I asked Cherie Bacon Byrne to do a guest blog post for us the other day about Reflux and how to recognise if your little one might have it and then to expand a bit for us and explain the difference between Reflux disease and Reflux. She very kindly sent on an adaptation from her book which really gets to the nuts and bolts of reflux. As some of you know Ruby has silent reflux, she showed symptoms from early on and I was told repeatedly it was colic by my GP. Eventually when we were in hospital for bronchiolitis in January and she was 8 weeks old the paed insisted on the Barium Swallow test and it came back confirming what I had suspected. We were lucky, a formula change resolved the issue generally and it didn’t flare again until weaning and even now there are some foods she can’t tolerate. I urge you to join the Facebook group Cherie has created for advice and support if you think your little one may have reflux.
Recognising the Signs of Reflux
Often parents are told they just have a fussy baby or the term colic is used. Reflux is a lot different as the crying is not isolated to a specific time and can be constant screaming night and day. I remember thinking I would swap ten babies with colic for a baby with reflux.Our baby was actually diagnosed with colic on top of the reflux when she was six weeks old. She would cry constantly, but for a period at night she would cry at a much higher pitch. The colic seemed to exasperate her reflux, the force of her back arching was also heightened, trying to feed her during these hours was impossible.
Signs of reflux:
Our baby displayed many traits that are common amongst babies with silent reflux (SR). Babies who repeatedly projectile vomit are diagnosed easier as it is obviously more visible. Weight loss is also an indicator in some cases and is how most professionals record how the reflux is affecting the baby. Most babies with Silent Reflux do not fall under this category as they do not lose the contents of their feed through projectile vomiting and vital calories for weight gain are not lost. This sometimes results in a slower diagnosis of the disease, as these babies are seen to be gaining weight; they are classed as “thriving.”
Other signs include excessive crying or irritability during or after feeding or regurgitation and choking or blue spells, back arching when being held or feeding.
From my own experience I found that my baby would seem extremely hungry but as soon as she would feed, within seconds, she would smack the bottle from my hand and then try to feed again. This would go on for the entire duration of her feeding time. I now know that the acid burn was obviously making drinking impossible for her. From looking at the barium swallow test (see chapter 2 within my book) we could see that the muscles in her stomach would constantly project her feed back up into her oesophagus causing a counter reaction. I also remember at one stage for a month or two, she looked like she was drowning while I fed her. This was so frightening to watch and I dreaded every single feed.
My baby would also back arch in my arms and claw at my chest and face, her arms would also fly outwards as if she had been frightened or startled.
When she was two months old I remember thinking she had started teething at a very young age. She had excessive drool and would eat her hands constantly. This however is a huge symptom of reflux as the acid burn at the back of the throat can cause this behaviour. By means of hand chewing, the baby tries to reach the back of the throat to soothe the burn. As she got older she would shove her whole fist down her throat while screaming.
Also a baby with uncontrolled reflux will feed voraciously. This again is their way of easing the “burn”. It often results in over feeding which in turn, will cause the reflux to worsen as there is more milk to reflux into the oesophagus.
Sleeping patterns can be extremely poor for a lot of reflux babies. My baby still wakes up numerous times at night. I personally find broken sleep a killer. Your day seems to pass by in a fuzzy haze. Concentration is lost and you feel like an emotional wreck. I experience serious brain fog and for me, sleep deprivation is my kryptonite.
In my experience, I have found that many medical professionals feel if a baby is thriving and gaining weight there is no cause for concern. I remember the comments about our baby during this stage and how people said she was a “fine big healthy child!” I now recoil when I hear the term “thriving.”
Excessive hiccups are another huge symptom of reflux, especially wet ones. I now know when she has an episode as her eyes go red; she stops in her tracks and then (depending on the force) liquid can come from her nose. Another small sign of reflux is a smell from a baby’s breath; it can be noticeable and sour smelling.
Many babies with reflux will have serious wind issues; this will make colic issues ten times worse. I found probiotics brilliant for this, but if your baby has intolerances to dairy choose one without. There are many different brands on the market which cater for allergies.
Difference between GOR & GORD
There are many severities of reflux, ranging from mild reflux known as ‘GOR’ (gastro-oesophageal reflux), to the more severe type known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease ‘GORD’. There are many differences between the two. GOR can correct itself when a baby is roughly three or four months old and can be managed by using lifestyle changes such as adding a thickener to feeds, not overfeeding, holding in the upright position for 30 minutes etc. This kind of reflux is tough going. I can still remember the constant screaming, floor walking and poor feeding, as well as a lack of any proper routine with my first child who had GOR. Nevertheless, it rectified itself when he turned three months old. GORD however, is totally different. The severities of the attacks are much worse and prolonged. Normal coping mechanisms and techniques of keeping the baby upright after feeds and stay down formula, will not work. Medication is needed and the child can display symptoms for well over a year and in some cases, much longer.
GORD is a disease; the child will need ongoing medical care and investigations. It can also cause a multitude of other health problems. This information is crucial for any parent or caregiver dealing with this problem. Unfortunately GOR and GORD get thrown into the one pot that is called “Reflux.” This is extremely frustrating for parents, as it is like comparing the common cold to a smashed leg. Often parents struggle with this awful disease unsupported and misunderstood. The majority of family and friends and wider community are completely unaware that there is a difference. I now tell people my baby has reflux disease or G0RD. It saves me from hearing a lot of the preconceptions that people may have about the disease and that there is certainly a huge difference in the pain of the baby and the struggles of the parents.
Adaptation from The Reflux Bible Book
The book can be bought online at http://www.therefluxbible.com
Eason in the Omni Park shopping center Santry Dublin 9
The bookmarket Clonmel
For more information and support please join us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/RefluxIreland/?ref