How to cope with a reflux baby – part 1

When her newborn, Lexi, couldn’t keep any food down, Liz Quick, 25, and her husband Nathan, 27, suspected it was reflux. Here’s Part 1 of Liz's diary of dealing with a 'sicky baby'…

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“More than half of babies have gastroesophageal reflux before they’re 3 months old. But I didn’t know this when I was pregnant. Reflux was never mentioned in antenatal classes and no friends ever told me about their babies having it. There was no indication of it during my pregnancy, although as soon as I could feel Lexi moving, she had hiccups at least twice a day. I now know this can be an early sign that a baby will have reflux. I want to share Lexi’s story to make other mothers aware of the condition and what can be done about it.

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Week 1: The vomiting starts

Lexi was born by c-section on 7 July 2010, weighing only 6lb 11oz. It was the best day of my life, she was so small and gorgeous. That first day is the only day in her life so far that she hasn’t been sick. On day two, the vomiting started. It was after every feed and when feeds can be every half an hour, that’s a lot of milk coming back up. We arrived home on day two and were on our own. Lexi continued being sick after every feed, and between feeds. We were going through at least three muslins a feed, three to four outfits a day, and six to seven bibs. There were phone calls to health visitors, midwives and GPs every day, but they all came down to the same answer: ‘She’s just a sicky baby’ and ‘She’ll grow out of it’, because she was gaining weight.

Week 2: Diagnosis

After two weeks we’d had enough and were referred to the local hospital where we were kept in for 24 hours. The doctor saw the problem first hand when Lexi vomited everywhere in front of him. Eventually we got a diagnosis, gastroesophageal reflux, and Lexi was prescribed three different medications. Each one needed to be taken at a different time – one was three times a day, one was four times a day and one was with every feed, and all were liquid. As I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t add them to her milk so I soon discovered the only way to get Lexi to take them was to put a bottle teat in her mouth and slowly syringe the medications into it when she started sucking.

What Lexi was prescribed

  • Infant Gaviscon, to soothe irritation in the oesophagus from the acid brought up by vomit;
  • Ranitidine, to reduce the production of stomach acid; and
  • Domperidone, to reduce sickness and help the milk move from the stomach to intestines quicker. 

Week 3: Dosage alert

The following week, Lexi was kept in hospital for 48 hours because the reflux suddenly got worse. It was then we found out that the medication doses are weight-dependant, so as soon as a baby gains weight, the doses need to be changed. The hospital then gave Lexi the maximum doses for her weight. Every few days we were in contact with our GP or health visitor to up her doses as she gained weight. It was at this stage that we began to research other options to help us.

Week 4: Feeding worries

At the end of the first month, Lexi was definitely a little better, but she wasn’t sleeping well because of the pain she was in. She was really difficult to wind, as she knew that when she burped, she’d be sick and this would hurt. Even though we changed her, or mopped up the sick, she still always smelt damp. I hated having visitors or going to other people’s houses, as the amount of stuff we had to take was insane – wedges, muslins galore, and towels to cover me when feeding. I went through a stage when I hated feeding her. I didn’t see the point because I knew she would sick it all back up again. I was constantly changing my clothes because of all the vomiting that Lexi was doing.

Week 5: Working wonders

When Lexi was 5 weeks old, a friend mentioned cranial osteopathy. After some research I found out it could help treat reflux, so after contacting a local osteopath we had an appointment that day. I cannot rave about it enough. It did wonders for Lexi after the first session. The treatment involved gentle massage of the vagus nerve at the back of the neck and down the spine to the sacrum to encourage the body to kick-start into action and strengthen the sphincter muscle in the oesophagus.

After the first session Lexi slept better and was more relaxed. Her body started a clear out (many dirty nappies and a runny nose) for a few days and her sickness eased. After the second treatment, we reduced her medication and it didn’t affect her adversely, her reflux stayed the same, which was a good sign. After her third treatment, we stopped the medications completely, and Lexi was a different baby. I gradually built up my confidence to feed in public and was generally happier in cuddling Lexi as I knew I wouldn’t get covered in vomit. Lexi continued to have treatments every week until she was 12 weeks old, then we stopped, as she was so much better.”

Part 2: Lexi’s reflux takes a turn for the worse, plus advice for weaning a baby suffering from reflux.

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