Has my baby grown out of reflux?

Toby and Gabe have both had reflux. Toby’s was silent, meaning he wasn’t sick, and was diagnosed at six weeks. With Gabe I recognised the signs much sooner (with him the vast amounts of vomit were also a clue!) and he was on medication by two weeks old. But how do you know when your baby has grown out of reflux?

Well, if your little one is on medication for reflux then the only way to see if they have grown out of it, as opposed to the symptoms just being well controlled by the medication, is to stop giving it to them and see what happens.

In fact dealing with reflux in babies and toddlers is all just trial and error, because they can’t tell you what’s wrong, what hurts, what helps – and as the parent of children who have suffered with reflux it is incredibly frustrating and it can make you feel as guilty as hell.

Gabe at eight weeks old with reflux

We were incredibly lucky that despite both Toby and Gabe having reflux neither of them have had any allergies. Read more

5 things I wish I’d known before having a baby

Before Toby was born I read loads of pregnancy and baby books. I went to antenatal classes with my husband. I signed up for all the ‘your baby this week’ emails…basically I did my research. That’s just the kind of person I am; I liked to be informed and therefore hopefully be prepared. But it turns out no amount of research can actually prepare you for that first night at home with a newborn. I’ve now had two babies and I thought I’d share some things I wish I’d known before having a baby.

5 things I wish I'd known before having a baby Read more

What is colic in babies?

*This is a collaborative post

According to the NHS website ‘colic is the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It’s a common problem that affects up to one in five babies.’ This crying usually happens in the evening and can go on for several hours at a time. There are some other indicators that your baby may be suffering from colic; baby draws knees up to his chest, baby has a swollen stomach, baby passes wind more than usual. If your baby has some or all of these symptoms then it is likely that they are suffering with colic.

What is colic in babies

It isn’t really know what causes colic – it may be trapped wind, indigestion or some other discomfort but the truth is that no one really knows. As long as your baby is gaining weight, feeding normally and seems otherwise well then colic is usually nothing to worry about. Most babies will grow out of colic when they are between four and six months old.

However, there may be other causes for excessive crying in babies. I have had two babies with reflux and I know that in the past reflux was often dismissed as colic when in fact it is something which can be treated with medication if necessary. Things like allergies and intolerance can also present with similar symptoms. If you are at all worried you should always speak to your GP or health visitor.

So having said that colic isn’t usually something to worry about it doesn’t make it any easier to live with. I know how heart breaking, and exhausting it can be to deal with a baby that won’t stop crying for hours on end. I have been there so many times…rocking, pacing, singing, pushing, shushing…doing everything I can think of to try and get my babies to stop crying.

There are a few things you can try though to try and ease the symptoms of colic;

  • try to make sure you are winding your baby thoroughly after every feed.
  • an over the counter remedy such as Infacol may help to release trapped wind.
  • carrying your baby in a sling can really help to calm them – being upright against the warmth of your body can be very comforting. I can remember spending hours with Toby in a stretchy wrap walking up and down the living room to get him to settle.
  • a walk in the pram or a drive in the car can sometimes help.
  • white noise works brilliantly for some babies – you can get apps for your phone, or why not try the vacuum cleaner, a hairdryer or the washing machine. I have sat both my boys in their bouncy chairs in front of the washing machine before now!
  • baby massage can be very comforting for a baby, and also help to release trapped wind. I went to a baby massage course run by my local health visitors but there are lots of videos available online too.

Colic can be awful to live with, both for you and your baby, especially if you don’t have a lot of support. If you can then do speak to your partner, family and friends and take whatever help you can get. Even getting someone to take the baby out for a walk for half an hour while you have a shower, or a nap, or even just sit and stare into space with a hot cup of tea, can make the world of difference!

Wishing away the baby days // Living with reflux

When Gabe was born I knew there was a good chance that he could suffer with reflux just like Toby had. I thought that having been through it once I would be better prepared to cope with a reflux baby the second time round but that didn’t stop the disappointment when I realised that, at just a few days old, Gabe was showing all the signs of reflux that Toby had; being sick after every feed, sometimes hours later, the back-arching, the hiccups, the gulping, the awful screaming if you tried to put him on his back… the list goes on.

Wishing away the baby days - living with reflux

At least this time I took Gabe to see our GP when he was only a week old and we were prescribed Infant Gaviscon, a week later we added ranitidine too. It took six weeks of screaming and trying to console an inconsolable baby before we got to the same place with Toby. But whereas with Toby the Gaviscon and rantidine controlled his symptoms reasonably well, Gabe hasn’t been so lucky.

The Gaviscon has mostly stopped the vomiting, although he can still be a bit sick, and sometimes hours after a feed. But despite increasing the dose in line with his weight the ranitidine just doesn’t seem to be controlling Gabe’s symptoms as well. If you’ve been reading my blog over the last few months you’ll know that Gabe has been almost constantly ill since about February, and every time he is ill, whether it’s a cold, or a stomach bug, or teething, his reflux gets 10 times worse.

He isn’t too bad during the day but at night reflux really rears its ugly head. Most bedtimes involve at least half an hour of crying (from him and me!), standing up and swaying, rocking, singing, doing anything I can to get him to calm down and sleep. A really bad bedtime can see the crying continue for up to four hours; even going out in the buggy or car doesn’t always work to get him to sleep.

And then once he is asleep he can wake two or three times every night, needing milk to settle him back to sleep every time, and then he’s awake and ready to start the day sometime between 4:30 and 5:30 am, usually having spent the second half of the night in bed with me.

And now, after 10 and a half months of this, I am physically and emotionally broken. My arms and back are in constant pain from holding and rocking a stone and a half of baby every night. The lack of sleep is getting harder and harder to cope with. I have spent the last 10 months simply existing from one day to the next. Instead of enjoying Gabe’s baby days I have been simply wishing them away until he reaches the next milestone that might bring with it an improvement in his reflux. Some babies get better when they can sit up, when they start eating solid food, when they need less milk, when they can stand up…. but we are still waiting for the improvement to come.

I can’t wait until Gabe is fully weaned and doesn’t need bottles any more. I can’t wait until he only needs one nap a day, and then no naps, so we don’t have to spend so long fighting to get him to sleep, and Barry doesn’t have to spend huge chunks of his time pushing him round the streets in the buggy just so he’ll have a nap. I can’t wait until he’s got all his teeth and we don’t have to suffer the endless sleeping nights that teething brings. I can’t wait until he can talk and then at least he can tell us what’s wrong and where it hurts instead of constantly having to guess and hope that whatever we’re doing is helping.

I know, really, that the only thing that will bring an improvement in Gabe’s reflux is time. We thought Toby was over his reflux when he was about the age Gabe is now and we weaned him off all his medication. But six months later we realised that wasn’t the case and got him back on ranitidine…and then it took until he was two and a half to finally get him medication free.

Two weeks ago we finally got to see a paediatrician at the hospital after being referred by our GP back in April. Thankfully this doctor agreed that Gabe’s reflux still isn’t under control and has prescribed him omeprazole to try. Gabe has been taking his new medicine for just over two weeks now and it does seem to be helping. He has been more settled at bedtime but he’s still waking up in the night wanting milk, although perhaps not so often. He is teething quite badly at the moment too though so it’s hard to tell. It’s teeth numbers seven and eight that are on their way, one has just cut and so hopefully the other isn’t too far behind and then perhaps we can all get a bit more sleep.

Of course then we’re moving house next week which will be a massive upheaval for everyone. I’m really hoping we see an improvement in Gabe’s sleep soon though because I have a feeling the move will bring with it some disturbed nights from Toby too.

I’m in a Facebook group called ‘Living with reflux’ which is mostly for parents of children with reflux. I know from reading the stories on there that there are so many families who are dealing with situations much worse than ours and I really feel for them. But still, I can’t help but feel sad that reflux has stolen much of the enjoyment from both my babies’ early years. I have spent the majority of the time wishing for them to be over. And even though we never had any plans for a third baby, there is no way I would risk having another baby with reflux. I just couldn’t cope with this again.

 

Gabriel is ten months old

Yep. That’s right. Gabe is ten months old. Another two months and he’ll be one. And actually because I’m so late writing this month’s update he’ll actually be one in just over six weeks!

Gabriel is ten months old

When I wrote Gabe’s nine month update he had about 10 chicken pox spots and I was hoping he was going to get away with a mild dose but no such luck. A couple of days later and he was covered; they were all over his body, his bum, his face, his head, in his ears, eyes and mouth….it was horrible and he really suffered for the next week. Despite not scratching any of his spots he has ended up with a few scars on his body and one right between his eyes – hopefully it will fade a bit over time but I don’t see what else we could have done to avoid them.

And it just doesn’t get any better for my littlest bear – the week after he had recovered from his chicken pox he got another stomach bug. He was sick one evening then seemed OK overnight but was sick five times the next day. After he’d got over that he seemed to be really struggling with his reflux and then started teething again… It really is never ending! Despite all the illness we have still managed to get out and about a bit this month and Gabe seemed to enjoy having a go on the swing a few weeks ago.

Enjoying the swing

Hopefully though there is some light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel. I can actually feel a tooth on one side and the other one doesn’t seem to be too far away. And last week we finally got to see a paediatrician at the hospital after being referred back in April. The doctor has prescribed Gabe some new medicine and so far it does seem to be helping so fingers crossed things are on the up at last and we can all start getting a bit more sleep soon! At the moment Gabe is still up at least once or twice a night (and often more) and is usually awake and wanting to get up at some time between 4:30 and 5 am. Most nights he ends up in bed with me in the early hours too. I wouldn’t say I was an enthusiastic co-sleeper but I just do whatever I can to get as much sleep as possible at this point.

In spite of all the illness Gabe has made some big developmental leaps in the last month. He is super speedy at crawling now, making it very difficult to get this month’s milestone card picture!

Gabe won't stay still

He has learnt to pull himself up to standing which he is incredibly pleased with himself about. He’s started cruising along the furniture too. It does mean we have to be in a state of constant vigilance though as he is still a bit unstable and hasn’t quite worked out how to sit back down properly yet either so he always seems to be seconds away from causing himself an injury!

Gabe only wants to stand up

Our progress with weaning has been slow this month as being ill and teething has affected Gabe’s appetite quite a lot and I think because of that he has’t really grown or put on much weight in the last month either. His co-ordination is improving all the time though and he is getting much better at feeding himself finger foods, although he is still mostly spoon-fed. I’m hoping we can get him more used to lumpier food over the next couple of months and he can eat the same as the rest of the family. He usually has three bottles of milk during the day now, but also has at least one or two during the night as well. I’m hoping that getting his reflux under control will help us stop the night feeds too.

Gabe enjoying some lunch

Gabe has also started making much more distinguishable sounds now too. He says hiya and although we’ve not quite got Dada yet he does say ‘a-da’ instead. It’s very cute.

I think that’s probably about it for this month’s update. When it comes time to write Gabe’s eleven month update we will be mid house move and he’ll have to deal with lots of disruption to his normal routine. We’ll be leaving the house he was born in which is a little bit sad but hopefully by this time next month we will be getting settled into our forever home. And please, everybody, send all your wellness vibes this way because I would love Gabe to have a month where he isn’t ill at all.

0-10 months

 

 

The return of reflux?

I mentioned this briefly a few weeks ago but I wanted to write a proper post about it.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you might know Toby was diagnosed with silent reflux when he was about 6 weeks old. He was on Infant Gaviscon and ranitidine until we managed to wean him off them when he was about 9 months and we thought that he had grown out of it and we had seen the back of reflux for good.

return of reflux

Fast forward 8 months and I started to suspect the reflux hadn’t gone after all. Apart from a golden period between 10 and 18 weeks when Toby slept every night from 6:30pm to 8am he has never been a consistently good sleeper. Even when his poor sleep continued after we weaned him off the reflux medication it never really occurred to me that reflux might be the problem.

He was still waking up for two or three bottles a night but I assumed it was because he was hungry. Giving him more to eat during the day didn’t really help although as he tends to sleep better at the weekend when he seems to eat more than he does at nursery I still thought hunger might have something to do with it.

Up until a couple of months ago I don’t think there had been more than a few days in the last 8 months when Toby hasn’t either had a cold, or been teething (or both). I always assumed that these things were affecting his sleep too. I was probably right but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started to make the connection that these things could also be causing reflux flare ups.

However, Toby’s first molars came through just after Christmas and we knew he definitely wasn’t teething but we had got to a point where it was usual for Toby to wake up for at least two bottles in the night, or sometimes three or four. On a bad night he was drinking almost 2 pints of milk. That is not normal for an 18 month old boy! We tried to get him back to sleep but he just wouldn’t settle without milk. I also started to notice he would arch his back and stiffen up (while screaming) which were typical signs of his reflux when he was younger. He never seemed to have any trouble during the day but then I suppose he is now upright for most of the day so gravity is helping to keep the acid down.

And so back to the doctor we went. I asked if we could try ranitidine again and luckily our GP agreed that although it was hard to be sure if it was still reflux the only way to find out was to try him back on ranitidine and see if it would help.

It hasn’t been quite the miracle cure I was hoping for but it has definitely helped. We still have some nights where Toby wakes up and although milk still helps him to settle he isn’t desperate for it like he was before. We’ve had quite a few nights recently where he has slept through the whole night as well so I’m really hoping things are improving.

Unfortunately, with the better sleeping at night has come a different problem; even when he was waking up three or four times a night we never had any problem getting Toby to go to sleep in the first place. In the last few weeks he has started crying whenever we leave the room and we’ve ended up having to sit in his room until he goes to sleep. This isn’t too bad at bedtime but not so much fun when he does it at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Anyway, I can only stay positive and hope things will continue to improve. I know Toby shouldn’t really need to be having a bedtime bottle at 20 months old but my plan is to try and get him consistently sleeping through before we get rid of the bottles all together.

If anyone has any experience of reflux in older babies, or any ideas on how we can all get a better night’s sleep then please do let me know!

No more reflux!

no more reflux medication

Toby was diagnosed with (mostly silent) reflux when he was about six weeks old. I wrote about his diagnosis and treatment here. Once we got Toby on the proper medication he reflux was much easier to manage. He was very rarely sick and as long as we gave him his medicine he didn’t seem to be in any discomfort. A few times over the next few months I had to call the doctor and get them to recalculate the dosage of ranitidine – the dosage can be increased in line with a baby’s weight gain so whenever we noticed Toby’s symptoms returning we would increase the dose. The last time we did that was when Toby was about six months old, around the same time we started weaning.

I had read that babies often grow out of reflux and this can coincide with the introduction of solids. In fact some parents are even advised to wean their babies early to try and reduce reflux symptoms. The difficulty is that, if your baby’s reflux is well controlled with medication there’s no way of knowing if it is improving or not without reducing the medication and waiting to see what happens. We had tried this a couple of times before but Toby’s symptoms had always come back but when he got to six months we thought we would try again. (We had already stopped using the Dentinox Colic Drops the month before – I really don’t think they were doing anything anyway!) We started off by reducing the amount of Gaviscon in his bottles. He used to have one and a half sachets in an eight ounce bottle so we slowly reduced this over several weeks. We cut down to one sachet per bottle and kept it at that for a week with no ill effects. So we then reduced to two-thirds of a sachet for another week (this one was a bit tricky but as we always made three bottles at a time it just meant two sachets split as evenly as we could between the three bottles). That went OK so the next week we went down to half a sachet. Toby was sick a little bit as we reduced the dose, which was a bit strange for us as the Gaviscon had previously meant he was never sick, but it was nothing more than a bit of spitting up occasionally after a feed. We finally had a week with a third of a sachet per bottle before stopping the Gaviscon all together, although we could have probably skipped the last week.

After that we started reducing Toby’s ranitidine. This was the one I was more worried about because without it previously the reflux caused him real discomfort and I didn’t want to put him through that unnecessarily. Again, each time we reduced the dose we kept it at the new level for a week before reducing again. At its highest, Toby was taking 1.5 mls of ranitidine morning and evening and 1 ml at lunchtime. The first week we just dropped the lunchtime does completely. The next week we reduced the morning dose to 1 ml and kept the evening at 1.5 ml, the next week both doses were 1 ml. A week later we cut out the morning dose. We kept just the evening dose of 1 ml for two weeks just to make sure all was well – Toby’s symptoms had always been worse when he went to bed. And finally we dropped that last dose and that was it – NO MORE REFLUX MEDS!

I have left it a couple of weeks before writing about this because I wanted to make sure Toby really had grown out of his reflux and we weren’t going to have to go back to medication. And so far so good! To be honest we probably could have reduced his medication much quicker but it’s so hard to know. We didn’t get any guidance from our health visitor or GP (although to be fair I didn’t ask!). I wanted to do it slowly to make it easier to monitor Toby’s condition. He suffered from silent reflux so there weren’t really any visible symptoms – we got pretty good at spotting the signs of when he was uncomfortable but as he has been teething the last few months as well it would have been easy to confuse the two and go back to the reflux meds when that wasn’t really the problem.

I’m so glad we have managed to wean Toby off his medication. It makes preparing feeds a lot easier, it’s easier to go out without worrying about taking medicine with us, but most of all I’m just glad that my baby boy is OK and doesn’t need to take medication every day any more.

We were lucky really, in that Toby’s reflux was fairly mild and managed well with medication, and that it didn’t seem to be linked to any kind of lactose or cow’s milk protein allergy which is very common. I know there are a lot of parents struggling to deal with reflux babies and perhaps not getting the support they should from their healthcare professionals. I am glad that I stuck to my guns with my health visitor and GP and pushed for medication that worked for us. I would say to other parents in a similar situation to trust your instincts; if your baby’s reflux still isn’t under control keep going back to your doctor, push for a referral to a paediatrician if you need to. There are medications out there that will help. And although it can be really annoying when people tell you that they will grow out of it eventually, it is true. It might take a while but sooner or later that reflux will be gone.

Living with a reflux baby

reflux baby medication

Living with a reflux baby isn’t easy. At four months old Toby takes 1ml of medicine in a syringe three times a day. He also has Infant Gaviscon added to every bottle of milk as well as Dentinox Colic Drops (although I’m not entirely sure that they really do anything!). I don’t like having to give him medication so regularly but for now it is just something we have to live with. I know that we are very fortunate that Toby’s illness is in no way life threatening and, if we are lucky, he should grow out of it fairly soon. That said, gastric reflux has not made the first few months of my little boy’s life as smooth sailing as it could have been.  Before Toby was diagnosed I found a lot of really useful information online and from reading about other people’s experiences so I hope that by sharing our reflux story (so far) we might be able to help another baby who is struggling with the same problems.

We first thought something might be wrong when Toby was just a week or two old. As I have already written we had some trouble breastfeeding in the beginning and a lot of that was trying to get Toby to latch on properly. Instead of rooting and turning towards the breast he would actively turn away. I think the difficulties we had were a big contributing factor to why we ended up moving to formula feeding full time. Of course it’s only with hindsight that I can link these difficulties to reflux.

Early signs

The second major indicator that something wasn’t right were the noises that Toby would make when he was lying in his crib, especially during the night. He would make all sorts of grunting and choking noises, keeping both himself and us awake. Sometimes he would be asleep but still making these noises. It was horrible hearing my baby sounding so distressed even though it didn’t actually seem to be bothering him that much. I mentioned it to our health visitor but she just dismissed it as ‘babies are just noisy’. Toby was still sleeping in our room at this point and I even resorted to wearing earplugs to try and get some sleep!

When Toby was about a month old I turned to Google to see what could be causing all these noises he was making. One of the possibilities that came up was reflux.  I didn’t really know much about reflux; a friend’s daughter had suffered when she was a baby and remember her having to have Gaviscon in her milk but that was about the extent of my knowledge. It was also at this point that Toby started being sick a lot more. This coincided with our move to full time formula feeding meaning he was managing to eat a bit more in one sitting. This vomiting was something which was also dismissed as normal by the health visitor. I know babies often bring up some milk after feeding but Toby was bringing up virtually full feeds, sometimes straight away, sometimes half an hour or an hour later. I would put him down to sleep and then find when I checked on him that he had been sick over his shoulder – his clothes, hair and sheets would be soaked. And I was terrified that he wouldn’t turn his head and would end up choking. His vomiting was so forceful that on one memorable occasion I sat him up to wind him and he was sick all the way up my dressing gown sleeve, managing to get it up past my elbow!

The more I read about reflux, the more convinced I was that I had found the cause of Toby’s symptoms. Along with the vomiting and the noises, there were also continued difficulties feeding even after we had moved to bottles full time. Reflux is really another name for heartburn. It is quite common in babies as the muscle at the top of the stomach can be underdeveloped making it very easy for the contents to come back up into the babies throat and the acid from the stomach can be very painful for them. During and after feeding Toby would arch his back and scream in pain. It was just heartbreaking to watch. Even very young babies can quickly learn to associate feeding with the pain of reflux, but equally they know that feeding can help to alleviate the pain temporarily as the stomach contents are pushed back down. What this led to was a cycle of feeding on and off all day. Toby would take an ounce or two of formula then refuse to drink any more as he knew it would hurt him but then he would be hungry again half an hour later and this went on day and night. It was exhausting for both of us.

From reading online I found quite a lot of tips of things we could do to try and help Toby. We tried to feed him in a more upright position, keep him upright after feeding (it was recommended to keep him upright for half an hour, which is fine during the day but not so practical at three o’clock in the morning!) and to tilt his crib so gravity would help keep the milk down. We tried all these ideas. We used books to raise the head of his crib. In fact at one stage it was at such a steep angle that we had to tuck his blanket really tightly under his arms to stop him sliding down the crib and ending up in a heap at the bottom!

Getting a diagnosis and first treatment

However, after a week or so of trying anything we could think of without seeing any improvement I took Toby to see our GP. I explained Toby’s symptoms and, after checking it was nothing more serious, the doctor agreed it was reflux. I suppose it is quite difficult to diagnose reflux accurately in babies. Certainly when we were at the doctor Toby was happy and showed no sign of any discomfort. The doctor just had to go on what I told him. Anyway, the first step in treating reflux in babies is Infant Gaviscon. For formula fed babies this is added to the milk (it can be used for breastfed babies too but administering it can be a lot more tricky). Unlike the adult version Infant Gaviscon contains only a mild antacid. Its main function is to thicken the milk, making it easier for a baby to keep down and so reduce the symptoms that way.

So we started with the Gaviscon and we did see something of an improvement in Toby. He stopped being sick pretty much completely and he did seem a bit more comfortable but the night time noises and the back arching were still there. After a week I took Toby back to the doctor, this time armed with a video to show him exactly what was going on. I knew there were other medications that could be prescribed that I thought might help Toby further. But as Toby had stopped being sick and was still gaining weight the doctor just wanted us to continue with the Gaviscon.

Back to the doctor

So we carried on for another week or two. Toby was definitely better than he had been but his feeding routine hadn’t improved. Feeding was still going on through most of the day (and night) making it really hard to go anywhere or do anything. We were going to just persevere with the Gaviscon but one day I was browsing in our local charity shop when a book called The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan caught my eye. I’ve mentioned this book by Alison Scott-Wright in another post but the reason I bought it was because it had a whole chapter about reflux. The author made the very good point that we couldn’t expect Toby to sleep well until his reflux was under control. In the book there is a list over four pages long of symptoms that can be associated with reflux. Of course in isolation some of these things could just be normal baby behaviour but when a baby has several of the symptoms and isn’t able to sleep and feed comfortably then that can indicate reflux. I’m not going to go into the whole list but here a few of the things that Toby was doing:

  • Frequent hiccups – also babies who have frequent hiccups in the womb, which Toby did, often go on to develop reflux
  • Arching the back and neck
  • Body goes rigid and stiff, it always seems as if the baby is trying to stand up on you
  • Displaying stress-related behaviour as a reaction to pain or discomfort – head-thrashing, rubbing together heels and/or feet
  • Appears to fall asleep after a few minutes’ feeding and is impossible to wake to continue with the feed
  • Cries when laid horizontal
  • Wants to be constantly held
  • Having excess mucus and seeming to have a constant cold
  • Small amounts of vomit produced all the time – we would often see a little bit of milk come up into Toby’s mouth which he would then swallow back down, causing burning from the stomach acid both on the way up and the way down again.

So you can see, this is quite a diverse list of symptoms but when I read it and so many of them applied to Toby I knew his reflux still wasn’t under control and so we headed back to see the doctor again. This time we saw a trainee GP so I just went in, explained Toby’s symptoms hadn’t improved and asked to be prescribed ranitidine, an antacid that I knew was used to treat reflux in babies. Cue much confusion from the trainee as she checked her reference books – ranitidine isn’t licensed for babies even though it is widely prescribed so she was struggling to work out the correct dosage. As it turned out is was a good job we have an observant and thorough pharmacist because she actually prescribed over ten times the correct dose! Luckily it was all sorted out and Toby started on his new medicine. And there was an almost immediate improvement. Within a week most of his symptoms had gone, he was feeding better and sleeping better. Within a couple of weeks we had him feeding roughly every three hours and sleeping through the night. It was amazing.

Since then we have had to increase the amount of ranitidine Toby was getting – the dosage is calculated on the babies weight so as they get bigger the dosage can need recalculating if symptoms start to reappear, Which brings us to today. Toby is largely free of the symptoms of reflux. Babies do usually grow out of it at some point but the only way to really tell is to reduce or remove the medication and see what happens. We have tried reducing his Gaviscon recently but he just starts being sick again. However, yesterday I forgot to give Toby his lunchtime ranitidine and he was absolutely fine all afternoon. So today I didn’t give him that dose again and still no problems. So we are going to keep on with his morning and evening doses for now and see how it goes and if all is well then maybe we can start reducing those doses too.

What to do if you think you have a baby with reflux

If I had any advice for parents of baby suffering from reflux, or who they think might have reflux it would be to see your doctor as soon as you can and if the medication you are given doesn’t seem to be working then go back until you get something that does. I know we were lucky in a way that the ranitidine worked, but if it hadn’t I know there are other medications we could have tried. If I could go back I would have gone to the doctor much sooner and maybe tried to get the ranitidine earlier so then Toby would have felt better quicker. But at least he’s doing OK now and I’m sure there won’t be any lasting damage caused by his difficult early weeks.

Reflux does seem to be more common now but I wonder if that is because parents can do more research themselves online and so are more aware of it, and therefore it is being diagnosed more often rather than dismissed as colic or just a ‘sicky baby’. Did your baby have reflux? Did you find it easy to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment or was it a bit of a struggle? I would love to hear about the experiences of other parents in a similar situation to us – feel free to leave your comments.

 

Toby goes to sleep (or not!)

Toby goes to sleep
Nap time

Sleep. That illusive beast that all new parents seem to obsess about. I have to admit, I love my sleep. Before I was a mum it wasn’t unheard of for me to sleep for 12 hours or more (at least at the weekends when I didn’t have to go to work). I can nap pretty much anywhere and any time. Long car journeys or flights are no problem for me – I just sleep. So sleep, or lack of it, was one of the things that worried me most about being a new parent.

In in the early days there definitely was a lot of sleep deprivation…

BUT…

I’m going to get this bit out up front, and if you hate me for it then I totally understand if you don’t carry on reading. Toby is almost 17 weeks old and has been sleeping through the night for the last 5 weeks or so. And when I say he sleeps through the night I mean from about 6:30pm until about 8am (or sometimes even later). No waking up. No dream feeds. Just sleeping. And then he doesn’t even cry when he wakes up. Just lies there sucking his thumb and chilling out until one of us goes to get him up. This is what we are usually greeted by in the morning…

Baby sleep
Morning mum!

To be honest I think most of this is just down to good luck. We did start a bedtime routine of bath, feed, bed quite early on and we moved him into his own room when he was about 6 weeks old which helped us stop disturbing one another. We have always tried to put Toby into his cot awake so he has learnt to go to sleep on his own but apart from that I think we have just been lucky to have a baby who sleeps.

This wasn’t always the case though. Until we got Toby’s reflux under control with the proper medication his feeding and sleeping were all over the place. He wouldn’t feed very much in one go and so needed to be fed every couple of hours day and night. But once he could feed comfortably and take more at each feed he could go longer between feeds and his night time sleep started getting better. We did briefly experiment with a dream feed when we went to bed but then I read The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan** by Alison Scott-Wright which pointed out that waking a baby to feed him when you are trying to get him to sleep is somewhat counter-productive. I know dream feeds work for some people and I’m all for doing whatever works for you but it never seemed to make Toby sleep any longer anyway.

So, however we managed it (or rather Toby managed it!) we have a baby who sleeps fantastically at night. We have our evenings to ourselves and we get a full night’s sleep. And for that I am eternally grateful. But now we need to work on the aspects of Toby’s sleep that aren’t so great…the day time naps.

We do quite a lot of different activities during the week – Baby Sensory on a Monday, Bookbug at the library on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, meet another mum for a walk and coffee on Thursday – and this has meant that I haven’t really given Toby any consistency in his day time naps. He sleeps really well in his buggy or in the car but I really struggle to get him to nap for more that half an hour or so at home. Seeing as how his night time sleeping seems pretty sorted (although I am prepared for the fact that we might well go back to square one when teething starts) I’ve decided to try and get some sort of regularity into day time naps. We are starting with a post-lunch nap at about 12pm. My plan is to feed Toby, take him upstairs, clean nappy, curtains closed, into sleeping bag and then hopefully sleep! I was prepared for this to be quite hard work but actually for the last two days the plan has gone like a dream. Yesterday I put Toby down and he slept without any fuss for 90 minutes. As I write this he has been asleep for just over an hour! I’m sure there must be something wrong though – it can’t be this easy! Fingers crossed though that he is just going to accept this new nap and I’ll actually get an hour or two during the day to get stuff done.

So does sleep come easy in your house? Do you have a routine of bedtime and nap times or do you just let your little one take the lead? I don’t want to get into such a rigid routine that we can never go anywhere or do anything but I think I need some structure to the day and Toby needs to be given the best possible chance of sleeping when he needs it.

**I picked this book up in a charity shop and bought it because it has a great chapter about reflux but the sleep advice is pretty common sense and I found it quite useful too.

A breast feeding story

I’d like to start with a little bit of history. I was breastfed as a baby. So was my brother. I always assumed if I ever had kids that I would breast feed my babies too. That said I’ve not always had a very good relationship with my breasts. When I was about 13 they sprung out of nowhere to be big, very quickly. This led to a lot of comments at school, mostly from boys but sometimes from the girls too. Around this time I started having issues with my weight too. I wasn’t really overweight but I thought I was and I thought if I lost weight then maybe my boobs would shrink too. Which eventually led to me, at the age of 17, on the verge of anorexia, weighing just over 8st with 32FF boobs. I looked ridiculous. I couldn’t find clothes to fit me properly and was very self-conscious.

So eventually I went to see my GP and just before my 19th birthday I had a breast reduction on the NHS. At the time it was explained to me that the surgeon would do his best to preserve the nerves and milk ducts but that it was possible I would never be able to breast feed. Although I took this risk seriously, I was 19 and kids were a long way in the future for me. For a while I was really happy – my boobs were reduced to a C cup and I felt normal (whatever that means!). But after 3 years of university I had put on quite a lot of weight and my boobs were already starting to grow back.

A breast feeding story

 

Anyway, fast forward 13 years and after a pre-wedding diet I was happy with my body. My boobs had settled at an acceptable (to me) 32F and for once I felt comfortable in my own skin. But after just 6 months of marriage we were thinking of starting a family. Two months later I was pregnant with our first baby and amongst all the other pregnancy worries and joys breast feeding was a the forefront of my mind. I didn’t know if I would be able to breast feed at all and no-one could tell me – it was simply a case of wait and see. I was determined though that if there was any possibility then I was going to try.

Toby was born in July after a swift and fairly easy labour. He was immediately given to me for skin to skin contact and I put him to my breast. He seemed to latch on quite well initially and certainly seemed to know what he was supposed to be doing. Toby was born at 1pm and we stayed in hospital until about 5pm the next day (my waters had broken two days earlier so he had to be monitored in case of infection). During that time I struggled to get Toby into a comfortable position for feeding. He was so small (6lb 10oz) and my boobs were so big that I just found it really tricky. He would latch on but then pop off again. Because there was so much boob in the way I couldn’t see if he was latched on properly.

A succession of well intentioned midwives tried to help us but every one told us something different; at times even contradicting each other. They suggested we stay in hospital another night to get breast feeding properly established but by this point we had had a couple of fairly successful feeds on our own and I just wanted to go home.

So we got home and I kept feeding Toby as best I could. Whenever he woke up I would feed him and he seemed to be doing OK. My nipples were in shreds however – I’d managed to get a blister on one which then scabbed over and every feed was agony. I sat around with no bra on and my nipples covered in Lansinoh ointment. But that didn’t matter – I was breast feeding my baby! Despite my surgery I was definitely producing something… The tricky part was that it was impossible to tell how much Toby was getting from me. There was a chance that although I was managing to produce some milk that I might not be producing enough.

So then the midwife came to visit on the first day at home and when she weighed Toby he had lost 10% of his birth weight. She wanted to see me feed and after some more manhandling (apparently the midwives aren’t supposed to touch you but several of them did – trying to get enough of my nipple and surrounding tissue into Toby’s mouth. One suggested getting my husband to do it as I didn’t have enough hands to hold Toby, keep my boob out of the way and get my nipple in his mouth!) he seemed to be feeding again. However, I was still finding that he wouldn’t stay latched on, or he would fall asleep after 5 minutes.

My memories of the first few days are a bit hazy but at some point shortly after we came home one of the midwives heard Toby crying, said ‘that’s a hungry baby’ and suggested that I top up the breast feeds with formula. Looking back I wish I had said no and we had just persevered with the breastfeeding but as a first time mum I just wanted what was best for my baby and I assumed the midwives knew what that was.

Around this time another one of the midwives visited and she said she thought I had small nipples and using nipple shields might help so we tried that and it did make things a bit easier. From when he was about 3 days old then I would feed Toby on both breasts and then between us, my husband and I would feed him formula from a syringe as I wanted to avoid using a bottle. We carried on with that for I think a week or so but it was so time consuming, every feed was taking an hour and a half and then Toby would want feeding again an hour later. So we carried on breast feeding but gave formula in a bottle as well.

That lasted until Toby was about 4 weeks old but at that point I was just so fed up. I was upset that I couldn’t provide enough milk for my baby. I knew it was good that he was getting some breast milk from me but I just couldn’t see how feeding the way we were was sustainable. I felt like I’d never be able to leave the house! So slowly I started reducing the amount I was breastfeeding, sometimes only giving Toby a bottle, sometimes still doing both until when he was just under 6 weeks old I stopped breastfeeding all together.

And now? Now every time I see a mum breastfeeding her baby I wish we had carried on. I wish I had resisted the midwife’s suggestion of topping up with formula and instead got an electric pump and done more to try and increase my own supply. I wish I had contacted one of the many helplines available and got some more support. Because I don’t feel like I did get a lot of support. I feel like because the midwives and health visitor knew about my surgery they almost wrote me off and just assumed that I wouldn’t have enough milk to feed my son.

The suggestion of the nipple shields really helped but why did it take almost a week and about 5 different health care professionals watching me struggle to feed my baby for someone to suggest them? A week or so after I stopped breastfeeding, and only because I did some research online and then went to the GP, Toby was diagnosed with silent reflux. That’s another story really but I do think it affected his early feeding and it wasn’t picked up by any of the midwives or the health visitor. Maybe with an earlier diagnosis we might have been able to work out a way to continue with breastfeeding.

In my more rational moments I know, in the circumstances, at the time, I did the best I could for my baby. I’m happy that I was able to feed him at all and that he got that vital colostrum and breastmilk in his first few weeks of life. And in the darker moments I feel like I failed him. That the only reason he isn’t still being breastfed now is because it was too inconvenient for me. But what’s done is done and there’s nothing I can do to change it. My boy is healthy and happy and for that I am grateful. And if I have another baby one day I’ll try again and hopefully next time I’ll manage to exclusively breastfeed for as long as my baby needs me to.

breast feeding a newborn baby

Here I am all set up for one of our long haul feeding sessions. It was during the hot summer hence the lack of clothes on both of us!