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.”

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ wrote a new note: POPULAR PAGES.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ wrote a new note: GASTRIC REFLUX SUPPORT NETWORK NZ - FACEBOOK PAGE GUIDELINES.

  • 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 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!

  • Hi everyone, Brylee has asked a question. Have a look at the posts to the page. Thanks for sharing your experiences in advance.

  • i keep getting an error message when trying to register?

  • Has anyone else had a major setback with reflux after their little one starts moving? I am feeling so emotionally drained and thought it was supposed to get better, he's now nearly one and we are back to square one

  • I've just hit SEND on the newsletter so if you are a member, you should receive it over the next 24 hours. I'm using MailChimp for the first time, so it will look a little different.
    If you aren't a member and would like to receive newsletters or join our local support groups, please complete a membership form:
    Membership is free. It has been great to see two to three new members every day since I fixed the form! :-)

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

  • I've just discovered our membership form hasn't been working due to some unknown glitch and I've spent the last few hours getting it working again. I suspect this has been like this for a fortnight. So sorry anyone who has been trying to join. Remember membership is free and you can join in confidential chats with those in your local area.

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

  • Another Post created on our website from the Tips on Coping thread from National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week. Thank you so much to those who contributed. I might just try and add this into the Help! Menu as well.

    The following is created from a thread during National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week on our Facebook Page There were 38 comments with advice or tips on how parents coped with infants or children...

  • Story 2 from National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week transferred to our website for safekeeping. :-)

    Daughter number 3 was born in 2000, weighed 8lb, 6oz and fed well, but we escaped the maternity home earlier than with number 2 as she just wouldn’t settle at night easily. At eight days old, my husband found her grey and limp, but breathing. She went on to have prolonged apnoeas (cessation of...

  • National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week logo profile photos - The week finished 6th June. There are still a few people we've noticed with the logo as their profile picture. Can you please remove this now?

    Many thanks, for your support.

  • Thank you everyone who contributed to this. I think it will help others know that they are not alone in what they feel and experience. I also think it might be a great resource for health professionals.

    The following is created from a thread during National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week on our Facebook Page It included words or short phrases that had something to do with what gastric reflux meant...

  • Who has seen National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week Posters in waiting rooms, reception areas, play centres, consult rooms or anywhere else?

    There was quite a number posted or delivered around NZ so we would love to hear if you spotted one.

    This is the printed A4 glossy poster that has our phone number and website address at the bottom - not the digital graphic. Draft preview here:

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared their photo.

    Thank you so much to everyone that supported the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ and promoted National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week by taking up the Challenge and using the logo as your PROFILE PICTURE on your PERSONAL PAGE.

    It was wonderful to see so many people doing this and I did lots of double-takes when visiting some pages as there were so many orange PROFILE PICTURES.

    I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to next year and am already making plans. Hopefully, many of you will no longer be dealing with Infant Gastric Reflux, but feel free to come back between 31st May to 6th June and give others some hope that they will get through this difficult time. Put it in your diaries. :-)

    Best wishes for the year ahead,
    Roslyn Ballantyne, National Coordinator, Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ, National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week 2015!

    (Please note the National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week logo is copyright and may only be used with permission from GRSNNZ. It may be shared using the Facebook Share Function.)

    A Challenge to you ALL except we ask that you only do this on your Personal Profiles i.e. NO PAGES or GROUPS. National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week starts tomorrow and continues until 6th June. During this time GRSNNZ would love you to create Awareness by using this logo as your profile picture. Once you have set it as a profile picture please add a comment to the picture on your page and put the link to this Facebook Page and our Website: and so others can find out more. (Please note the National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week logo is copyright and may only be used with permission from GRSNNZ. Permission is granted as above for the use of Personal Profile Pictures only. It may also be shared using the Facebook Share Function.) Example in the comment soon. Many thanks. GRSNNZ Committee.

  • I'm slowly copying over the Awareness Week happenings to the Crying Over Spilt Milk website so we don't lose them. You will also find some of last year's publicity and stories there. Here is Day 1.

    My first child definitely had very few, if no signs of gastric reflux. I can’t even remember her spilling much – mind you, she is 22 years old. Three years later we had another daughter, born 13 days late, who decided she should then enter the world in a rush. She became unsettled at about two...

  • Hi.

    Just wondering people's opinion or feedback on how they get their baby to sleep?
    My GP wants me to let my 5 month old 'cry it out' but I just don't think it's the best idea for him. At Present we feed him to sleep.


  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ shared Mum 2 Mum's photo.

    Just sharing this back to our timeline again as this was a perfect way to promote National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week.

    The logo and Awareness Week is not used to sell a product or promote the business.

    It links back to our website and Facebook page so that users can identify that the logo belongs to the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ ,and seek support and information.

    Top points Mum 2 Mum.

    Today marks the first day of "National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week" - here at Mum 2 Mum we are not strangers to refluxy and spilly babies and we we know how hard it can be as parents some times. If you have any concerns about your infant or child's health or think they may be suffering from Gastric Reflux, please contact a healthcare professional - if you wish to learn more (from symptoms to real experiences), please take a look at the national gastric reflux support website: or check out Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ :)

  • Copyright: The National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week logo/graphic is copyright to Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand and may only be used with permission from GRSNNZ.

    During National Infant and Child Gastric Reflux Awareness Week 2015 the logo has been used without permission and in some cases to promote businesses.

    Crying Over Spilt Milk and Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust does NOT endorse any product, business, health professional or treatment as there is no one correct way to treat or parent our infants and children with gastric reflux.

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ updated their cover photo.