Baby acid reflux, you suck

It’s getting worse, guys. The acid reflux in our little baby S. God, do I hate it. Our pediatrician says reflux usually peaks at four to six months, and he is approaching four months. For many many nights now, he wakes up every hour on the hour. Last night, I just didn’t even try to sleep, stayed up all night and watched him in the monitor. He tries to roll onto his side, to get up off his back. Of course, he’s getting to that age when he will be trying to roll over anyway, but it is clear he is trying to roll onto his side/stomach because of the reflux. He wakes with that dry coughing, his reflux cough, which is getting worse and more frequent. (He’s also choking more, writhing and screaming more during and after feeds, vomiting more—all of which our pediatrician says is “normal” for a reflux baby.) Anyway, he strains to get onto his side at night, and he kicks one of his little legs out in back to keep him in that position, and then—as I watched in the monitor—his little body starts to relax back into sleep, but when he falls back onto his back, he dry coughs, and the whole thing starts all over again.

Last night, he literally turned himself width-wise in the crib (from vertical) by arching and scooting around on the mattress. His little head came in contact with crib bars (I went in and repositioned him) but he didn’t seem to have hurt his head, even though he was flailing.

Our pediatrician says that acid reflux babies sleep so much better on their tummies. When I see him trying to get onto his side/tummy I am in part rooting for him, but I’m also slightly afraid because it is still really hard for him to push himself up into that mini-pushup when we do tummy time. He more often will just lay his head down. But I guess if he does flip over in his sleep, he’ll just wriggle his head (and mouth and nose) to one side?

 

His frequent waking is probably not 100% reflux, of course. Babies wake up often at night and cry, and soothe themselves back to sleep, or not—that’s what they do until they learn how to soothe themselves reliably back to sleep. We’ve been waiting up to three minutes when he cries, and sometimes he does soothe himself back to sleep. When he doesn’t, we go in and soothe him while standing at the side of the crib, reaching down to pat his tummy or back, or rub his tummy, or put gentle pressure on his chest. But last night I picked him up and held him, at a certain point in the early morning, and he made a quivery sigh and smiled. It’s so hard to put him back in the crib when he smiles in my arms like that. I love this little bug so much. SO MUCH.

Our pediatrician has three kids who had severe reflux when they were babies and she keeps reassuring me that it’s bad now but he will outgrow it. I had to advocate like hell to get her to prescribe S a different reflux medication—she said axid and zantac were the same, and S was on axid, but I’d heard so many success stories re: zantac and I wanted to try it. At first, we thought it was our miracle. After taking it for the first time, he had a completely calm and happy evening (!!!!) and we were doing cartwheels. But the next day was yet another bad reflux day, and so on. So: no miracle.

She also said she does not believe in thickening feeds, but again I advocated, called her a couple of times (once while crying), and she finally said, “Let’s give it a try.” Two nights in a row, for his evening feed, we put a little rice cereal in the bottle. We’re not sure what the results are going to be yet. It does seem like it goes down really easily for him, which is such a relief to see—to see him actually not writhing in pain while eating! But afterward, the same symptoms, and so far, no effect during the sleeping hours. So perhaps after a trial of a few days to a week, we’ll stop with that.

There’s so much else going on, wonderful developmental stuff, and I want to write about that, too—but I have to get this acid reflux off my chest. It is making everything so difficult, not least of which because DH and I are utterly, miserably sleep-deprived, our hearts aching for our little boy. I can’t tell you how hard it is when we’re hanging out with him and he is happily interacting and then suddenly the stupid spit-up will creep up, he screws his little face up, arches his back, and begins to wail. And it can be pretty hard for him to get back to that happy place again.

 

DH and I keep trying to figure out how to make things better. We consider moving him back to the rock-and-play, which has that incline, but he was buckling and arching his back in that and seemed so uncomfortable. And the move to the crib seems like a step forward. Our pediatrician recommended propping the crib up on one end with books, and we did that one night, but it seemed to both DH and I to be so unsafe! I told a doula I consulted with on the phone about this suggestion, and she said, “I don’t like to contradict the doctors, but sometimes they recommend really crazy things.”

Our pediatrician is, over all, really good, though. I trust her. I was rather surprised when she said that he can start solids at 4 months—if he were exclusively breastfed, she said, we’d wait until 6 months, but formula-fed babies start at 4 months. She said that this will also be good for the reflux. She has to evaluate his head and neck, first, at his upcoming 4-month appointment. I wonder if she can do a swallow evaluation, too?

Whenever we start solids, I’m looking forward to it. Not having been able to breastfeed him has been such a strain and stress—I know there are lots of difficulties to breastfeeding, but I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I could just put him to my breast to soothe him or satiate him immediately. Not to have to try to soothe a very upset baby while the bottle warms, or while we prepare a powdered one (he finally takes the powdered kind now). S is one of those babies who doesn’t give a lot of lead-up warning signs to his hunger. If he gets hungry at his usual time, it’s no problem, we’re ready. But if he gets hungry before his usual time, there’s no way for us to be fully prepared, because prepared formula goes bad quickly and you can’t just have it sitting around, just in case—and S can go zero to sixty in a nanosecond with distress cries until we get that bottle to his lips. So although it is irrational and totally untrue, in those moments, I have felt like a failure, and have felt the uselessness of my boobs. Especially when he turns his little head toward my breast. He still does that. Sigh. So anyway, I’ve been looking forward to making homeade baby food. It will be my way of giving him the very best nutrition I can, and I hope to also give him the gift of a varied palette. I have fantasies of food and cooking being a big part of our lives together.

I am hoping so hard that the reflux is peaking early…and will go away earlier than expected. I’ve read that in some cases it can go on for a year. Oh no.

More soon, and about things happier. Because happy things are happening, too.

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27 Comments

  1. Yes it absolutely sucks.
    Interesting that your doc said it peaks around that time. It did for us too. We’re still dealing with it with Fi, but it’s not like it was then. For a long time I didn’t do the inclined crib thing, but she wasn’t bad at night until recently. She started waking up screaming a couple months ago and I’d pick her up and I could just hear the reflux coming up. So I can actually second your doc’s advice on the books. I just put a couple very large hardcover coffee table books under the legs so it’s only elevated about 1.5″ or so, but I think it does help.
    Also, sometimes they like to practice their new moves at night when they should be sleeping. He might be working on rolling over. The funniest is when they start standing up. I’d hear Violet crying and I’d go in and she’s standing there all disoriented and she’d need me to help her lie down again.

    Reply
  2. I’m so sorry about the acid reflux. I have no advice as we did not have to suffer through that.
    But as a fellow formula feeding mom, I can give advice there. You know, you *can* prepare bottles ahead of time? Up to 24 hours, as long as you then pop them in the fridge. I think the container even says so. Some people pre-make one whole day’s bottles. I used to have one ready to go in the fridge, and then you can use a bottle warmer. Or a friend of mine would just measure out formula and then all she would do is add water. That might help take the NEED TO EAT NOW! stress off?
    As for baby food, I love making it! Here is my favorite site. The pictures are beautiful and I think you will enjoy browsing and getting excited: http://www.babyfoode.com/

    Reply
  3. Ah, yes. I get it now. We never warmed bottles and we broke the rules and re-offered them as well (you’re supposed to throw out if not consumed in an hour, but we saved them most of the time). But I wouldn’t mess around since you already have the reflux issue. I’m sorry! We just quit formula this month and it’s a huge relief. We’re doing almond, hemp, and cow’s milk for various reasons.

    Reply
    • Oh man that sounds like heaven! I’m so sick of formula I have to admit. Yeah little guy sometimes goes a little crazy pants while the bottle warms—longest two minutes of our lives, as we joke ate our house. But after some nights in a row of giving a slightly thickened feed in the evening we are actually seeing some distress improvements — we’ll see if it continues (please please)….

      Reply
  4. I’m so sorry. I have to friends that just went through this. But it worked itself out in the 4th month so you’re almost there!

    Reply
  5. I’m just going to pipe in briefly because I was able to fix things when I got advice. For my 2nd son, corn was the culprit. Like the moment I ate anything with corn (he was nursed) all hell broke loose. For like days. I know you said you formula feed, but have you broken down what exactly is in the formula? Maybe it’s a small little thing your brand has that another might lack. I’m not a doctor but I have received so much support and help from mommies who tried x and y. The corn warning was given to me by a blogger mommy and it cured him. My doctor was no help. I hope I am not being too bossy or annoying. I just want to pass it on.

    Reply
    • Yeah we’ve had him on Alimentum from the early days (also tried others and Alimentum worked best)—expensive but worth it! He’s actually beginning to respond really well to the last, thickened feed, fingers crossed…

      Reply
  6. California mom

     /  March 20, 2015

    My DD had moderate reflux and it went away by 6 mo. I had a friend whose son had severe reflux–like projectile vomiting–and it did take about a year. Hopefully that will not be the case with S! I would second the tilt thing if you haven’t tried it–we had an Angels Reach cosleeper and we managed to elevate one side with books or something so there was a slight incline.

    As to solids, just be aware that depending on the baby, the baby may not be ready. With both our kids we started offering them at 6 mo but they weren’t really interested until about 7 mo and not fully until 8. But then you hear of kids eating them at 4 mo. So again it depends on the kid. Just wanted to put that out there in case S is not interested yet.

    Reply
  7. Carmen

     /  March 20, 2015

    We had the same issue except I was convinced “something” was causing the reflux that was in the formula. We eventually ended up using Neocate, a super, super expensive formula we had to order through a pharmacy but it worked. It smelled horrible but it provided almost immediate relief for our daughter. She might have had a lactose intolerance (as her father does) and she did outgrow it and is able to enjoy all foods now but that was a life saver for us and something to look into.

    Reply
  8. Michelle

     /  March 20, 2015

    Oh, I hate that it’s still continuing. It is so painful for everyone! We did lift the crib up with a couple of coffee table books, but it didn’t really work. He just kind of slid down to the bottom…made us laugh at least! The other thing that worked (besides tripling the Zantac) was to change the formula. We eventually went to Alimentum which is incredibly expensive; but it is completely lactose/gluten/corn free and a whole bunch of other things. It helped a LOT!!! If you use it for a few days and find it does work, your pediatrician might be able to give you a prescription for it. Ours did and, luckily, our insurance covered it so we paid just $5/can. There are other formulas that say they are dairy free or for sensitive tummies, but Alimentum and/or Nutramigen are the gold standard. Spring for one can, use it until it’s gone and see what happens. The worst that happens is you blow $20. Worth it if it works!!!

    Reply
  9. We’ve just come out the other side of this and horrendous colic – hang in there… For the last 3 weeks it’s like we’ve been living with a different baby… Seriously. I almost cried when people would say ‘she will grow out of it’ but I think she has. Edie is 18w now so hopefully you’re not too far off. Xx

    Reply
  10. Benedicte

     /  March 20, 2015

    My daughter had sever reflux and we put some large towels under the mattress to prop the mattress but not the bed, that what our pediatrician recommended and it did help. We also gave her prevacid since zantac did not work for her. We also fed try not to go les than 4hours between bottles to give her belly a rest between feedings. This is a really tough situation but it does get better, much better! She is now 3 and is a eating everything and anything!

    Reply
  11. Geeta Govindan

     /  March 21, 2015

    Hi there, It is so surprising to read ur blog. I have been following it for over a year now. Our lives are so similar . I am going through same issues as you with my son Kedar who is 5 weeks older than S and is an emergency c section baby too!!!! I feel like I have know you forever as we go though same issues. My husband encouraged me to write to u as I tell him every time I read ur blog ” hey see what S is going thru” or ” see S is sitting in same rock and play as Kedar including color or S is reading same book as Kedar:). And now acid reflux:( sucks!!! I would love to meet u and simon and introduce my son Kedar to S . Who knows they may end up as good friends!!! I live in downtown NYC. I am an Indian from India so I get all the stuff abt yoga. I must confess I have not practiced it in years!!! I find my peace in doing some kickboxing . I am also an industrial engineer ( came to this country for my masters about 15 yrs ago) who gave up a career to have Kedar (best this I have ever done… He is the love of my life. Cannot live a day without him) and now will wait a while before looking for a new job . Let me know if you would like to get together for coffee. I would love that….

    Reply
  12. I am so sorry!! My daughter had reflux, never spit up but was miserable (silent reflux). We tried several different medicines, I think Nexium is what finally worked. Or she just grew out of it (about 7 months). Hang in there, it does get better.

    Reply
  13. BTM

     /  March 21, 2015

    I third the idea of propping up one side of the crib. At that age, there’s no way baby can move the crib off the books, and really it’s only several inches off the ground. if you’re still concerned, however, you can also try putting a pillow under the mattress on one end for a similar effect. Also, if you google “crib nest” for reflux or something like that, you can see how you can prop up one end pretty high without baby sliding to the bottom of the crib.
    I also think you should try Alimentum. It’s very expensive but worth it if it works.

    Reply
  14. SH

     /  March 21, 2015

    Get an Angel Care monitor or Snuza for your own peace of mind and then let him sleep on his tummy!

    Reply
  15. Poor little S! I hope there is a solution that works soon. And yeah, that propping up the crib with books thing sounded just a little crazypants and unstable to me, too! I hope this gets better sooner than later. It must be so hard to see him struggle.

    Reply
  16. We’re still living in reflux land too – although your baby’s sounds worse in that it causes him pain. We’ve just switched to Dr. Brown’s bottles…. a friend swears that it cured her baby of a projectile version of reflux. For us, it’s too soon to tell if they are working. I think that I read in one of your other posts that you were assembling multi-component bottles, so maybe you have discovered them to? I suggest them only incase you haven’t tried them. I’m still hoping for a miracle cure for you both.

    We tried elevating our crib but it was kind of annoying. Our little pumpkin sleeps in his crib (so he can get used to sleeping in his room and give us some space) in a baby chair (that has a seatbelt type strap). It’s strange looking, but interestingly, he never pukes at night. I think it’s because he’s upright for a long time after his feeds (he’s still waking every 3 hours), and also because he’s a lot more still than he is during waking hours.

    I’ll be following the comments to see what everyone else has to suggest. I hope your dear little sweetie feels better soon, and that you can get some rest too – this reflux stuff is exhausting… the googling… the worrying… the laundry….gah!

    Reply
  17. Have you tried to use a breastmilk bank or find breastmilk donor? Just a thought… Hang in there. It will get better.

    Reply
  18. They make this wedge to help him sleep better and keep him on his side. A baby I used to nanny for used something similar. I don’t know if it was reccomended by his doc or not.
    They also make this product to help you feel better about him sleeping on his belly. It alerts you if he stops breathing.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00E8NGRUW/ref=ox_sc_saved_image_8?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    Reply

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