Reflux. A filthy word to parents of a baby. I wanted to share our journey with this condition & some of the things we found helpful and also not so helpful.
First off I need to start by saying it does end. It feels like you'll never have a happy baby, like the sleepless nights & crying in pain are just your 'new life' but I promise it does end.
Our journey started when Ru was about 6 weeks old. At this point breastfeeding wasn't working for us any more and I begun exclusively pumping & bottle feeding her breast milk. She began to be fussy, spilly during & after her bottle. As first time parents we put this down to normal newborn behavior. On the face of it, that's exactly what it looked like. A quick chat to our midwife and she said using products to help colic like Gripe Water & Infacol were our best bet. We did this, tried anything we could find. Still a fussy baby. At about 2 months old I began to suspect this was a little more than an unhappy baby. The fussiness had turned into back arching and the crying after a bottle would last 30 minutes sometimes and hour. I am 100% unashamedly a "google mum" and Ru had most of the symptoms of a reflux baby. I took her to our doctor who told us at 2 months she was too young to diagnose with Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux (GOR), commonly termed as reflux. He suggested I try to go dairy free as the lactose in my breast milk could be what is triggering it & gave us Gaviscon.
Gaviscon worked magically, she slept well for the first time in her little life, didn't scream and cry in pain and seemed to be HAPPY! Hooray we thought! Problem solved! That was until 5 days later the poor soul still had not been number 2's. Back into the doctor and I was told Gaviscon can have a constipating effect. A tiny enema was ordered to give Ru some relief and almost as if she heard & understood what they were about to do to her she pooped & we left without having to intervene! The only problem was we now couldn't use our magic fix. I tried to take a more natural approach and we saw 2 different osteopaths 1 of which did LITERALLY nothing! Sat there with his hands on her belly and head for about 30 minutes then handed her back to us. Worst part is we paid $70 for that! The other seemed like she was doing more stuff (moving her hands around Ru's body) but still never felt like it actually 'helped'.
Back to the doctors we went, she was now about 3 months old and it felt like all of my pleas with the doctor were falling on deaf ears. It didn't matter how much I tried to explain her symptoms and how unhappy she was he was reluctant to give her medication like Losec which is very well known to help this condition. We were given Ranitadine. A drug meant to stop her spilling. This worked for a few weeks and again we were thinking hooray its solved! But it began to have less of an effect & we were back at square one. Ruby began to drink less and less as I think she knew it was what was hurting her, this left her hungry and she cried for hours on end. Arie and I would sit on the end of our bed taking turns bouncing her up and down as this motion seemed to be the only thing that comforted her enough to stop crying. Every night we would spend about 4 hours doing this just to get her to fall asleep. My heart ached for my little baby, and it became really difficult to bond with her. At this point my milk production had started to drop off. Months and months of pumping had taken its toll and by body couldn't do it anymore. Neither could my head. Trying to settle a really unhappy baby as well as pump around the clock was leaving me no time to sleep or eat & I was dropping weight crazy fast. I was lacking nourishment and felt like all of the small meals I managed to eat were just being used in my breast milk, nothing was left for me. I made the hard choice to begin to formula feed.
That weekend it got really bad, she refused to drink anything, pain medication, reflux medication, breast milk or the formula. She didn't want any of it. She hadn't had anything in about 12 hours and we got really worried. We took her into the hospital and they made us force water down her throat to keep her hydrated. A few hours later she took a small bottle of breast milk. My second to last bottle of the stuff. The doctors only advice was that I needed to continue feeding her breast milk, I needed to go to a health shop and pick up stuff to help me lactate, they gave me a script for some medication too and sent us on our way. They were also nice enough to give me what I had been asking for from the beginning - Losec. I cried so much in the car, my body couldn't do it anymore, it wanted to give up but here I was being told to force it to keep making milk?? I tried it all and nothing helped to increase my supply. Luckily we had bout about 6 different brands of formula to try Ru on and see if she liked one, and she did! That combined with the losec meant a happy baby! Hooray problem solved again!!!!! The next day changing her nappy I noticed blood in her poo's. Back to the doctors. AGAIN. Our regular GP was busy and we saw a lovely lady doctor who was a mum herself to a young baby. For the first time I felt like she really listened to what I was saying, Ruby pooed on queue and I could even show her the blood. She told me this was a red flag for a dairy allergy. She fast tracked us some prescription formula with no lactose. It apparently tasted foul so the only way to get Ru to drink it was by adding a drop of vanilla essence. For 2 months this formula was a god send. Ruby was happy, sleeping better, no back arching and I was even able to wean her off her medication. I then felt confident enough to try and slowly expose her back to regular formula. She had a half and half mix and I gradually increased this as she got older and more able to handle it. Ruby is now 9 months old,we are out the other side of that long dark reflux tunnel. She drinks cows milk formula with lactose, eats cheese and other dairy products and sleeps through the night. My advice for any parent going through this is to fight for what you think is right. Keep being the advocate for your child, if you feel like something is wrong, it probably is. No one knows your child better than you. If one thing doesn't work search for other options. But more than that, get help. Physical help, emotional help, medical help. You need it all. It is a really hard time, but I promise it does get better.