Coping with reflux
Help, my baby hates milk!
JJ is almost 7 months old and we’re finally starting to experience ‘fuss-free’ feeds. It’s been a hell of a road to get to where we are now and coping with reflux has been tough. We’ve misread symptoms, been misdiagnosed and simply dismissed as ‘he’s putting on weight so there’s nothing to worry about’. But what do you do when your baby cries through every feed and gets so uncomfortable and worked up that each feed is a battle. Reflux in babies is common, affecting around 50% of babies, but that doesn’t make is any less of a worry for new parents. Am I doing something wrong?
What’s wrong with my left boob?
I tried my best with breastfeeding at the beginning, although it was always our plan to combination feed eventually. The health visitor was helpful in suggesting different feeding positions to try as JJ seemed to take a disliking to my left boob, crying and refusing to feed sometimes. Introducing bottles seemed to solve the problem at first, as I was able to express and could monitor how much he was taking, but after introducing formula for the ‘dream feed’ he seemed to take to that so much better so we ended up switching earlier than I would have wanted to.
Oh sorry, he’s been sick on you!
We were told about Cow and Gate’s thickened reflux formula by a friend as it helped to stop her little one being sick so much. JJ was a VERY sicky baby. You could pick him up 2 hours after a feed and as soon as he was upright he would bring milk back up – muslins were a key statement of our outfits each day! For a few weeks it worked a treat – but then the crying and back-arching returned and we started to notice a blotchy rash appear on his face during feeds. Each feed seemed to get worse as the day went on, as if the more milk that was built up in his system, the more irritated he got.
It can’t be reflux..
By this point I had turned to google and mummy groups for any answers I could get. From pictures of the rash, lots of people said it looked like an allergy – could JJ be lactose or dairy intolerant? – so off we went to the GP for clarification. As JJ was fine and happy in himself in between feeds and was gaining weight as normal, we weren’t really taken that seriously. I felt like I was the one making all the suggestions just to try and get some kind of solution, and we were eventually sent away with lactose-free formula to try. The GP didn’t even mention any other possible options relating to reflux, so away we went thinking we had been unaware of JJ’s allergy all along.
The new formula made no difference and the next few weeks were spent back and forth from the GP surgery. We saw someone different this time, so I made a point of feeding JJ in front of them so they could see for themselves. As there was no change with the lactose-free formula, they then suspected CMPA (cows milk protein allergy). I wasn’t keen to keep messing around with different formulas so they prescribed Neocate straight away, which is what people on different Mummy groups had mentioned had worked for their little ones (when they had eventually been prescribed it.) It was so thin that JJ could not keep it down at all so we had to use a thickener to minimise the sick which was now at an all time high. The change in milk had also turned his nappies from the delightful korma colour to dark green / black – so gross. I understand it can take a few weeks for cows milk to completely leave the system, but there was still no obvious improvement – we were just starting to accept that some feeds would be better than others. Still, the health professionals kept reminding us that he was putting on weight as normal, so it just felt like we were being a nuisance. So what is normal then?!
Enough is enough
A day came where JJ was not just uncomfortable and pushing his bottle away, he was literally screaming and writhing in pain, refusing to feed in any position. I made another appointment straight away. I had seen posts from other Mums who were still battling to get a solution and it seemed there was a fair amount of crossover when it came to reflux and allergies. At this point I didn’t believe it could be just an allergy, if at all, so I knew I would have to be firm to try and get some different answers. We were finally prescribed Ranitidine – a small amount to be given before feeds twice a day. This seemed to improve things a lot immediately after the medicine was taken, but unfortunately not for the feeds in between – great!
We had been advised to continue on Neocate for the time-being until we could be referred to a Paediatrician for a second opinion. We’d been prescribed 12 boxes (hey, at least we were saving money – every cloud and all that) but as we got towards the end of our supply, there was a big ‘hoo-hah’ in the area as GP’s were given new guidelines to stop providing these special formulas on prescription. Rather than change JJ’s milk again I bit the bullet and decided to try him back on Cow and Gate – the follow-on milk this time. He was now 6 months old and we had started weaning (which he loved!) Almost immediately his nappies were back to normal (as normal as they could be when introducing new fruit and veggies..) and he seemed to be taking it a lot better. Just in time for us to see the Consultant – typical!
So after months of the happiest baby in the world turning into a monster during feeds, with Mama and Daddy pulling our hair out and googling the sh*t out of life wondering what to try next, we finally seem to have come out the other side. The Consultant wasn’t concerned about the blotchiness (which still appears occasionally during feeds), which is all we needed to hear really. He said that most babies grow out of reflux by 12 months old – which is great, but doesn’t change the fact that we spent months struggling, with Doctors who either didn’t really know what to advise or didn’t really care! It may not be a ‘red flag’ for them, but it’s not nice to see your baby so unhappy doing the thing they should be biologically programmed to love!
Has anyone else experienced reflux or allergies with their little ones? Did you get the guidance and support you needed?