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How to survive when your baby has reflux
As a new mum you don’t really know what to expect when you bring your baby home. You can read all the books, talk to all the other mums, but until you do it yourself you can’t appreciate what life with a newborn is really like. Elise was born 22 days early and though we were kept in overnight, she was a healthy weight and feeding well. Though she was slightly jaundiced, there were no major concerns and we were allowed home the next day.
That first night in hospital was horrendous. We had packed a bag of baby things with 4 changes of clothes, and by the early hours I had used them all. Every ounce of milk she drank was almost instantly spewed back up and so I had to keep repeatedly undressing her and redressing her as she was soaked through. The doctors and midwives were not concerned though, and so to begin with I thought that it was normal.
We got her home, she continued to bring up milk after every feed, and we quickly learned that we had to keep her upright and couldn’t feed her without soaking at least one muslin cloth. The midwife visited us at home and though she wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as they’d have liked, they still weren’t concerned.
Then 10 days after she was born Christmas rolled around. Boxing day the midwife visited again and weighed her and this time told us to make a doctors appointment as she wasn’t gaining weight. Once again, she wasn’t overly concerned so left. Later that morning Elise was full on projectiling every bit of milk that touched her stomach and we went to the out of hours GP. We were then referred to the hospital where they admitted her. We weren’t given any answers and honestly that day was probably one of the worst in my life to date. I’d never feel fear like it. I thought that something was seriously wrong and made myself ill. Luke stayed in with her overnight and despite my protests sent me home with his Mum as I had given myself a migraine and made myself physically sick.
Thankfully, they were allowed home the next day and we were prescribed with Infant Gaviscon and told it was just severe reflux, but she would grow out of it by 12 weeks. Within a few days of using Gaviscon she had slightly improved and started to gain weight so the midwife was once again happy with her progress. However, I wasn’t. The sheer volume of milk still told me that something was wrong and I couldn’t fathom how she was gaining weight when she was bringing up so much.
I went back to the doctors and we were prescribed with Ranitidine. From my hours of trawling the internet for advice, I knew that most babies got better with Ranitidine, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately not Elise, if anything it made her worse. So we reverted back to Gaviscon and kept pushing the doctors for more help.
We were in and out of paediatric appointments for months – I pushed for blood tests, allergy tests but was repeatedly told that it was just reflux and she would grow out of it. She was gaining weight and holding her centile and that’s all that is important to them. They didn’t see the 10 outfit changes, the hours after a night feed we had to stay awake keeping her upright so that she could sleep. We were just told there was nothing we could do.
At 12 weeks, there was no magical overnight cure. She didn’t grow out of it. At the next Paediatric appointment we were told she’d grow out of it at 20 weeks. And when that came and went the timeline was pushed back again to 6 months. Or when she can sit unaided, or when she starts weaning.
We started weaning at 17 weeks and though there was a definite improvement. She was keeping solids down, every bottle was still coming back up. Luckily, she dropped a night feed at 10 weeks and started sleeping through the night so we were all finally about to get some sleep. But her bedtime routine was over an hour and half each night as I had to hold her for an hour after her feed before I could put her down – even though she was drinking her bottle and falling asleep within half hour.
Finally at around 9 months, it all subsided. Maybe her stomach had developed enough, or it was because she was down to only 2 milk feeds a day. But finally it was over and she had finally grown out of it.
But it was hard. And at times we felt like we were going crazy because we thought there was something wrong and no one would listen or help.
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We had a huge stash of muslin cloths that were kept everywhere. Poor Elise spent the first 3 months in a bib with a muslin tucked down her front too. They’re large and absorbent and much more practical than a bib alone. We were able to save her outfits a lot of the time by having a muslin to hand.
I’ll always remember the first time I met my friend’s baby who was born 7 weeks after Elise. I was feeding him and asked her for a muslin and she said they didn’t have any and handed me a cotton wool pad. I was astounded to actually feed a baby who when they burped had the smallest amount of milky dribble. What was this sorcery?
The best bibs we got were from Morrisons Nutmeg range. They were easy to slip over her head and unlike most other bibs, didn’t leave a gap were milk could run down her neck. I would never buy a triangle bib, ever.
A family friend recommended these bottles and basically any recommendation that someone could make we jumped on. They have a tube in them, which prevents the baby swallowing air with the milk and reduces the amount of burps and so they’re less likely to burp up their milk.
Although they’re quite expensive, they definitely made a difference. And though they didn’t completely resolve it, between these bottles and gaviscon all our lives were a little bit easier, so I’d definitely recommend them.
A lot of people suggested propping the moses basket mattress up, and then later the cot. But the Health Visitor told us it was actually dangerous to angle the mattress and instead we should angle the entire basket. So instead, we put the reflux wedge on the floor and rested the moses basket stand on it which elevated it to a slight angle.
We also continued to keep her at an angle after every feed for at least an hour before trying to put her down. They recommend half hour but every time we tried that it was too soon and the milk came up.
Elise was definitely more comfortable propped upright than lying flat so this seat is probably one of the best things we had. It has an insert for smaller babies which you can remove when they grow and it can be used for feeding and for play. We have used this daily since she was about 17 weeks when we started weaning. She still eats a lot of her meals in it now.
Buy them plain, buy them cheap and buy in bulk. The ones with poppers are best and avoid the grows that go over the head. We didn’t really use any of the 0-3 month clothes as she lived in grows. There was no point putting clothes on her as she was inevitably going to be mess them.
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This stuff is ridiculously thick and smells really sweet. Elise wouldn’t touch it.
It works for most reflux babies, but not for all. It’s definitely worth a try but unfortunately it didn’t help us.
Brought up plenty of wind, as is it’s job, but with that came all the milk.
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Trust your gut. If you’re not happy with what the doctors tell you, keep going back. Keep pushing. At the end of the day, you know your baby better than anyone. You see them 24 hours a day, the doctors don’t. Trust your judgement and try whatever you feel you need to. These things helped us manage it, but you will find what works best for you.
And most of all, it’s the last thing you want to hear – believe me I know! But they will grow out of it. Maybe not in 12 weeks, but reflux does end eventually. Even though it feels like it never will. You’ve got this Mama and Dada!
I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!