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.