When I was studying to be a sleep consultant I flat out skipped the 'reflux' section. I had never heard of reflux, none of my mom friends had talked about it- and honestly, it just seemed like some weird medical condition that maybe I would encounter with some client at some point... but God had other plans. My second baby would teach me what reflux was.
If we google 'infant reflux' we find very bland definitions... according to the Mayo Clinic reflux is: "when food backs up (refluxes) from a baby's stomach, causing the baby to spit up." Then it says, "Infant reflux generally isn't a cause for concern. It's very unusual for the stomach contents to have enough acid to irritate the throat or esophagus and to cause signs and symptoms." The frustrating thing is that many of the other first google searches also include something like this... "it shouldn't be a big deal" or "it's not a big cause for concern." Also, most doctors will tell you the same, and just advice you to "hold baby up for 30 mins after eating and put mattress in a slight incline."
This makes a reflux mama who IS NOT SLEEPING with a SCREAMING baby who CANNOT LAY DOWN feel just a tiny bit insane.
If you want to know more about reflux specifics go here.
This blog post will be more centered on my own experience with it specifically.
As soon as I started talking about reflux on my instagram story I had tons of moms reach out to me thanking me for talking about it, but also asking questions. "What do you do to fix it?" "How do you get baby to sleep?" "How do you deal?" Unfortunately, I don't have universal answers, but I thought maybe by sharing my journey with reflux (as well as a few other mamas') I could help others figure out how to help their refluxy baby out.
Now... I have eternal mom brain on top of really bad memory- so this journey may not be as complete as it could- I apologize in advance.
When baby #2 was born (I'll call him M2 for this blogpost - both my boys' names start with an M even though I always thought I would never be that mom whose kids' names sound virtually the same... here I am... anyway that's another story) I thought I had it figured out. I had been a sleep consultant for two years- my first kid is a champ sleeper now, my business was booming... there was going to be NOTHING in my way!
But there was. I worked on M2's sleep from the beginning. And for most sleeps after a month he was able to fall asleep on his own- and only wake up when he was hungry at night. We were getting GOOD sleep at 5 weeks- 6 hours!! ...but then around 6 weeks he started being REALLY congested. Not just cute little sniffles or a little snot trickling down his cute face...
I'm talking endless snot. I scoured momboards and my favorite facebook group, I asked all my friends if their babies had been congested... and I got basically the same few tips from everyone: -steam from the shower
-frida nose sucker
-perhaps it's alergies? my mom bought us an air purifier
-perhaps it's dust? we vacuumed every day
-raise his mattress a little bit
SO that we did. All of it. It seemed like round the clock (especially in the middle of the night) we were pouring some drops of saline water into his little nostril and sucking out until we had head-aches using the Frida nose sucker. I'm not exaggerating. I would suck so hard because I believed that would help baby breathe and sleep better- until I was light-headed, even at 2 am. My husband Joe and I would trade off- half exhausted, half just so, so worried about why baby boy was so congested. Sometimes I would hold him up straight so we could sleep for some time, sometimes Joe did, sometimes we placed him in his crib knowing he'd be up soon screaming. It didn't feel normal
We went to our pediatrician and asked him at his 2m checkup but our Dr was not worried, "it's just newborn congestion. it'll go away." So we kept doing that. Every night. some nights were better than others- but in general we were up every few hours clearing out his nose and putting him back to bed -luckily he could still put himself back to sleep most times...but my poor sleep consultant pride dwindled and we were just exhausted.
Eventually, a close friend lent us her electric snot sucker (by the way snot is not disgusting to me in the very least nowadays), Joe accidentally boiled a part of it and ruined it so we bought our own... and we kept sucking snot out of his tiny nose day and night for months.
Luckily M2 is a blessing and has always been a happy, happy baby. Even in the middle of the night when he would wake up choking on snot he was smiley as soon as he saw us. We're truly so blessed with his disposition.
But it was wearing on us.
Around his 4m checkup... I was going crazy. I asked sleep consultant friends for their advice on sleep- I KNEW M2 knew how to fall asleep on his own, but he wasn't doing it! Was it because of the congestion? Was I going crazy? One sleep consultant friend said her son had had silent reflux and the congestion was the biggest sign. I COULD HEAR CHURCH BELLS IN MY HEAD. maybe that was it! maybe we had figured it out! So at his 4m checkup we asked our pediatrician.
He said, "well maybe. he doesn't really show any signs of reflux though. and even if he did it shouldn't disturb his sleep THAT much." But I pushed on and asked him to refer us to an ENT. So he did. When I called the ENT they said a visit would be about $500 and that deterred me from wanting to take him. But after a week more of basically zero sleep... We took him there. The ENT dr was so so nice and put us at ease, saying that his symptoms DID show silent reflux, and once they put a tiny camera up his nose (sad) he said that he suspected it WAS silent reflux and could give us medicine. He prescribed us Zantac.
For some reason the word Zantac sounded like such a grownup word, so I googled it. I quickly found a lot of research saying that it isn't a great drug for tiny babies... but I asked more reflux mamas I had found along the way and they all swore by it. So we gave it to our baby boy, along with Flonase for the congestion situation.
Two nights later- baby boy was finally sleeping better! The congestion had gone from full monster snot attack to just a bit. I also found on the internet that the more you use a snot sucker the more irritated the nasal cavity gets, and so here comes momguilt, 'was it my fault he had been suffering so much?' Luckily Joe knows how to navigate through my momguilt, he told me we've been doing everything in his best interest and figuring things out. I'm truly blessed with my husband as well.
Fastforward a few months- enter 6 months of age, M2 is reaching milestones way too early like he's in a rush to catch up to M1... and also waking up SCREAMING every hour or two at night some nights. It sounds like he's in pain. You know that high pitched scream that makes baby sound like he's being tortured? That. Every hour or two.
My mental health: no bueno.
Add to that that my instagram blew up pretty much over night and I accepted a client a day for three weeks straight- I was no bueno.
Anyway- in momgut knew something was wrong. I knew the Zantac we had been giving him (battling every morning and night, wrestling him, pouring it into his mouth, literally sweating doing it) was no longer working in my heart.
Add to that that a recall on the drug came out for it being carcinogenic (it's more complicated than that but my mind just captured that sentence) and the pharmacy telling us they wouldn't give us the drug. At this point, my mental health took another dive. The pharmacy was going to take away the only thing that had saved us from endless nights of congestion and pain! Luckily (?) we were able to get Zantac at Walgreens...
but it still didn't feel right to me.
So we went to the ENT again and asked what they recommended. It was a bit of an all-around talk but basically they said they would recommend a PPI- basically a step above Zantac, a stronger drug. Now, because of my manic research on google the word PPI scared me. That sounded like a bit too much for my tiny baby. But what's a girl to do when she has no medical knowledge and took biology three times in high school but barely passed each time (again, another story)?
So we bought the PPI drug but at the same time, I asked my sister what her homeopathic recommendation was (She had been telling me about homeopathic drugs she'd used on my niece when she went through a frenectomy, as well as probiotics). She suggested I try Nat Phos. So I googled it. The community of homeopathic google agreed with her.
So I gave it a try.
That same night my baby did NOT wake up every hour to two hours screaming. He no longer spat up a few times during the day- and he did not sound like he was in intense pain in the middle of the night.
I now have MAJOR momguilt over giving baby boy Zantac when it could've been hurting him this whole time. Additionally with more google-research I know that there can be some insomnia side effects... and the fact that M2 is now sleeping long stretches at night and long naps really makes me wonder...
But I'm glad we're taking Nat Phos now and that it seems to have transformed my baby's sleep OVER NIGHT. I don't want to recommend it officially since I'm DEFINITELY not a medical physician. But as a mom writing to moms looking for an answer, using Nat Phos changed our baby for the better.
Reflux is hard because there isn't much you can do about it. There isn't a clear cut answer to it- and even when baby is on Zantac... that drug doesn't 'fix' the problem, just makes the acid less acidic.
Being awake with a baby in pain is pretty miserable- I don't wish it on anyone...
It makes you feel so, so alone and it makes you feel so, so scared of your baby never being ok. It also makes you feel so guilty - was it the cheese I ate today? Was it the coffee? (I tried dropping coffee but that was easily the worst week and worst choice I made, for my mental health I added it back to my morning)
Was it something I did during pregnancy?
Seeing your baby in constant pain makes you question EVERYTHING.
Seeing your baby constantly throw up and randomly scream out in pain is terrifying.
Luckily my baby didn't have horrible horrible reflux- his case was one of 'silent' reflux... they one they call a 'happy spitter' so he was able to be ok during the day with a few fussy periods and a lot of spit-ups, and at night it got much better with Zantac for a while until he reached 6 months... it could have been worse.
So there you go, person who just spent quite a bit of time reading about my journey with reflux, that is what I went through. I hope it helps you.
Please know that even though this is SO so hard, it will get better. And even though I never recommend you full-on sleep train when baby is going through reflux, do try to give baby an opportunity to try to fall asleep on their own if they ever aren't in pain - because having that skill will help you a LOT in the future. Here are some other mamas' journeys with their reflux babies: I hope this makes you feel less alone and gives you some tips. And today, please pray for mamas with reflux babies.
I got so many entries when I asked for experiences, here are some of the ones that encapsulate most of the other ones:
He's had horrible reflux since he was 2 weeks old and has been on zantac since then (he's 6 months). We've tried everything from cutting out dairy, changing nursing positions and times, switching around his routine, and it seems like nothing ever really helped. He's now starting solids and I've noticed he keeps things down a bit easier, but he will still wake up choking and sputtering tummy acid. The best we can do is keep a paci in to help him suck everything down to keep it in his stomach. That's the only thing we have found to semi help, however, it makes sleeping hard when he depends on his pacifier so much. My only hope is that hes not in too much pain.
It is awful to see your baby in pain and to hear it's normal; all babies cry. My gut told me it wasn't right so I did research and was determined to get my girl some relief. The first 2 months were the worst, non stop crying and no sleeping. Then she got medication and I saw my baby smile. She is a happy 8 month old now but still has reflux. People think it only affect drinking but is has an impact on everything. She could only sleep on me, she wouldn't do tummy time and was always in pain. Her crying is still a trigger for me and is still suffer from postpartum anxiety and sleep anxiety. I see acounselor every twwo weeks and are doing better but I don't think I will ever have a second child. I'm afraid to go through it again. Nobody understands how it has affected me and still does.
Our daughter (first baby) has horrible reflux and it has given me so much anxiety as a first time mom! I am breastfeeding and it constantly makes me wonder if I over fed her? Underfed her last time, so now she’s too hungry? Did I eat something wrong? Did I feed her too fast? In the wrong position? I’m constantly apologizing to people ‘you can hold her, but I’m sorry in advance that she is going to spit up on you.’ It means constant bib/outfit changes and oodles of extra laundry (the car seat, her play mat, her sheets) because they all have spit up. I worry people think I’m a bad or neglectful mom because she always has spit up on her somewhere, but I can’t always change her right away. Some days I get frustrated when she spits up for the 100th time and needs another outfit, which makes me feel horrible for being upset at something she can’t control! I’m still learning to decipher her cries, especially during naps/night time. Is she just transitioning sleep cycles or is she covered in spit up? Does she need to just fuss a minute, or do I need to pick her up and burp her some more? I especially hate nursing in public because its So hard to burp her, catch her spit up, wipe her down and not flash my boobs everywhere 🙈
I used to judge people who co-slept so much. Then we had a reflux baby and it became us! We had to hold him upright with his neck perfectly extended for a whole month sitting in an armchair. I stressed about SIDs. About his breathing. About his pain. Everything. With the help of medicine, he can now sleep in his crib at night. He still can’t be in there much for naps. And he still has to be rocked to sleep. But we are making small progress. If you have a reflux baby, know that you won’t follow the rules or the book or the standard program. Take care of your baby and be patient with yourself.
My daughter is slowly improving at six months old. Sitting up has been a huge game changer for us. I wanted to start with a positive note because when your baby has reflux you feel so helpless and never see an end in sure especially when it’s your first child. Nothing prepared me for the sounds my baby would make after eating and suddenly gagging until milk spewed out like a volcano from her tiny body. We’ve come such a long way I tell myself as I thankfully have survived many months of reflux issues. Although I’m still traumatized and carrying around a large blanket as a burp cloth and wearing the same old T-shirt’s while constantly patting down baby and bedding to ensure it’s still dry during check ins. I also never lay baby down immediately after eating. Reflux made the newborn phase so difficult. I cried a lot. I don’t think anyone understood how hard it was to keep her weight up and keep both of our clothes clean. I would tell all my fellow mamas to feel thankful if their little one was blessed with no reflux. My daughter was born a month early and they have told be that may have attributed to it but also that they believed it was genetic. Either way I was unprepared and was surprised at the little knowledge I had of it during pregnancy and I wish information would’ve been made available to be at hospital instead of taking my newborn to the doctor three times unsure of babys health.
Found out she had reflux after a couple weeks from birth. Hers was silent, sometimes it came out her mouth & nose 😩 but most of the time I could just hear it gurgling up her throat and her whole face would redden. I googled it like crazy to figure out how to fix it and got mixed “solutions”. Some people said it’s because of what you eat, some people said it wasn’t. Some said to hold them up 20-30min after eating and incline their bed, some people said that those things weren’t necessary. Bottom line was that it would wake her when it was happening and she did much better on incline. (Though be careful with this-she always slid to the bottom of the bassinet, I recommend a high incline bit something that will strap them in). Ultimately I changed my diet (cut out dairy/gluten-my two favorite food groups) and it did WONDERS. My baby was suddenly super chill and happy and I beat myself up for not changing my diet sooner. I’ve slowly started adding back in (she’s now 5 months) but if I eat too much she gets fussy again and spits up more & still some out the nose (which I hated the most, it made me so sad for her!)
My baby girl was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy and silent reflux around 7 weeks. We switched to a hypoallergenic formula and started Zantac, which initially helped...until it didn’t. Every bottle was a fight to the point where we were basically force feeding her. She wouldn’t drink more than 1.5 oz at a time, which led to short naps because she was constantly hungry, which led to an always cranky baby. When Zantac was recalled, our doctor switched her to Axid, which did not help at all. I finally begged our doctor to switch us to Prevacid, on the recommendation of my parent’s neighbor who is a pediatric GI nurse. We are on day four and seeing a very slight improvement. We still have to feed her in all kinds of weird positions to distract her, and we have to bounce and sway constantly, but we are able to get four oz bottles down her now. It’s been very stressful and isolating because I never want to feed her in public, but I’m really hopeful Prevacid is the fix. My advice to other moms is to Google the heck out of it. I know everyone says not to, but reading other mom’s experiences about what worked for them and what didn’t was really helpful. If anything, it helped me feel a little less alone.
My baby never spat up but as a newborn he constantly hiccuped, arched his back, and cried when he was put on his back. I had to hold him and nurse him all night long just so he wouldn’t cry. He only slept upright on my chest. I thought this was normal until I started talking to my pediatrician. He prescribed Zantac. After a month of no improvement, he prescribed omprezole. I was extremely guilty because I thought if I was a better mom he wouldn’t need medicine but I was desperate. And it worked! My baby started sleeping 3-4 hour stretched immediately! Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel like something is not right. Babies don’t cry all night after 1-2 months. He’s off the omprezole now at 11 months. My doctor said they just grow out of reflux as their esophagus develops more. Yay!
My baby had silent reflux he also had( cows protein allergy it used to make reflux worst until I stop consuming dairy) I couldn't laid him flat on his back until he turned 6 months he was on medication zantac. He used to screamed his head off clearly in pain used to vomit here and there but not much. Anyways I ended sleeping with him on my chest until he turned 6 months and was able to roll over and sleep on his stomach. I had major postpartum anxiety so I couldn't let him sleep on his stomach before he could roll over gosh I was terrified of SIDS still am.