That time I was a new Mum with a Reflux baby
Today as I stood back and looked at my four-year-old pushing her chair up to my pantry cupboard to get herself a snack (which is cute and also drives me a bit batty) I had a random memory pop into my head of her as a tiny baby, a tiny screaming baby who would barley leave my chest, who would vomit all over me. I looked at her in disbelief this morning almost as if me from 4 years ago was watching and couldn’t believe her eyes, like ‘wow ok so the reflux and constant screaming will come to an end!’ Me from 4 years ago though would’ve then followed that thought up with ‘but when?! When will it end?!’ Here I am now looking at this functioning human almost fending for herself when it feels like just yesterday that she didn’t do much else but scream and vomit and it kinda still blows my mind how far we had come.
Well my dear past me approximately around 11 months old it will ease off but then there’s the shit storm we call toddlerhood (mwahahaha) which is something else extreme to deal with all on its own but first you have the reflux to sort out.
From the second Audrey came into the world she started screaming and didn’t really stop for months on end. It’s funny because you hear that term ‘screaming nonstop’ I even heard about reflux and researched it when I was pregnant but my understanding of it was not enough. Just simply I didn’t know enough and you really don’t know how horrible it is until you have lived with it. You really can’t comprehend ‘screaming all day’ until you have had a baby who doesn’t sleep and is in so much pain and the only reason they sleep is because they are exhausted from screaming at which point you may be lucky to get a 20-minute nap out of them in an entire 12-hour day and that may just refresh them enough to scream through to the night.
I have wanted to write about my experience with reflux for a while now but it’s funny how hindsight works. If I had written this 2 or 3 years ago my memory may have been clearer but then I wouldn’t have had my second baby to compare my experiences too… and it wasn’t until Indiana came along and I had a fairly calm ‘normal’ baby that I truly realised the difference in a reflux baby and just how bad it was with Audrey.
Some people say reflux doesn’t happen straight from birth, I am not a doctor but in my experience with Audrey there is absolutely no argument that she had it from day 1. As I said she came out screaming and didn’t really stop, her birth wasn’t the worst and wasn’t the best and that’s another story but it was the days after that stick more in my head than anything. I went through a public hospital as a private patient and was lucky enough to score a room mainly to myself.
On day two however they put a lady in labour next to me, it was only a 2-bedroom room thank god. I felt sorry for this poor love next to me, going through contractions with my baby next door screaming her head off, she ended up going away to have her bub in a birthing room and came back to recover at which point I managed to intercept her and apologise, she was lovely and said she felt a little more prepared by listening to my calling the nurses and asking them questions and that I was a good distraction for her! Haha what a nice lady! I remember buzzing the nurses and asking them about Audrey a lot, my main one I buzzed a fair bit just miffed by how much this kid was vomiting, I kept buzzing and asking and buzzing and asking… ‘all she is doing is vomiting, is it normal?’ and them saying yes ‘it is normal, all babies vomit love’. Well yeah sure they do but I sure as shit know now that Indiana didn’t vomit all day every day from the second I had her, especially not projectile like Audrey and not the volumes like Audrey did and she didn’t scream as much as poor Audrey did either. Indi would cry out for a feed sure but Audrey’s screaming was something else, however at the time I had no idea.
I remember telling my husband to go home and bring back more swaddles and clothing as she had spewed that much I had to keep changing her clothing, wiping it off with baby wipes just wouldn’t have cut it. I was super organised too and had packed more than enough, again this was not the case with Indiana, I didn’t even use 2 outfits in my time in hospital with her! Anyway all these differences sure did become clearer after having Indi. By day 3 and time to go home I was a wreck, it was now Wednesday and when I say I hadn’t slept for three days I mean, I had not slept since going into labour on the Sunday night having Audrey 25 hours later on the Monday night and then spending three wakeful days and nights in hospital where I got an hour (perhaps) of broken sleep each 24 hour period… in an uncomfortable single bed, having lovely and well-meaning and very welcome visitors coming in left right and centre, Audrey screaming the entire time and having a new nurse tell me something different every half hour. Again such a difference experience with Indi, she came into the world and was so sleepy from the whole ordeal we had to wake her for feeds! In the car Audrey slept peacefully, the car was amazing for her and that would become my saving grace in the early months however the day we took her home I was too out of it to really realise this and I wept the whole way home probably from a combination of hormones, exhaustion and feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost.
By mid-morning on day 4 and after another wakeful night at home with a screaming baby I lost it. I hadn’t had a single minute to recovered from birth and labour and in all honesty my recovery with Indi was much easier even with a toddler running around the house as well! Indi slept and that is the difference! She still woke up every few hours for feeds but she slept and fed and if she was awake she was content! In the days after having Indi I remember texting friends who had babies like that asking if she was normal or if she was sleeping too much! She spun me out!
Back to Audrey on day 4 and I remember at one point crying heavily trying to feed her and having her scream immediately after. The thing with Aud’s was, she was an effective feeder, she just would scream and vomit a lot. My husband took her from me and she immediately settled. I felt like as a mum I was failing, I felt like my little baby hated me, why would she settle with him and not me? For the next two weeks, it would work like that, he would take her after a feed, sit her upright on his chest, do the burping, deal with the spew and she seemed to be ok. I ended up being terrified of him going back to work. The day finally came though when it was me and her on our own.
Like a crazy person that morning I put on one of his shirts thinking maybe that would help our situation. . . it didn’t and I so vividly remember calling him in tears by midday-ish and he organised my mother in law to come over and help. From that day for the next couple of weeks she came around for about half the day each day just to help me keep my sanity. She would take Audrey from me, pop her belly against her shoulder and walk her around my house while I sat or laid down, even at my most tired I can’t nap during the day but being able to just simply put my feet up was a massive help because as most people know with a reflux baby you often are on your feet keeping them up right rocking or swaying. Audrey loved being high up on your chest with her belly touching your shoulder and walking around being patted on her back. I did this a lot, I would lap my house all day just to help her stop crying and to find some peace, that was until I found my very first wrap (she was not into the baby Bjorn at first) to pop her in. Four years ago there weren’t too many around and I had to order mine from the states which took 2 weeks to arrive but once I got it, it was a life saver. I could never pop Audrey in the baby swing or on the play mat for longer than a few minutes at a time and she wouldn’t go in her pram until she was 3 months old and even then, it wasn’t for long, another opposite to my second born. Indiana loved her swing and pretty much lived in it for the first 3 months of her life.
The next few months are honestly a blur, moments stick out in my mind like the night when she was 4 weeks old and projectile vomited so much she covered my husband too and woke him in the middle of the night. He was cranky which is not like him, he was getting broken sleep too and having to turn up to work the next morning, so Audrey and I moved into the spare room and co slept for 4 months. Cosleeping gave me anxiety, even only 4 short years ago it was really uncommon or frowned upon, now it seems the tables have turned and its actually acceptable (and some research suggest quite safe, don’t quote me on that please look into it for yourself) but at the time I feared I would squish her or suffocate her with blankets so I slept without any blankets on in the middle of winter and like the crazy person I am I opted to wear 3 layers of pyjamas (and of course Audrey was in warm clothes and a swaddle) and slept (well more so lay awake next to her resting waiting for the next feed or spew to clean) with no pillow so she would be safe.
People would ask me if she slept and if she was a happy or a good baby and I remember lying through my teeth in fear of being judged as a terrible mother, which is definitely how I felt.
I remember being scared to take her out in public even after her vaccinations because she would scream that much and so loud people would look. I couldn’t feed her in public because she would fuss so much and make such a scene. One day I was out having a very rare coffee with my mother’s group and Audrey was about 3 months old, she was crying for a feed and fussed so much she flashed the barista my boob from under a cloth, now that may not bother some women and all the power to you but hot damn I was embarrassed. I dashed off to a smelly parent’s room to feed her and came back about an hour later to a cold coffee. I think from memory one of the lovely girls came to check on me because I had been gone that long.
By 5 months old I was at the end of my tether, I felt so so so guilty for basically wishing her life away, doctors kept telling me to wait and see what happened and maybe she would grow out of her reflux but anxiety was at an all-time high. I had a wedding coming up that I was bridesmaid in and I had to leave Audrey over night for and I just could not fathom how that was ever going to happen. Not only was I her feeder but she would not take a bottle or a dummy it had come to a point now that we were so inseparable my husband could not even settle her anymore. I was so concerned how anyone would look after her or let alone get food in her belly. I had tried all the tricks in the book for reflux babies, I had he cot tilted (not that she slept in it very much), I had started her on solids early under our paediatrician’s advice and nothing was giving her much relief … the only saving grace was a car ride. I would strap her in everyday and we would lap the block or drive an hour for a drive though coffee (because back in the day Maccas didn’t do them then!).
It was at about lunch time one day and I had her in the pram pushing her around the house and running over this one bump in our floor constantly to get her to sleep (another crazy thing I did for some peace) I was yet again starving unable to take 5 minutes to make a proper lunch and making random stops by my fridge to eat whatever I could grab out of there, often olives, cold meat an apple etc. I stopped pushing the pram grabbed her out and popped her in her little play ufo thing (you know those things where they kind of sit in the seat and spin around to all the activities, that thingy) so I could make myself something proper to eat when I heard her spew and then start screaming.
I was over it. I was over doctors telling me to try alternatives, to wait for her to outgrow it and that all babies spew. I was over the contestant cleaning, no sleeping, screaming nonstop for 5 months straight. I was over staying up all night breastfeeding and googling everything under the sun related to reflux. Most of all I was over my poor baby being in pain, I wanted to give her relief and if I was beyond exhausted I couldn’t imagine how my poor baby even felt. I called my doctor’s office in tears. I was surprised through this whole ordeal I never got PND. They fit me in and that day I was sent home with a trial packet of Losec medicine for her. Losec is usually given to babies in liquid form and you usually get this from a compound chemist but that would take another 24 hours and I was desperate so following my chemist’s instructions to a T I dissolved Audrey’s dose in breast milk and dispensed it to her. It was almost instant that I had a different baby. I felt so much guilt pretty much drugging my baby but I was desperate and you know what it was working.
Over the next couple weeks there was no denying my baby was a million times better, she was happy, she started trying to crawl and started sleeping more, waking only a couple times a night which was amazing because she also went to her own cot and took a bottle and a dummy! It was still work but she took them! I started enjoying motherhood even more and we started to get out and about with ease. By 11 months old she was sleeping through the night and napping at home like a champ, I gingerly took her off the Losec on my doctors advice at 1 year old and she was fine. I ended up going to my friend’s hens and wedding and even though I still looked exhausted Audrey was perfect for my mum and mother in law who looked after her the nights for me.
It’s funny now when I sit and look at her now, my little best friend, playing quietly, just a happy, healthy content 4 year old so much time has passed and yet I remember in the early days so vividly, it must’ve scared me that much that it stuck with me. I just couldn’t grasp the fact that she would grow and that there was an end to the reflux, that there was an end to the feed, scream, vomit, clean cycle that often had me confined to my house and feeding chair all day every day for a good 5 months. Everyone told me that it would end but I just couldn’t see how or when. I knew some ladies currently dealing with refluxing babes too but I had no one around who had recently been through it and come out the other side to tell me in detail their experience and what they did. My mum told me I had it and gave me a few helpful tips but for the most part the details for her were hazy because she was trying to push he memory back 26 years.
The first year of Audrey’s life was tough for me on one side I was blissfully in love with her and on the other side her reflux really had me as a shell of myself. I was like a zombie from the walking dead. She ended up still battling reflux a little bit as a toddler but came off the medication without any troubles and as I said having had a baby who didn’t suffer with it I can now really see the difference it made in her as a baby. I hope my putting my story out there helps someone going through this right now, there is an end to the constant screaming and vomiting and there is help. I hope it helps if you have already had a reflux baby to, to know you weren’t alone, I hope it helps if you have had a reflux baby and are pregnant again with another and are freaking out like I was, wondering if your next one will be the same because I got lucky and my second was a dream of a baby. However this is another reason why I won’t go back for anymore, I’m not prepared to risk it and battle reflux with two other kids in tow and if this is you doing this please let me buy you a coffee! Lastly remember there is always help out there, I probably shouldn’t have let this go on for as long as I did and If you’re desperate get second opinion, reach out to friends or family and it doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor even for a trial of something to help… and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
If you think your baby may have reflux have a read of this site and please remember this blog is my experiance only, i am not a health professional, please seek prfoessional help.
Until next time.