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.”

  • 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.

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    #sleep

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  • 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.

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    Join our PlunketLine Nurse Carla, PlunketLine Advisor Elaine & National SKIP Advisor Regan to chat about Baby Sleep (12 months and under). Post any questions you have below or private message us and we'll be sure to answer these during our chat. If we missed your question or didn't get to it we'll come back to you in the next 24/48 hours. You can check the chat out here: https://www.facebook.com/PlunketNZ/photos/a.367839658272.194714.176947128272/10153679203903273/?type=1&theater if you need any urgent support or advice you can call PlunketLine anytime - 0800 933 922

  • New Membership Form for the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ - but same address and similar details required: http://www.reflux.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz/grsnnz-membership-confidentiality-agreement-form/

    Please let me know if there are any problems, but I have tested it - and besides the WordPress Plugin insisting on US format for DOB...it was all good. :-)

    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...

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  • I have a 11 month old who will be 1 in a weeks times who has silent reflux. Gaviscon seems to work for him at them moment however I am looking at reducing the number of bottles he has a day. I was therefore wondering if anyone had any ideas on how to get the gaviscon in to as he current has four doses a day?

  • I have an 18 month old with silent reflux. It seems to flare up dramatically when she is teething. She can wake up to 10 times in a night! I am still breastfeeding and although this is good for her as it helps to comfort her I get very little sleep. I co-sleep so I at least can doze while she's latched. When the reflux is at its worst she gets very angry and lashes out, often banging her head on the ground. It's heartbreaking to watch and when she is in that state she doesn't want to be cuddled. I'm finding it so emotionally challenging as she is generally a happy, giggly, cheeky little girl in between times.
    She was so bad last week I was in full meltdown mode.
    She has had this since birth, I've always had a dairy free diet and from about 6 weeks old I took out dairy,soy, added probiotics and started her at the osteopath also. This helped heaps and at one point she was sleeping 6 hour stints at night. Then at 12weeks old it came back and has never left and I would say the last couple of months is the worst it's ever been. I've upped the probiotics and added other probiotic foods and am taking out acidic foods as much as possible. She has been a little better the last 3 days so hoping she'll keep improving.
    Has anyone had good results with osteo or similar at this age? I'm wondering if it's worth trying that again.
    I also want to know if people have had success with medications because I read forums online and it seems like only approximately(total estimation)
    2/10 people will write that it really helped them so I don't want to pump her full of things if there's not a good chance of it even working. What are your experiences?
    Help! And thanks in advance 😊

  • There are two new posts to the page if anyone would like to help by sharing their experiences.

  • Hi There I am looking for support for a toddler with reflux. She had terrible silent reflux as a baby and then we thought she had grown out of it by 1ish. Then she has been rediagnosed with it age 2 years one month - after countless ENT problems (She has grommets and has had her tonsils and adenoids removed) and constant constipation. The medication is starting to kick in but she is so upset and so angry all the time (also partly because she is a toddler). Any tips people have to soothe her and help her not be afraid of sleeping/ lying down much appreciated, We are also considering reintroducing her dummy as it worked so well last time, but are conflicted about wether it is a terrible idea or not.Thanks

  • For those dealing with a silent refluxer, what are the symptoms you've noticed? We've been treating my 9 month old for this but never had much success which makes me second guess if that's what the problem is :/ she wakes within an hour of going down at night (if we get her down!), won't settle until around midnight, sleep during the day is never guaranteed and now since starting solids she wakes very frequently dumb the night with what looks like either sore tummy or wind pain. Sound like anyone else's baby?

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared their note.

    A reminder please when you are replying to messages.

    Please do not give advice on dosages, advise families to give medications in two dosages when they were told to give them once daily by the prescriber or vice versa, or give direct advice on medications, formulas etc.

    It is perfectly fine to share your experiences as long as you do not discuss dosages of medications or mention health professionals etc.

    We love you chatting and supporting each other so please continue to do this, but keep it safe and non-medical.

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  • Hi Team. My now 3month old has been on Losec for quite sometime now and we had a different chemist make up the liquid and it looked different to out usual dose. Well he now seems like he is back to that child he was before we started on it. I have been back to the old chemist to get it better batch...how long will it take to kick back in,if it has gone out of his system? Cheers. Very exhausted mum

  • Emma has asked a question.

  • Can anyone help us? We have an almost 8 month old she's on Pepti jr, omeprazole and gaviscon. The last 2 weeks have been not very fun for us. She goes off to sleep nicely at 6.30-7 then ban at 9.30-10 inconsolable crying. Her reflux through the day is also much worse. We give losec in the morning and gaviscon with her bottle before bed but not at other feeds because it made her constipated. She's not interested in crawling and rolling anymore because she gets a lot of acid coming up and just wants to stand all the time. She is on a variety of solids is there anything I shouldn't give her because it makes reflux worse? We thought about taking out citrus peaches and apricots?? Too make everything so much more fun she is teething just got her first tooth yesterday ... Any advice much appreciated we would just like some sleep :-(

  • We have a question from Sara now too.

  • Hi there! Im just wondering if anyone has gone down the line of bubs having to have an endoscopy and pH probe study because of reflux lasting too long? My bubs is 15 months and still on high doses of reflux meds and she gets so bad when we try to wean them down. Her Paediatrician has referred us for an Endoscopy +/- pH probe. Has anyone had this? If so, what was the outcome and did it even change their management? Thanks!