The first year of a baby’s life is amazing. Milestones such as cooing, the first smile, rolling over, crawling, and – for some, walking – are celebrated. I love to reminisce and watch videos, look at pictures and flip through the baby book of both my son and daughter. My son and daughter’s first year of life brought much joy. However, severe acid reflux in both of my children brought them much pain and created challenges for our family.
My daughter was born seven weeks early. After three weeks of being in the NICU, my husband and I were given the green light to go home. We were ecstatic to see what the future held. When our daughter was about two months old, she was unable to sleep. She also began vomiting, crying for hours both day and night, arching her back and had difficulty gaining weight.
My husband and I knew something was wrong and our pediatrician diagnosed our daughter with acid reflux. We tried two different medications and four different formulas to help eliminate the acid reflux. We would hold our daughter upright for about 20 minutes after each feeding and had her sleep upright but nothing worked. She would often cry from being in pain and was exhausted from not sleeping.
A few times, she choked on her own vomit, turned blue from not being able to breathe and CPR was almost administered. Luckily, she threw up and was able to breathe again. Seeing our baby in pain, exhausted from lack of sleep, and not gaining weight all due to acid reflux was not what my husband and I envisioned when having a newborn. We feared for our baby’s health, as did the pediatrician. Our daughter was referred to a gastroenterologist (GI) who ended up being our godsend.
I remember being hopeful and anxious the day of the first visit to the GI – hopeful he would cure my daughter but anxious he wouldn't be able to. When asked to explain what symptoms my daughter was having, I broke down. The GI was my last resort and I needed him to fix my child. The doctor was calm and allowed me to cry. His demeanor and confidence that he would do all in his power to help my daughter helped me pull it together.
He prescribed a medication and an over-the-counter formula which actually helped relieve the acid reflux in my daughter. We had our setbacks, but overall, life was much happier. We met with the GI until my daughter "graduated" right after her first birthday – finally symptom-free.
After my son was born, my husband and I prayed he would not be plagued with acid reflux. His first month of life was smooth sailing. Month two came along, as did the vomiting, crying for hours every day and night, arching, screaming in pain when in the car seat and not being able to sleep. This time around the effects of the reflux seemed worse. Not only was my son impacted but my husband, daughter and I were, as well.
My husband and I were exhausted being up with our son for hours as he cried in pain. We also were adjusting to life with two versus one child. These factors caused tension and arguments between us. My daughter had a difficult time adjusting to a sibling, let alone a sick sibling. She began acting out by screaming and hitting. Being two years old, she didn’t understand why her brother cried for hours and took away much of her parents’ attention.
The constant crying impacted my bonding with my son. At times, I felt I had to care for him because he was sick, not because I wanted to. At times, the crying became unbearable. I would leave my son in his crib crying because I needed space to calm down and clear my head. I felt guilty because nothing I was doing was helping to console my baby. We made an appointment with our daughter's GI.
The GI confirmed my son’s acid reflux to be more severe than my daughter’s had been. From five weeks until 15 months old, my son was on two different medications and on a prescription formula. The medications and formula are incredibly expensive, costing us thousands of dollars, even with insurance coverage. Every time my son would gain weight (which was much faster than my daughter) the medications would stop working, he’d be in pain again, and we’d have to increase his dosage. Visits to the GI were much more frequent with my son than with my daughter.
A couple of times, the GI thought the reflux was under control. At nine months, the doctor was pleased with my son’s progress. He suggested we stop the prescription formula, give whole milk, and wean off the medications. As soon as he was off his medications, my son showed the symptoms of acid reflux again and he was placed back on his medications. At a year old, the GI believed the acid reflux was under control and suggested my son be weaned off his medications. Again, my son showed signs of acid reflux and went back on his meds.
At 15 months, the GI suggested my son be weaned off his medications because he did believe my son to be acid reflux-free. Reluctantly, I agreed, and surprisingly, he showed no signs of acid reflux. For two weeks now, my son has no longer needed any medication. He smiles, laughs, and plays more. He, and frankly the entire household, are much happier.
Acid reflux robbed me of fully enjoying each of my child’s first year of life. It caused much pain, tears, worry, and financial stress. I try to focus on all the good that happened in my daughter and son’s first year, but acid reflux was so much a part of it. I am so grateful it's no longer a fact of life for my family.