“She’s just a baby, all babies cry”
“It must be colic”
“She’s just tired”
“She’s gaining weight so don’t worry about it, perhaps she’s just fussy”
“It’s just a phase”
“Perhaps it’s the positioning”
….. these are just some of the infuriating comments that have been said to me during my first few months as a mum.
At about five weeks old we noticed something wasn’t quite right with Amelia’s eating. I was exclusively breastfeeding at this time and apart from it being tender (as it is for all new mums) the first few weeks of breast feeding were ok. And then it started. The screaming. Just as soon as I put Amelia to my breast she started crying uncontrollably, pulling away, arching her back and kicking her legs. It was a nightmare. Unlike most of my mummy friends, who could feed their baby if he/ she was upset, feeding Amelia resulted in an even unhappier baby and a hell of a lot of noise.
It got to the stage where I simply couldn’t feed Amelia out of the house, feeling both guilty that she was making such a noise and also embarrassed that people would look at me thinking that I was doing something wrong. This meant that I was often rushing about like a mad woman, desperate to still go to my new mum classes and coffee meets, but then rushing home to feed instead of feeding her at the end of the class like the others. I was shattered and emotionally drained, not to mention embarrassed that I just couldn’t feed my baby properly. I felt like I was failing.
Not only was feeding time unbearable for both mum and baby (and for any onlookers), the rest of the time Amelia seemed to suffer with tummy aches, being very unsettled, was always clammy to the touch, she experienced constant dribbling (not like teething dribbling) and always had clenched fists. Saying that though she looked bonnie, had rosy cheeks and was putting on weight. So to the outside world I was being a little bit melodramatic, and that was part of the problem.
I went to breastfeeding clinics, rang the National Breastfeeding Helpline, saw LLL councilors, , midwives and health visitors… none of them could see much wrong with the way I was holding or feeding Amelia. We checked her for tongue tie and poor latch, but everything was clear. At this stage it was just put down to fussiness.
And when I saw a doctor in the early days they would suggest that perhaps Amelia had colic or that she would grow out of it as it was just a ‘phase’. It took me finally breaking down in front of the doctor when her weight started to go down for them to take me seriously and refer me to a pediatrician.
Finally it was diagnosed that Amelia had silent reflux.. An ironic condition really, as let me tell you, a silent reflux baby is far from silent. Quite the opposite!
Silent reflux is when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and irritates the throat. It is called “silent” because babies who have it do not show the typical symptoms associated with acid reflux, i.e. they don’t throw up all the time and can continue to put weight on.
So we started off own the meds route, Gaviscon (made her constipated), Ranitidine (had some impact but by no means cured her), Omeprazole (gave her a tummy ache). We even went dairy free, but this caused her to dehydrate so much so that her fontanelle (that tender bit on her head) sunk in. Thankfully we were finally discharged by the dietician last week who advised us that it isn’t likely to be a cow’s milk protein allergy. CAVEAT: I should say here that I feel so fortunate that this was considered though as I know multiple people whose babies suffered with cow’s milk allergies and only found out as a last resort, usually by self-diagnosis or by a trip to hospital. I am so relieved the doctors considered this for us, as this allergy can be horrible and I really feel for those who have to go through it.
For us Ranitidine is the only thing that seems to scratch the surface of Amelia’s reflux (which doesn’t come with a whole list of other side effects), but unfortunately it’s not a magic bullet.
For the last month we have started combination feeding, giving Amelia breast milk from a bottle and formula. It seems she gets on much better when she can control the flow of the milk and prefers thicker liquid (as such we often thicken the breast milk and formula with a tiny bit of baby rice). The mechanics of her eating are very particular too. We feed her on a special beanbag as she cries if we hold her to feed her. They say reflux babies need to be as straight as possible feeding and upright so hence the beanbag. So far it seems to be doing the trick. However it does make me sad feeding her like this as I miss out on the cuddles that usually go with feeding time.
We are also early weaning too (on advice from the pediatrician), and have been since 17 weeks. This I think has been one of the turning points, as she seems to be able to deal with the purees far better than the milk. She also adores it and it’s such a fun part of our day. She grabs the spoon and is really engaged in the whole process which is lovely to see and so reassuring after the initial four months of screaming whilst feeding. I was worried the silent reflux was going to put her off eating for life but thankfully she seems to adore the real stuff! Just like her mummy, phew!
So why am I writing this blog…? Not for sympathy. No. Firstly, I write as a means of therapy for me as it always helps to get it out on paper, but mostly I write because I know I am not the only one dealing with this and I hope in some small way I may be able to help others going through this with my words.
Bringing up a newborn is always going to be tough, but for those little ones who struggle with things like reflux, dairy intolerances or of course far worse illnesses, life can be very draining for the parents.
You can constantly feel like you are traipsing down to the doctors and annoying them with your daily triage calls. The pharmacists greet me by name now and I feel that I should have a dedicated parking space at the doctors. Amelia’s feeding is the topic of conversation every night over supper with James and when I speak to the grandparents, not to mention all the tears I have shed over this subject.
All I would say is trust your instinct. You know your baby and you know if there is something not quite right, no matter whether you are an old hand or a new mummy. I feel like we might finally being starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with Amelia’s feeding, but it’s been a long hard journey.
So if you are suffering with something similar, please trust your gut (excuse the pun), don’t settle for anyone telling you that “babies cry” or “it’s just a phase”, because if you know in your heart that something is wrong, then it probably is.