This story is a member’s personal experience and opinion, and is part of their healing process. Please be aware that some of the stories on Crying Over Spilt Milk are of more severe or complicated cases of Gastric Reflux. Serious or complicated cases of Gastric Reflux are rare. If you think you may be disturbed by some content, please visit this page before deciding to read further: Infant Gastric Reflux Stories
Being a mother-of-two already, I figured that I knew a bit about babies when I found out I was pregnant. Then I looked at my maternity notes from the last time around and was reminded that at six weeks, my son had been feeding every two hours during the day and every hour at night. Yikes! So when Liam was born at 38 weeks (by elective C-section due to complications last time), I expected non-stop feeding. But for the first two weeks, he did little more than sleep and poop. I had to wake him for a feed every three hours. Hey! I thought. I can do this, this is easy!
But the honeymoon period didn’t last long. As the weeks went by, he became more and more restless. It became almost impossible to put him down because even if he was in a deep sleep, he’d startle awake after a few minutes and cry furiously. We had occasions on most days where he’d cry non-stop, as if he was in pain, for an hour and couldn’t be comforted.
There wasn’t any hope of him sleeping in his cot. Even when he was cuddled up next to me in our bed, he’d wiggle all night and wake up crying constantly. A change of position and a few minutes of patting him on the back usually did the trick, but my sleep was very broken and I was becoming more and more zombified as the days went by. I’d noticed that he spilled a lot, usually five or six times after every feed. Sometimes it seemed that he would bring up the whole feed, and I felt that I may as well cut out the middle man and just pour beast milk over my clothes. Liam became less and less settled and the laundry piled up. The older boys needed me too, and I’d have to put Liam next to me in his rocker and race around making sandwiches at breakneck speed while Liam worked himself into a fury. On a good day, I’d be able to wash the dishes while rocking Liam in the rocker with my foot and I’d feel like I’d achieved something. On a bad day, I’d get nothing done and feel penned in, surrounded by piles of dirty clothes, dirty dishes and three loud, demanding boys. My husband and I played ‘pass the baby’ when he got home from work. I’d hand Liam over and stretch and wave my arms around, revelling in having them back. I really enjoyed cooking dinner because although it was ‘work’, it was felt good to have my arms free. I mentioned to the doctor that Liam was unsettled when we went for his six week check. I’d heard of reflux so mentioned it in passing, but I thought that reflux babies screamed non-stop – a bit like 24-hour colic. Liam was fine for most of the time, as long as he was held, so I muttered that I wasn’t sure. She said that he probably did have mild reflux, but given that he was feeding often and making good weight gains, she wouldn’t prescribe Gaviscon because it’s best to avoid medication for babies. When I got home, I did some research. Liam’s behaviour sounded very much like reflux. But I was never quite sure whether he was unsettled because of heartburn or if it was gas pains – he was a very windy baby, with a constantly grumbling tummy and regular ‘poppings’ from his bottom. When we winded him after a feed, he’d let rip with big, violent burps. At eight weeks, the Plunket nurse visited. Before this, we’d had 48 hours where I’d been unable to put Liam down for more than five minutes. I’d basically held him all day, most of the evening and all through the night. I was starting to feel claustrophobic. I told the nurse that he wouldn’t be put down and she immediately said that it was a classic sign of reflux. I’d assumed that all babies wouldn’t be put down for long – at least that was what I’d remembered from last time. When I said ‘Don’t all babies want to be held all the time?’ she laughed and said no. At last I knew there was a physical reason and it was such a relief to hear that Liam’s inability to settle wasn’t down to me being a useless parent. The nurse suggested I try Gaviscon for a week to see if it made any difference. What with having no energy due to sleep deprivation and with a visit to the doctor being hard to fit around picking up the older boys from kindy and school, I procrastinated for a week. Then Roz from GRSNNZ mentioned that Infant Gaviscon is available over the counter. I bought some the very same day and the results were immediate. That night, he slept for six hours in his cot. From being in my arms all day, he went to having two decent sleeps in his rocker during the day. It felt like I’d got my life back… well, as much as I could with a small baby and two boisterous boys to look after. Now at 11 weeks, he’s still much better. He’s not perfect and still suffers from some sort of digestive pain from time to time (I never really know whether its heartburn or gas pains), but he spills a lot less and he sleeps peacefully a lot more. And he smiles, laughs interacts, and makes being his mother a much more enjoyable job.
© Louisa, Mother and Member, Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust 2005.