While pregnant, I remember my sister telling me that her infant had silent reflux. It’s horrible. And that I should pray my baby doesn’t get it. I took note – I prayed. What I didn’t do, was find out what exactly is reflux. Then, I had no choice but to know.
Silent Reflux is Anything But Silent
My son is now over a year old. But let’s rewind 55 weeks: The first night of being a mum was filled with screams. My tiny baby squirmed, arched his back, and fussed, and eventually fell asleep without feeding much. I remained oddly calm. This is probably normal, I told myself.
No, it wasn’t.
What is Silent Reflux?
Medically called laryngopharyngeal reflux, silent reflux is when the stomach acid comes back up in the throat and larynx. It can be quite painful – the acid burns, and is uncomfortable (but there’s no vomiting, hence it’s “silent” reflux). It can’t be cured, only controlled. Of the many causes, my son’s is due to a severe allergy to cow’s milk protein, i.e. he has difficulty digesting it, which means the milk is then pushed back up and the reflux occurs. Babies outgrow this allergy between the ages of 1 and 3 years.
By the time he was 3 months old, he was diagnosed with having ‘severe reflux.’
What Having Severe Reflux Meant For Baby
His journey was nothing short of uncomfortable, fussy and painful. He had to be constantly rocked or bounced (up to 40 mins at a time) to be put to sleep or calm down; in the early stages he had to be held upright throughout his entire nap; he couldn’t lie back – not even in his car seat or stroller – without experiencing discomfort; he sounded like he had a cold with a raspy voice; he fed in very small doses often; he’d wake up within 10 minutes of lying in his crib and couldn’t stay asleep; and he had trouble burping.
After 3 formula changes, we finally found the right fit for him when he was 14 weeks old: Similac Alimentum. This formula has the milk proteins broken down into smaller blocks, which made it easier for his digestive system to handle. Coupled with Nexiam (which reduces the amount of acid the stomach produces) administered twice a day, this combo brought about a small dose of much-needed respite, for him and for us as parents. So while his reflux was present, it meant A LOT LESS pain and crying!
Some Tips for Mums & Babes
Having a routine was important to my husband and I. Following the E.A.S.Y. method by The Baby Whisperer (Tracy Hogg) to the best of my ability helped – while my son still isn’t a good sleeper at all, his awake time was planned out and he knew what to expect. We simply worked around his cues and routine for maximum sanity amid the madness.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Things started looking positive when he commenced eating solids full time, at six and a half months old. I got the go-ahead from our paediatrician to start weaning at four and a half months but he wasn’t interested at that time. So I followed his lead and when he was ready, he keenly tasted everything I offered.
Within two weeks or so, his reflux symptoms further reduced. And by the time he was eight months old, I followed my instincts, went cold turkey and stopped all reflux and gas medication. And he didn’t suffer any consequences! I simply cannot describe the relief I felt at this, and to be able to finally get rid of all those medications/sachets/bottles and syringes. While he did reflux at times (I’d hear the gurgling of milk in his throat), there was zero pain.
Living Through the Worst
All I remember from those early days were constant crying and fussing, day and night. Silence suddenly became rare in my home. The few minutes I got to myself were spent just sitting in stupor – I had trouble accepting my situation at first. I’d have constant mental pep talks with myself. The whole experience was alienating. Deep down, I knew this couldn’t be my reality forever. It just couldn’t be. It had to ease up. I didn’t know when. I didn’t know how. So I lived each moment as it was; each day as it came. I didn’t hold out hope that by a certain time it will magically improve (many mums told me things ease up at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 4 months, 6 months, etc.), I just took it as it came. I had no choice.
Dear Mums With Reflux Babies…
To the mums reading this and feeling desperately alone, or downright frustrated, take baby steps (the irony!) and start small in coping with it. Take each moment, each hour, and each day as it unfolds. Don’t question it – Finding reasons and answers can be maddening. You don’t have to prep yourself to be positive, you just have to prep yourself to tackle the now; today. Start with today. Each day.
You may be surrounded by people who are supportive, caring, and who know how to respect you and your space, or you may be surrounded by those who could do with a lesson on how to be more like that. Either way, filter out the noise, communicate with your spouse or those closest to you, and know that even though they are not going through what you are, you are handling it in your own unique way. You just can’t see it yet. But you’re exactly the warrior your baby needs right now. ❤️
If you want to chat about this, or know someone who would like to, drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org