My baby girl started life as a content baby. She breastfed well, she slept well at night, she napped regularly and we could take her out anywhere with us. At six weeks old this changed and our happy baby girl became fussy and irritable all the time. This started our long journey with reflux.
What is Reflux?
Reflux is when milk and acid rise back up from the stomach to the mouth. This happens because the valve at the base of a baby’s food pipe isn’t very strong. It is like a trap door that opens and lets small amounts of the stomach contents back up. It is normal for babies to bring up a small amount of milk and mild reflux is harmless and will resolve itself. But severe reflux is different because the amount of milk and acid that come back up can be much larger and can affect your baby.
Check out this practical guide for dealing with sleep, weaning, leaving the house and helping your baby to improve their symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Reflux?
Along with being really fussy, my baby was always hungry. But she kept pulling away from the breast and crying out, then latching straight back on. She didn’t sleep well and kept waking to feed every hour, she would also cough a lot when we lay her flat. But the biggest and hardest change was the vomiting. She would vomit over and over again. She has vomited on shop floors, on other people’s pushchairs, in the street, on the school run, over friends, on colleagues, on our bed and carpets… this list could become very long! And the amount is not small, it is a large, very noticeable pool that soaks whatever it lands on.
A list of reflux symptoms you may see:
- Fussy when feeding by arching their back and pulling away from the bottle or breast
- Refusing to feed
- Crying during feeds or just being irritable
- Frequent vomiting or spitting up
- Frequent waking in the night
- Comfort feeding because this can alleviate the pain
- Weight loss or poor weight gain
- Can show no outward symptoms but just being in pain – this is called silent reflux
Check out the NHS website for more information on reflux symptoms.
Managing the Symptoms of Reflux
I told my health visitor all about these symptoms at our next appointment. After weighing the baby it was clear she had stopped gaining weight and the health visitor mentioned reflux. This started the long journey to find out how we could manage her symptoms.
First the GP prescribed Gaviscon to thicken the milk in her stomach. This was really frustrating for me as a breastfeeding mum because I had to express milk to mix with the Gaviscon powder. I found it went down better and stayed down better if I expressed 1 ounce of milk and mixed the Gaviscon in with this. We tried this for several months, but it didn’t improve her symptoms and she still had slow weight gain.
Next the GP prescribed ranitidine to use alongside the Gaviscon. Ranitidine reduces the amount of acid in the stomach, so when baby vomits it is less acidic and causes less damage to the food pipe and throat. This did bring her some comfort and she started to feed more easily. But she still had slow weight gain.
Breastmilk or Formula
As weight gain was still slow I was advised to try feeding with a comfort formula in case my milk was in short supply. I didn’t want to give up on breastfeeding, so I decided to try combination feeding for a few weeks. So I started on a dairy-free diet. As a result, she did start to gain a small amount of weight, but only because she was now feeding twice as much. However, the formula made the vomiting much worse and she also had explosive nappies!
Our GP decided to try her on a partially hydrolysed formula to see if she would improve. This started a whole new journey finding out about cow’s milk protein allergy. Although the new formula helped her to gain weight and thrive we continued to battle with vomiting.
Improving Reflux Symptoms
At 7 months old we saw a paediatrician who suggested trying Carobel as a thickener with the new formula instead of Gaviscon. This did help a lot more but didn’t stop the vomiting completely. However, with the medication, hypoallergenic formula and all of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way I have my happy, content baby girl back and that makes me a happy, content mummy.