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HNS: Reflux

After a couple weeks off to move and settle in, the High Needs Babies and Toddlers Series is back. Last time, our topic was colic, uncontrollable crying that often sets a parent up for months of high needs. But, what if the screams really do indicate a problem? 

"He won't stop crying, like ever. He won't sleep."

"It's just colic, it will pass." 

I heard this over and over from doctor after doctor. For us, it didn't pass. It got worse and worse and worse. The closer to three months old Henry got the more horrible his screams became. Something was wrong. Something beyond colic. 

I actually did some research. Talked to people with babies online. Searched and searched. At every turn, reflux was staring me in the face. I brought it up to the doctor and our initial concerns were brushed off. But with pushing, it became apparent Henry had nearly every symptom. Eventually, he started medication, and with the right dose, the screaming stopped! The rest of the high needs symptoms did not.

Side note here. Not all high needs babies or toddlers will have reflux, and not all relux babies will be high needs. However, Henry's behavioral specialist said that there tends to be a high correlation between the two. From the other high needs moms I've met this tends to be true.

So what are the symptoms of Acid Reflux in Infants? Here are some of the most common*: 

Frequent spitting up: This one is tricky since all babies spit up. But this is a problem with they scream after spitting up, or spit up entire meals. I will say that Henry's reflux, and lot of other babies, is silent. Silent reflux is reflux that occurs without much spitting up -- it can make reflux much more difficult to diagnose.
Trouble Gaining Weight: Since they spit up so much of their meals. Since Henry's reflux was silent, he never had an issue with gaining weight, which contributed to his delayed diagnosis.
Coughing: From irritated airway
Gagging sounds: Especially when not eating. Henry would gag all the time, just randomly.  
Wet Burps: A little spit up with a burp, usually well after a feeding. Henry would often swallow it back, and then scream. 
Frequent Feeding: Babies with reflux want to eat a lot more than a "typical baby" because the milk soothes their throats and stomachs temporarily.  
Fussing while Eating: While reflux babies want to eat, it's often painful and they fuss through the process. For breastfeeding specifically, I saw pulling away, latching on and off, and screaming with swallows. Hen would want to eat but it was a struggle.
Back Arching: When young babies are in pain, they often will arch their backs and pull up their legs. Henry did this a ton, espcially if placed on his back.
Poor Sleeping: Poor babies are waking up in pain
Fussy on Back: Reflux babies are often fussier on their backs because it causes more reflux. Hen wouldn't even lay in our arms on his back as a newborn his pain was so bad. 
Congestion: We always thought Henry was about to get sick because he was so congested. But never sick. Turns out if reflux is bad enough, it can make its way to the sinuses and cause them to swell and in turn make babies sound congested.  
Frequent Hiccups: All.the.time. They usually bothered Henry.
Excessive Drool: We thought Hen was teething early. I look back in posts on this blog and I used to mention his drooling before his diagnosis. Ha, this was one of the first symptoms to fade after he was on medication. 

If your baby is uncomfortable, colicy, or high needs and you notice these symptoms. Call your doctor! Push for your child to be seen. There are treatments that can change both of your lives. I wish I had much sooner. 

*Note: "Trust me I'm a doctor -- a juris doctor" OK, lame lawyer joke there. But seriously, I'm not a medical doctor. If you suspect your child has a medical issue, please contact your doctor!

Read More Resources and References:

Mayo Clinic
Symptoms of GERD

Do you have a high needs baby with reflux? Or just a reflux baby? What symptoms did you see?

Next Topic: My take on sleep, sweet sweet sleep.

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Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting this. I haven't ruled this out for Fiona yet, but I'm gonna see how the next couple weeks go first before possibly mentioning it to the doctor.
Lindsay said…
Ethan was diagnosed with reflux early on. There are three pediatricians at our office. The one we initially saw, who I interviewed with and loved, had just seemed to want to push medication on us really quickly and wasn't really addressing my new mom concerns with the Excorcist-style vomiting my son was having each time he ate. And, oh, the SCREAMING. I dreaded feeding time because he would writhe around in pain and just SCREAM until he projectile vomited everywhere. I was concerned. After a visit I scheduled because I just HAD it, we saw a new doctor there who is our current doctor now. She figured out he had a milk protein allergy AND reflux. Instead of medication for his reflux, he was put on Gelmix - - a natural, organic carob thickener, calorie-free, not like rice cereal. And she switched him to a special formula. It was like the heavens opened with that first bottle -- no more pain, no more screaming, no more projectile puke. Ugh, reflux is brutal. :(
My oldest Curtis has reflux, and now evelyn just got diagnosed with it on Friday, we are currently on zantac. :( At least this time I figured it out at 3 weeks instead of 8 like Curtis!

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