Coping with Reflux Toddlers

From all the contact that I have had with G.R.A.S.P. parents over the past two years, as well as the increasing amount of information that has been obtained from the return of your questionnaires, it seems that more and more GRASP members who originally joined because they had babies with reflux now have toddlers with reflux and all the extra problems that this brings.

Are you one of this elite group?*! If you are you’re not alone. Although, we are still told that 90% of children grow out of reflux by the time they are one year old. So are these figures wrong? Is it possible that as recognition of reflux increases, recognition of those children who go on to have reflux beyond one year of age is also increasing?

I know that in my own experience it was very difficult once my son turned one to get health professionals to listen. Nobody wanted to know. Babies grew out of reflux by one year of age, the continuing problems must all have been ‘behavioural’. After 12 months of struggling for recognition, Eden (then two) was finally proven to still have reflux.

Anyway, back to the reason I was prompted to write this. Coping with a toddler with reflux – how do you? It’s difficult isn’t it? And you get so much conflicting advice from everywhere. And toddlers can really put on a performance and show you up as the horrible mean parent that people always thought you were. Recently on a shopping trip my little angel decided to throw a tantrum (we all know that most toddlers with reflux can’t sit still long enough to race down one supermarket aisle). Anyway, I was just trying to loosen his grip from a trigger-bottle of weed-killer that he had pulled off some shelf when a lady passing in the aisle JUST happened to pass a comment to another shopper that she wondered ‘what that woman was doing to the poor child’. That was just the icing on the cake for me! I felt like running after her and suggesting that she take him home and try living with him! Another common phrase seems to be ‘you’re just not hard enough on him’- I’d like to know just what ‘hard enough’ is!

From the information that I’ve been able to collect both from all of you out there and from personal experience, the typical refluxing toddler may have some or all of these problems:

# Irritable, clingy, cries lots

# Sleeps poorly, wakes often

# Poor eater, or refuses to drink/eat

# Becomes worse if given acidic, spicy or fizzy food

# A virus, ‘stomach bug’ or teething may trigger an attack of reflux

# Seems to have boundless supplies of energy, can’t concentrate, can’t sit still

# Has difficulty interacting with other adults and/or children

# Is nervy, highly-strung, stressed or tense.

# May express their feelings by biting, head banging, and other forms of aggressive behaviour

And there seem to be two common philosophies on how to deal with all this:

1. The lets get tough method. Ignoring crying, ‘tune out’, not responding to night waking, offering rewards for good behaviour such as eating, etc. etc.

This method can work for some children. If you decide to try this method – get some support! Remember though, if reflux is still causing pain, consult your doctor about alternative treatments to deal with the reflux before you try this one.

2. Other parents with refluxing children have tried method no. 1 and failed, or use other methods of dealing with these problems. Here are their suggestions!

# On a bad day take time to do something that you wouldn’t usually do e.g. a trip to the park, perhaps somewhere with lots of space and few people.

# Avoiding prolonged periods in confined spaces with too many people.

# Investigate opportunities for the child to interact with other children/adults with and without you there.

# Many of these children respond well to relaxing activities such as swimming.

# Some mums found it helped to continue breastfeeding / others wished they’d given it up!!

# Encouraging finger food but at the same time not pushing the eating issue can help.

# Offering small amounts of food often.

# Going for long drives in the car or alternatively, reducing travel.

# Keeping a calm relaxed environment or alternatively keeping to a strict routine-

# Taking your child as he/she is.

From my own experience, after six weeks of a strict sleep program and using ‘time out’ to deal with the irritability, offering expensive bribes for eating etc. we gave up. The screaming was definitely getting worse not better! It seemed to me that most of Eden’s problem was that he was too tense to sleep and eat, too nervy with other people, and too stressed to sit still for five minutes (all as a result of years of reflux pain I guess, who wouldn’t be highly strung?!) So turning away from the ‘lets get tough’ method advocated by our health professionals, we tried a method of our own. We have found through trial and error that the things that Eden responds well to are: massage with calming essential oils like Chamomile and Neroli before bed and when irritable (he now sleeps all night), long hot baths (he finds it more relaxing to have a bath with me than with his five year old brother), distraction on bad days e.g. trips to park, swimming etc, and for us to stop focusing on what he didn’t eat and concentrate on what he did! (We’ve found it best not to make a fuss when he does eat as it puts him off). We believe that Eden’s medication is now controlling his reflux adequately and that now he is very rarely in reflux pain, but the years of pain have made him a very stressed little individual. For Eden a sleep program and ‘time-out’ seemed only to make him worse as the more he screamed the more stressed he got and then the more he screamed (a real snowball effect).

As always, different methods work with different children. Contact with another parent who has a toddler with reflux can also help; share ideas! Above all realise that you know your child better than anyone else and because of this you may also find that you already hold the key to the problem. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help though! I’m not pretending the path is easy, sometimes it takes time and patience, sometimes it takes self-control, always it takes trial and error. Don’t expect too much of yourself, whatever method you try. We have the hardest job in the entire world as parents, even harder as parents of refluxers. Make sure you get some time out for yourselves. You’re all doing such great jobs – you deserve it!

© Rochelle Wilson (GRASP National Coordinator 1995 – 2001). Used with permission

Page may be printed or reproduced for personal use of families, as long as copyright and Crying Over Spilt Milk‘s url are included. It may not be copied to other websites or publications without permission and acknowledgement. This information (unedited) was also provided (by GRASP) to health professionals in New Zealand to use ” to continue to support and inform families with babies/children with Gastro-oesophageal Reflux.”

  • Hi I have an 8 week old prem (6 weeks early so 2 weeks corrected) suffering from reflux. She is exclusively breastfeed and the dr has prescribed gaviscon. I am having real difficulty in getting her to take it. I have tried syringing it and also tried to feed via a bottle (she had never had a bottle for anything before) but she is just refusing it or spitting it back out. Does anybody have any tips for getting bubs to take the medicine?

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Plunket New Zealand's event.

    There might be some of you who are interested in joining Plunket's Chat on Toddler Sleep. Please head over to Plunket's Event.

    Join our PlunketLine nurse Carla for our 'Toddler Sleep' chat on Wednesday the 26th of August from 8-9pm. Post any questions you have below or private message us and we'll be sure to answer your question during our chat. The chat will take place on our timeline with a 'chat open' post at 8pm.

  • Wow yesterday Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ had 5 new members in one day! I think this is a record.

    If you want to join also: http://www.reflux.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/grsnnz-membership-confidentiality-agreement-form/

    I haven't processed most new members from this week as my middle daughter has been very sick with glandular fever. I'll do this as soon as I can.

    Roslyn Ballantyne, National Coordinator

    Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for Parents of Infants & Children Charitable Trust Membership & Confidentiality Agreement Form First Name: Last Name: Email Address: Street Address: City/Town: Area: Auckland Canterbury Gisborne Hawkes Bay Marlborough Nelson Northland Otago Southland Taranaki...

  • Hi there, im new to this page and I've just found out my 12week old has gastric reflux.
    We are currently going through a growth spurt and she appears to be in more pain from the extra milk intake, has anyone experienced this?
    I'm thinking about taking her to the hospital to get some pain medication....

  • Hi all, Just wondering if any of you have had a similar experience. My 7 month old is on omeprazole 2ml morning and night. For a few nights we have accidentally forgotten to give it to him... And then the last 2 nights he has screamed blue murder for hours. He would go down ok but then wake and cry for hours like he is in pain. Nothing will console him. Its the only thing we have done differently - has anyone has a similar experience??? Thanks! Bec

  • Hey! Day 4 on gaviscon for our 4 week son and he's constipated any suggestions to get him going?

  • Hallucinations on Omeprazole!? ... Forgive me if this has been discussed recently or at all (probably not I'm guessing) I was active on this page when my daughter was just a baby with terrible reflux. She was on omeprazole back then until about 8-9 months old. She is back on it as of a week and a half ago just to trial whether her frequent cough and waking in the night could be reflux back at age 3.5!!!!.... Anyway, for the last 4-5 nights she has woken terrified that there are worms in her bed and on her body. (It is not a nightmare or a night terror) last night was the worst night yet! Awake from 1-5am with the most frightening hallucinations yet. Worms and flies all through the bed, on the ceiling and even as I consoled her she screamed that they were all over my face :( it was heartbreaking. Even with all the lights on she could see them. I could go on describing this but I won't. My question is has anyone's child or you yourself experienced the very rare (but documented) side effect of hallucinations? Needless to say I am stopping the meds today.

  • Please tell me someone is in the same boat...

    Our son can't sleep for longer then a few minutes at a time without gagging on his reflux and waking himself up. Normally the only way for him to get any sleep is to sale him and hold him vertical against our chests.

    He is on Gaviscon, Omeprazole (losec) and we've just dropped Ranitidine (Zantac) and added Domperidone. Nothing so far is helping to resolve this sleep issue. His bed is on a steep incline but often the moment you put him in it he starts spluttering and throat clearing loudly until he wakes.

    He's 9 weeks and I've been dairy free breast feeding for about a month. He has now started Neocate formula.

    Anyone else have a baby who can't stay asleep because of reflux? Any tips?

  • There is a new post to the page asking for any feedback on experiences around surgery for reflux.

  • I would love some feedback from parents who kids that have had a fundo. Our daughter (6) has been suffering all of these years with reflux combined with eating disorder (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, basically associates food with pain) and now docs have suggested a fundo so I'd like to hear people experiences

  • http://www.healthshare.health.nz/home/2015/08/07/midland-dhbs-set-to-launch-free-breastfeeding-app
    We are being kept up to date with this, so will make sure this is added to the website links when it is available.

    Breastfeeding mums and pregnant women will soon have useful tips and advice at their fingertips with the launch of a new, free, breastfeeding app.

  • Has anyone found that omeprizole made a reflux baby worse??
    Ds is the worst he has ever been since starting losec, but I'm unsure whether its the losec causing it or something else.
    Has anyone seen improvement after stopping losec?? He's 4.5 months

  • There is a new question if anyone wants to share their experience. Remember no medical advice! :-)

  • I'm interested in chatting to anyone who may have been, or is, in a similar position to me. I have a beautiful 3 month old son, exclusively breast fed. I think he's suffering from silent reflux. He looks like he is going to vomit, sounds like liquid comes up, but doesn't spit anything up. He flicks quickly between happy and unhappy baby. He seems to want to feed a lot and doesn't seem to have an off switch when he is full. I'm worried I'm making him worse feeding him. He's always gained weight well until more recently. We had been using a dummy but stopped because I got sick of him waking wanting it in the night, but starting to use it again in desperation. He's thankfully a very good night sleeper. He is starting to get bottom teeth now to make things worse! He has a lot of dribble at times. He doesn't really spill a lot, and doesn't cry that much but just doesn't seem happy. Currently trying homeopathic wind drops, weleda colic powder and I take a tea that was made up for me with multiple herbs including fennel. I've also got an amber necklace on him. I am not a hippy but like the idea of natural solutions more than giving him meds if I can find something that works. Happy to use medication though if needed. He has no signs of any allergies so I don't think it's that. Interested in any suggestions or thoughts! Thanks!

  • Just for some fun. You have to watch the clip.

    Thinking back two years prior to pregnancy, this couple recalls how they thought they had everything about parenting all figured out. But they quickly realized all of their aspirations were not very realistic when their precious little one was born into the world.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Judy Arnold - Infant and child Consultant's photo.

    It is about time for another Coffee together and to ask Questions Thursday morning, 9.30-11. Looking forward to catching up.

  • Just wondering - is gaviscon like a fast acting relief - like for that feed only- or is it longer lasting ?

    I haven't used gaviscon for 3 days and my 10 week old has been good for 3 days so thought maybe he was getting a bit better - but then tonight spewed up quite a bit. Is that because the gaviscon was still working in his system and now has worn off ? Or does it have a shorter term effect ?

    We have also just started trying formula. 50ml yesterday and today and it was after that he spewed- so also wanting to rule out the fact that it's the gaviscon wearing off...to see if the formula is making him spew.

    I'm pretty sure he's reacting to the formula but just curious how long gaviscon relief works also.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Hope For The Broken Hearted's photo.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Interstitial Cystitis Association's photo.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Patient's photo.

    #sleep

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared a page.

    Empowering families of people with disabilities and health impairments through support and information.

  • Hi there, my daughter has been on omeprozole granules (5mg, twice daily) since 6 weeks old. I've talked to our GP about how and when to wean, his advice was to go cold turkey "whenever we felt like it"..!

    I'm looking for some advice from other families on how they went about weaning - Would like to take a gentle path.
    Are there signs of readiness?
    What age did you start?
    Did you drop one dose and see if there was any effect before fully weaning?
    Or is cold turkey the right thing to do, after all?

    Thanks.

  • Hi all,
    Does anyone know if its okay to mix kiwiherb stuff with losec to mask the taste if you stick to the correct dosages? Eg .5ml each of kids calm, echinature, and chest syrup mixed with 3.8ml of losec?

  • 10 day old baby showing signs of reflux already. Similar to his brother (who is now 22months).
    He has the "breath that smells like stomach acid", looks like he's got a bad taste in his mouth, the "cottage cheese" spit up at times and obviously a very sore tummy after feeds.
    I am babywearing to keep him upright which is helping.

    I suppose what I'm asking is at what point do I go to gp and ask for a paed referral? My husband says don't go looking for trouble until it becomes a much more obvious issue.

  • Can anyone in the Wellington area recommend a good doctor with an understanding of allergies/ intolerances? I'm convinced our doctor doesn't get it! My poor bubba needs a formula top up and is intolerant to diary protein and soy. The doctor wants to start solids but he is only 4 months, I want to leave it until 6 as there is a family history of food intolerances.