the need to nurse constantly since milk neutralizes stomach acid.  It also explained why he wasn’t able to tolerate any food.  As our gastroenterologist explained, whenever Little Bear swallowed some food, even pureed food, he immediately vomited because the food felt like reflux to him.

The correct diagnosis made all of the difference in the world.  Once Little Bear began treatment, we finally began to see improvements in his condition.  Our treatment plan included appropriate medication and working closely with an occupational therapist and dietician to monitor his weight gain and eating habits.

Over the last few months, he has come a long way.   Just the other night, we all sat down together for dinner.  Little Bear was content to sit in his high chair and feed himself while my husband and I ate our meal.  When it was time for bed, Little Bear slept in his crib while I curled up beside my husband in bed.  We waited for Little Bear to wake up, but he slept for a full three hours.

It was wonderful.


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