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.”

  • Questions, questions...more people have posted questions on our page. Help me out and share your experiences. :-)

  • Does anyone with a baby with silent reflux use infacol as well as rhuger? I used rhuger for my first child but doesn't seem to be helping as much woth number 2 I just like that was its natural, rhuger has helped a bit but he's spilling up more now for some reason (10weeks old) advise appreciated ☺

  • Hi guys how do you feed your reflux babies? Do you find it best to let the baby drink the milk in 2-3 goes or do you find it best to have larger 20 minutes breaks?

  • Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ looking for answers

    Hi everyone - there are more questions to the page that you might be able to share your experience around.

  • Hi. Have a question for any parents who have used zantac to control silent reflux. Baby is responding really well to it but almost 3 weeks in it seems to be causing a bit if constipation. Have just started using coloxyl drops for that but I suspect it is making the reflux worse , has anyone noticed this with these two medications ? And are there any alternatives that you have found work well for constipation ? Baby is 8 weeks old . Thanks in advance 😊

  • Hi all. My lil(literally) 9 weeks old bubba born 2.1kgs at 37 weeks *iugr baby* has been diagnosed with GORD and has cyanotic/apnea episodes from it. He is on omeprazole, gaviscon and pepti junior but all these doesnt seem to help much and he still has these cyanotic episodes randomly (awake or asleep). He was admitted to the kids ward at waitakere hospital when he was 2 weeks old. Hubs and i resorted in taking turns in staying up taking care of him at night as he needs constant supervision. These episodes happen very silently and randomly so we dont know when it will happen or when it happens.. We also have 2 older toddlers.. anyway anyone else went through/going through the same thing? Should we bring bubs back to his gp? how do you get seen by a specialist?

  • ... And more posts to the page. :-)

  • Hi there, does anyone have experience/success with getting their baby allergy tested? I went to a herbalist on recommendation of a friend. He tested me for intolerances and as a result I am now on a strict dairy/gluten/yeast/egg/soy and corn free diet ($430 poorer and starving...the herbs have done nothing). I've been dairy and gluten free since miss 3 months was diagnosed with GERD at 3 weeks but I'm sure there is more to it as her poos are full of mucous and she is still in pain dispite being medicated. Any suggestions? :)

  • What is someone called who specialises in GERD? What kind of specialist are they? I think it's time for us to delve further into this issue that my 3.5 year old is dealing with. Recommendations appreciated. We are CHCH based. :) Will obviously go through my GP but nice to know if there is anyone in particular who is great? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi there, I have a three month daughter who has a NG tube in due to reflux and being lactose intolerant and not feeding. My daughter is currently on prescription formula as there was still lactose in my milk even though I had cut out all dairy. She is more comfortable and settled now but its still a battle to get her to take her formula, she had associated drinking with a sore tummy so we had to put tube in as last resort. I offer her the bottle first at each feed (currently trialling Dr Browns bottles) and give her a big break when she starts fussing and then try again, what she doesn't drink goes down the tube. I'm wanting to hear from anyone who's had a similar experience and any success stories, what worked etc. Thanks

  • There a couple of new posts to the page that some of you might be able to share your experiences about. Just an update on our Guidelines, as our Guidelines are also being updated: Please do not mention health professionals by name. You may be praising them but someone else may have a concern and the post could become damaging to the health professional concerned. As the moderators GRSNNZ reserves the right to remove or edit any posts: -that recommend another medication as being better or to treat conditions that it is not indicated for -any discussion where actual dosages of medications are mentioned as each child is an individual with differing needs (These are the most important ones in relation to this Page.)

  • My 3 month old baby girl has reflux and is very spilly. Just lately she's started bringing back up lots more of her feed, I'd say at least 1/2 of it every time. She's EBF and I wondered whether it was normal or if there's anything I can do to her get keep the milk down. Not just for her, but as we know, breastmilk is precious!

  • Hi there . Have a 7 week old who is breastfeed with silent reflux. We have just started zantac a week ago and it seems to be starting to work but still have had some bad moments where she is clearly in a lot of pain. Fingers crossed it will improve things. I discussed going dairy free with my gp but she wasn't convinced this would have any positive effect however I would like to try so as not to rely only on meds as baby has not put on any weight in the last week . Can anyone recommend online resources or books that provide info on a healthy dairy free diet plan for breastfeeding mums. Or lists of all foods to avoid that aren't obvious such as milk, cheese etc. Also has anyone also had nil or minimal weight gain on zantac ? She put on a kilo in the first 5 weeks and then just stopped despite good feeds and being otherwise happy when reflux isn't causing pain. She doesn't vomit either so confused over the weight issue as seems to have slowed prior to starting zantac. Thanks heaps in advance as this has me pulling my hair out almost 😕

  • <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a&gt;

    Does teething have a direct relationship to systemic symptoms? And what non-pharmacological approaches are effective in relieving teething symptoms?

  • <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a&gt; Pacifier Campaigns from Sesame Street - not what I was looking for, but for any of you trying to loose the Pacifier with an older child this could be useful. Now back to looking for my colouring in supplies!

  • Hi everyone I'm looking for some advice for my toddler. He is now 2 years old and was a reflux baby and with the help of medicine he came right at about 6 months old . Ever since I started solids training at 6 months old food has been a nightmare and it's only just taken me til now to wonder whether his food aversions have anything to do with the reflux as a baby? He has never eaten fruit or veges voluntarily and I have to sneak them into to foods and even then he sometimes catches on - how can you know you don't like something if you've never tried it ? He basically wants to live on bread and crackers and hot chips, he won't eat most meat except chicken, won't eat pasta, I have tried everyone for help and no one knows what to do as I've tried everything and it's doing My head in. If this is connected to his reflux as a baby what can I do ? Sorry if this isn't the right place but every meal is a battle - I don't yell, I'm calm, I sit with him and feed him the same meals as me and he just says no :( I want to wean him off formula completely (have already cut the formula right down) but at this stage it's the only way I can get any nutrients and vitamins in him. And no he won't touch yoghurt or smoothies or juices - only water :(

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

    Thank you Linkage!

    Something to live by....

  • 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: <a href="; rel="nofollow"></a&gt; 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?