Life with a “refluxer”

Before having your baby, everyone tries to prepare for the hardships to come.  The sleepless nights, endless feedings, lots of poopy diapers, and crying.  All babies cry, right?  I knew within the first few days of having Jackson that something wasn’t quite right.

When I would feed Jackson, he would often gag on his milk.  When I would burp him,  he would make this strange noise and then start gasping for breath, and then immediately cry.   This wasn’t your typical “I’m hungry, tired, or fussy” type cry.  This was different.  My baby was in pain and I knew it.  Jackson would cry all day long, and the only comfort he found was when I would hold him.

Finally, after doing research online, I made an appointment for him to see the pediatrician.  I knew from reading other mothers testimonies that Jackson has “reflux”, but more specifically, “silent reflux.”  Silent reflux is when their spit up or bile comes up to the top of their throat and then goes back down their esophagus.  That means double the pain.  The pediatrician confirmed what I already knew– so now began our long journey to figure out how we would help our poor baby boy.

I was heartbroken when I learned that there is no medicine or treatment to cure his reflux–that it’s something that they just eventually grow out of.  But, there are certain steps we could take to help relieve him from the pain.  One option, was putting him on medication.  My husband and I were not thrilled about that idea, but felt we had no other option.  I could no longer listen to my baby boy scream out in pain any longer, so we had a script written to start our son on Zantac.

A few days had passed since we started Jackson on his medication, but he only got worse.  It was a Friday morning and we were packing up to head to our hometown to visit family for the weekend.  Jackson screamed and cried all morning.  I will forever have those heart wrenching cries ingrained in my brain.  I had another panic attack and called the doctors office immediately.  They squeezed us in so that we could be seen before heading home–I am forever grateful for the amazing nurses and doctors at our pediatricians office!

After being seen again, we decided to try him on Prilosec and change his formula.  Alongside his refulx, we noticed that he had rashes on his face and body and the doctor said it could be a sign of a milk-protein allergy.  To make a long story short, we changed his formula three different times until we found the perfect one!  So, in combination to the new medication and proper formula (neocate), we had an almost completely new baby.

Jackson began to smile more, cry less, and I could set him in his swing for tiny intervals.  I could tell that my baby hardly felt the pain of his reflux anymore.  He no longer screamed bloody murder after he burped. Even though we figured out how to manage his pain, (which was most important to me and I am so grateful to God that we figured out the proper solution), having reflux still comes with struggles.

So what did this look like for us?

I never slept because Jackson would only sleep on top of me.  I barely ate or went to the bathroom during the day because the second I put Jackson down, he would freak out.  I was sleep deprived and emotionally wrecked.  There were several times that I cried right alongside my sweet baby boy.  I smelled (often still smell) all the time because Jackson’s reflux smells worse than sour milk, and once it gets on your skin, that smell lingers until you are able to take a shower.

Jackson absolutely hated tummy time because it put pressure on his belly–he would spit up everywhere within 15 seconds of being laid on his belly– and then would cry.  So hardly having any tummy time has led to a slight delay in his motor skills.  Jackson didn’t learn to sit up on his own until he was nearly eight months old.  He is a little over nine months now and is still not crawling or pulling himself up.

Jackson has been sleeping on his belly since he was a few weeks old.  We had too many scares where he would reflux while laying on his back and would choke and gag and gasp for air; my anxiety only increased from there.  I was terrified to have him sleep on his belly because of SIDS, but also terrified of him choking in his sleep if he slept on his back. (And yes, we tried elevating him and he still refluxed in his sleep).

Reflux meant silly little things like I could never leave him in pants because, again, the pressure of the band on his belly caused him to reflux every single time.

Reflux means many, many outfit and bib changes for both mom and baby.

Having reflux led to Jackson being extremely dependent on me.  For the first few months, because of his reflux, he was constantly held by me–so he grew such an attachment to me.  I could only put him down for maybe five minutes at a time.  I could never walk out of his sight line or he would completely freak out.  Jackson is only now starting to become a little more independent.  I can set him on his blanket with his toys and he will play contently for awhile.  For some, that may seem like no big deal…but for us, that is huge.  I actually have time to go to the bathroom.  To take a shower.  To make myself a meal and eat it while it’s still hot.

Having a baby with reflux is hard on both mom and baby.  It’s hard to watch your baby in pain and feel completely helpless.  It’s hard to watch your baby lag behind in motor skills.  It’s hard to watch him choke and gag because he’s laughing too hard and it causes him to reflux.  It’s just all around hard.  I still have some really trying days–days where the baby spits up, I change him, and five minutes later he spits up again. Then he spits up all over the carpet or the couch.  But at least now when he spits up, he looks up  at me and smiles, and that is what’s most important.

So for any moms out there struggling with a “refluxer”, just know that you are not alone.  Know that it will not last forever.  Work with your doctors and don’t give up until you have found the best treatment for your little one.  I truly feel that having relux will make Jackson stronger, and it will make your little one stronger too. 🙂


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