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.”

  • Try to relax and enjoy the little things this Sunday. #gastricreflux #gor #gord #infant #baby #gastricrefluxsupportnetworknz #cryingoverspiltmilk #child #family #reflux

  • I have an 18 month old son who had silent reflux. we weaned of gaviscon about four weeks ago. His symptoms for reflux were aconstant runny nose, cough and wheezing. For the last week he has had the above symptoms again. I have had him to the Drs and they have said just to give him his inhaler as he is wheezy. I have always had to fight to get the diagnosis of reflux. I was just wondering if anyone has weaned there child off gaviscon and if so how long would it take to symptoms to possibly reappear?

  • Spilt Milk (Canterbury) February / March 2016

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Spilt Milk's event.

  • We have been weaning off omeprazole and the most recent drop didn't work so we have increased again. How long until she's feeling herself and not in pain again?

  • My 10 week daughter I think is suffering from reflux. She doesn't spill alot however I notice she swallows back quite often. Latley she has been gaging. She has been in a lot of discomfort from about 2 weeks. I've been taking her to a chiropractor which I thought was heping but this last week seems to be back to her old symtoms. I'm just wondering about the medications people use. Do they work? She is gaining good weight. So I'm wondering do I just go another month and hope she grows out of it? or do I try the medications? I'm just worried they might cause trouble Down the track? I don't have a very good GP so no help there. Any suggestions would be great thanks ☺

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Motivational and Inspirational Quotes's photo.

    Definitely borrowing this one... #cryingoverspiltmilk

  • #gastricreflux #gor #gord #infant #baby #gastricrefluxsupportnetworknz #cryingoverspiltmilk #child #family #reflux

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

  • Had you noticed that this page for the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ is a Verified Page by Facebook confirming that it is an authentic page for the Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust? http://www.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Above Rubies's photo.

    Thank you to our previous National Coordinator for sharing this one. And in the words of Kelly from SmileDial our children might be a different kind of perfect.

  • Thanks Margot Kristensen for adding me to here we have a silent refulx baby we've been in and outa hospital for help and suport she's 8 weeks old crys frm the moment she wakes till any were frm 11pm or later I've tryed everything she has this day of screaming all day and then she's exausted the next day the pediatrician says there is nothing he can do and she is in pain were Goin to be admitted to mother craft in Hamilton as I can't rock her all day every day I'm exausted 2 any tips or advice pls

  • I have a 4 month old (5 at end of month) he's on omeprazol for silent reflux. He's started spitting his medication and I can't get him to swallow all of it. He gets distressed and this morning he vomited it all back up after gagging on it. He's had a flare up I'm sure cause he's not getting enough. I've asked GP for capsules w. Baby pear, but been denied cause hex too young. Anyone had luck mixing liquid with anything to get him to take it?

  • Hi We were prescribed gaviscon infant and told that it acts Like a plug keeping the acid down, b However I noticed on the crying over spilt milk site that there are two gaviscons used and that it is the other one that acts like a plug. My son is on ranitidine for silent reflux, which has helped but he still wakes up all the time from it and during the day will only sleep for about ten minutes before waking. Can anyone explain the difference between the two gaviscons? Also, is there any reason why my son sleeps better at night? Or is he just exhausted from not sleeping during the day? Thanks in advance for any advice

  • Please check the posts to the page and help out on a recent question if you have ideas for helping keep a young baby upright.

  • Hi there, I have a little 3 week old baby girl who we have just been told has reflux. It causes her a lot of pain and because of the reflux her windpipe gets closed off for an extended period of time with the milk/acid going up and down causing her to go bluey or purple which is very scary. She needs to be held 99% of the time because when lying her down it causes a lot of pain and also causes her to be sick out her nose and mouth. She has been started on gaviscon at every feed which seems to be helping with the "choking" episodes but I still need to hold her all the time. I am wondering if anyone has had any good slings or has any ideas that may help to keep her upright and comfortable to sleep etc. for both me and her. :)

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

    #understanding #havebeenthere

  • Our daughter has had reflux since about 5 weeks & she is now 7 and a half months old. She will sleep 12 hours and wake to have 30 mls. She has small amounts often throughout the day and cannot handle anymore than 80 mls which is few and far between. She also has solids 2 - 3 times a day. She is also still on newborn teats and we try all the time to go up but she cannot handle the flow and wont drink at all. She is now a good size and looks healthy but only because I am constantly feeding her and also have a 4 year old who has gone backwards in her behaviour and toileting because Miss 7 1/2 months is so time consuming. She is under a pediatrician, on Ranitidine 3 x a day and is booked in for a barium swallow on the 18th of this month. Has anyone else had/have this issue?

  • #gastricreflux #gor #gord #infant #baby #gastricrefluxsupportnetworknz #cryingoverspiltmilk #child #family #reflux

  • Our seven week old baby can sleep for hours vertically in our arms, but wakes when in his back. When he is sleeping on his back he often makes a sound which sounds like someone clearing their throat, it goes on and on and eventually he wakes up. He doesn't spit up, but often has white on his tongue. He also grimaces a lot in his sleep. Does this sound like silent reflux? I'm especially keen to know if anyone has experienced the same type of noises in their baby. We have a doctors appointment on Tuesday.

  • There is a post to the page about settling babies with Gastric Reflux to sleep.

  • #gastricreflux #gor #gord #infant #baby #gastricrefluxsupportnetworknz #cryingoverspiltmilk #child #family #reflux

  • Hi all, I've successfully moved to a feed, play, sleep routine during the day with my 4 month old who is on omeprazole (although we battle the sleep but at times!) - however we still feed to sleep at night, and I keep him upright for 30 mins afterwards (asleep). I've been reading up on trying to stop feeding to sleep for 5 month olds to try and stop this sleep association and it suggests keeping baby awake for 10 mins after a feed then putting down awake/drowsy. How do people manage to get their reflux babies down at night without feeding to sleep? I'm confused on how to make this work whilst needing baby to stay upright after a feed for 30mins. Thanks!

  • Hey all, our baby's doctor is currently on holiday and the replacement is unwilling to try any medications for our 5 week year old reflux baby. Our regular doctor prescribed gaviscon, which has helped a little.. but still have a lot of problems and our midwife has suggested omeprazole. Any advice? Could we go back and demand a referral to a paediatrician? How long does it usually take to see a specialist? Thanks for any help :)

  • Ok this might seem a bit of an odd, specific question but I was just wanting to know if when your bubs reflux, do you get any warning that it's coming? Can you hear it bubbling up? I ask because I think my poor girl has 2 separate conditions: 1. Reflux, which seems like there's no warning it's just BAM all over your shoulder. 2. Forceful vomiting (of unknown cause), which you get warning with - her stomach starts to spasm and she shudders and jerks and it comes up out of her nose and mouth, other times it is like a fountain. It also appears a bit random when it happens. Does this sound correct ?