Today I’m handing over the blog to a mum who is sharing her experience of Infant Reflux, and how it affected her son’s sleep.
My son was born via an emergency c-section, following a fraught and painful labour. I was put under a general anaesthetic and he was already one hour old when I first set eyes on him. I remember his tiny red face in that moment so well! It was almost as though he knew the torment that was to come as he looked at me for a brief second, then opened his little mouth and wailed.
The wailing went on for days.
My son rarely slept, and when he did it was with a grimace of pain on his face. He spent much of his waking hours screaming and writhing- in stark comparison to his older sister, who had been such a great sleeper. By the end of his second week on earth, my husband and I were feeling desperate. On top of the screaming and the terribly broken nights, we noticed he was also vomiting quite a lot. I became convinced that there was something seriously wrong with him and I was sure that it was down to his birth too.
At three weeks old, my son was diagnosed with Infant Reflux and we were finally given some answers. This was only the start of our journey, however! It was another ten weeks before we were given medication that was able to relieve some of his pain. Before this, we tried everything we could to try and ease his discomfort.
We knew to keep him upright as much as possible, especially after a feed. We elevated his changing mat and his cot. We used a bath seat so that he wasn’t sick while we were washing him. We were breastfeeding so I paid careful attention to every little thing that I ate. We found that dairy reacted badly with him, along with rich foods like tomatoes and some root vegetables such as parsnips. We used a dummy (pacifier) to help him to produce saliva to quell the acid and I would wear him in a sling almost 14 hours a day.
All of those things helped, but they did not take away the pain that was so awful to see. Night times were the worst. My son would have his last feed around 7pm, and would be asleep by 8pm. During that feed he would vomit at least twice, but would eventually fall asleep in my arms. Around 9pm he would wake, screaming. My husband and I took it in turns to stroke his head and whisper to him but more often than not we would return downstairs with him to try and settle him with another feed instead. By 11pm, he would usually be back in bed, and this little routine would be repeated almost hourly until the house awoke at 7am the next day.
It was exhausting.
At 13 weeks old, we took our son to see a cranial osteopath. Immediately, my son’s problems were clear to him. He was able to tell us how his birth had affected him and why he wasn’t sleeping. We were told to expect drastic changes to his sleeping habits after a few sessions.
It never happened.
Even with medication, my son continued to wake frequently and in pain.
I read so many books and talked to so many friends and health professionals in a bid to try and ease our bedtime worries. In the end, the only thing that worked for my son was us. We would stay with him by his bedside and we would comfort him. As the medication took effect, he would drift off to sleep but he needed to know that we were there with him. We would stroke his forehead and tell him that it was okay to go to sleep and he would drop off with one eye checking that we were still there!
I feel as though Reflux took away much of my son’s early days from us. I in particular felt unable to enjoy being with him most days, because I was so exhausted and so stressed about impending naps and bedtime. We fell into a trap of dreading sleep but craving it so much. Some nights I would even lie awake, waiting for him to wake up!
Things did eventually get better and my son is now almost four years old. He still wakes up every night, but he is able to get himself back to sleep most nights. Looking back, I’m not sure how we coped on so little sleep! If we had our time again, I’m not sure what I would have done differently as I honestly felt we did all we could to help him- in the end he had to grow out of the Reflux and learn to trust us and our belief that he was able to go to sleep independently. My advice to another parent with a baby suffering from Reflux is to find a doctor who understands. We had no chance of getting my son to sleep well until his condition was under control and getting that sorted proved to be a battle in itself.