This is the story of my little girl’s and my battle with silent reflux. This was by far the most stressful year of my life. However, my brave M’s radiant and ever smiling face does take the edge off these dreadful memories.
What is silent reflux –
According to baby centre –
“Not all infants suffering from reflux actually vomit. Some may have Infant Silent Reflux, where the stomache contents only come half way up to the esophagus.
Sometimes you may here the baby, or see them swallow repeatedly and see no evidence of it. Your baby may suddenly start crying while feeding or afterwards without any other obvious cause for the crying.
Many babies with Infant Silent Reflux, especially very sleepy ones may not show any discomfort for up to 3 months of age.”
The first three months of M’s life were quite uneventful, she was sleeping for 5 hours at night by the time she was a month old, she was feeding well and also putting on good weight. Ofcourse there were a couple of instances where she pulled away and refused to feed, but we attributed it to gas and went on enjoying parenthood.
Around the time when M was 3 months old I realized that during the day she would cry for hunger but refuse to feed. Then I would have to rock her to sleep and only then would she drink to her fill. I did not know what to make of this, but she was otherwise happy so I decided to bring it up at her next appointment. It was around this time that she slept 10 hours straight at night. I was really concerned and called my doc who said it was ok.
However, from there on things started deteriorating very fast. She started refusing milk during the day and would only feed at night a couple of times in her sleep. She also started waking up at night randomly crying. M had really spoilt me by being a good sleeper in the first three months, so I was not at all prepared to wake up every hour at night.. sigh
A baby has two principal jobs – feeding and sleeping. Mine was not doing either and I had no idea what was causing it. To top it I was out if town for a family function so I couldn’t visit M’s pediatrician. Hence we decided to go to a highly recommended local pediatric doctor.
The conversation with this doctor happened something like this-
Me: M is suddenly waking up at night
Doc: her cycle is reversing
Me: but I have read about reversing cycles, and she is not waking up to play.. she wakes up crying. I think she is hurting
Doc: her sleep cycle is reversing
Me: she pulls away when I feed her and feeds only in her sleep
Doc: you are not getting enough milk. Start her on cows milk or formula
Me: but I have to throw away expressed milk because she won’t take it
Doc: your supply is dwindling. Some women have trouble accepting it.
Me: but what if she refuses the top feed bottle
Doc: give it to her with spoon
I have no clue why she was so snappy and curt (maybe because M was a temp patient), butI left the doctor without the weight on my head lifted.
So we went back home and told our family what had happened. Then I watched in horror some elders put spoonfuls of milk in my wailing baby’s mouth. Because they had fed their kids with spoon so they knew how to do it. My eyes well up every time I remember that scene.. how I failed my baby that day! It was then that I decided never to go back to that horrible doctor again and also that I will never let anyone violate my baby like that. Even if it was with very good intentions.
It was then that I really understood the meaning of the saying “Road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
While away from home M also had some episodes where she would cry and scream incessantly, and nothing we did would make her stop.
Atlast, it was time for us to go home and I was really happy at the prospect of seeing M’s doctor. In the meantime I had done a thorough research on Internet and zeroed down as silent reflux as the culprit. M had the following symptoms-
1. Refusal to feed
2. Frequent night wakings (atleast 10 times)
3. Arching her back
4. Feeding in sleep
M’s doc said that it could be reflux. But she had put on weight (though she had fallen fallen on the charts), so there was no need to medicate. I was supposed to feed her at an inclination and also put her to sleep at an angle.
However her feeding and sleeping problems continued to worsen. I was doing my research and had figured out that Prevacid was very effective for silent reflux and doctors in the US recommend it to babies as young as 2 months. I didn’t know what Prevacid was called in India, however even if I did there was no way I was going to self medicate M.
I went to her doctor again and asked if we could put her on some medication. She said that she was gaining weight very slowly but no medication is required. I started going to the clinic every week to check her weight, so she got fed up and prescribed Zantac.
I knew Zantac was no Prevacid but decided to have faith in the doc. However, getting the medicine in M’s mouth was a big challenge. Even a little suspicion that I was putting something in her mouth would turn my little angel into a devil! I discontinued Zantac as it was not showing any results and a lot of energy was spent in giving it to her.
At M’s 5 month appointment her doc. suggested that I start her on solids. The logic being that its difficult for solids to come up the esophagus and cause trouble.
I was really excited as well as apprehensive about this suggestion. But just like I had feared she tightly pursed her lips and refused any food from entering her mouth! I tried for 8-10 days and then decided to give solids a rest, as I didn’t want her to form negative association with food.
I read about reflux everyday. I wanted to know if and when she will outgrow it and everyone in the Internet world swore that it gets better when the baby starts sitting up. M started sitting and crawling at 7 months and I kept waiting for a miracle.. but it never happened. Even if it did it was too minuscule to notice.
We continued having ok days and bad days. M by that time would only sleep on me hence I had to sit with her in my lap the whole night. By biggest wish then was to get 3 hours of straight sleep. Seriously. Then M pulled herself up and started cruising at 8 months. Still no miracle 😦
I do have many happy memories too and I did have a lot of fun with M. However, everything was always overshadowed by this struggle. In the mean time I had very little support, as hubby was very busy at work and my parents were in another town. As far as mental support goes this is what I heard from some people-
1. You have to force feed her. There is no option.
2. Get her blood tested for enzymes (which was already done at birth and everything was normal. Also, M’s doc was not ready to get her poked for no reason)
3. Talk to somebody else who’s baby was M’s age. They obviously were smarter as their child was eating and sleeping!
4. There is no such thing as silent reflux (because they had not heard of it)
Ofcouse my ever supporting friends were there, but most of them were in different cities/ countries. And I didn’t think its ok to whine every time I talked to them.
I was trying to keep a positive attitude and waiting for the day when M would outgrow it. However, just after M turned 1, her weight fell below the graph. That day I broke down at the pediatrician’s office. I requested her for medication and she prescribed Lanzol.. which is the same as Prevacid.
Within 1 week of starting her on it my baby (who pursed her lips at the sight of food and swatted the spoon0 opened her mouth to eat. Just like that. It felt like magic to me. I no more had to sneak food into her mouth when she was laughing or when she was too focused in watching TV.
She still needed entertainment while eating but the intensity of the struggle had definitely decreased.
I was aware that silent reflux can be caused by food sensitivities. Hence I had kept M’s diet very basic – rice, rice cereal, oats, bananas, ragi and milk.
We kept weaning M off Lanzol every month but the gagging would come back.
We decided to go on family vacation to HK. That is when she didn’t have bananas in her system for 10 days. Firstly because we didn’t find good ones there and secondly because it was very cold so I didn’t bother too much.
We were to wean her off Lanzol after the trip and she was doing so well on her trip diet that I continued it after coming back. M was off Lanzol and there was minimal gagging and no vomiting for 2 weeks!
Then I decided to feed her a banana and she threw up within 4-5 hours of that. In my mind I knew that banana was the only change in her diet, but banana is a safe food right? So I didn’t dwell on it too much but stopped giving her bananas.
After about a month and a half we were going to Goa. I thought bananas are such convenient food for toddlers on vacation. So I gave her a banana a couple of days before we were to leave. She threw up the next day in the morning. I could see undigested pieces of banana in her vomit and nothing from the dinner she had after the bananas.
I tried giving her bananas after a month too.. With the same result. So I called her Doc and she has advised not to give her any till she turns two. She said that it is possible to be intolerant to bananas, but many children outgrow such intolerances by two years of age. I don’t know if the inital problems started because I used to eat bananas regularly when I was breastfeeding M. But that I think will always remain a mystery.
So that’s where we are at. M is eating better. She still refuses to eat sometimes, is picky and generally not too fond of food. But I know that these are normal toddler issues. Plus teething too is contributing to some of the fussiness. I too am doing physiotherapy for lower back and neck pain from months of stress and slouching in bed – with M on my lap. She is sleeping much better. She wakes up sometimes but it could be teething? She is back on the charts in the weight department even though at 15-20 percentile.
She has started talking nonstop and is getting naughtier by the day. And I am enjoying her without anything weighing down on my mind.
She still looks thin, but she just got better 2-3 months back (whereas she suffered for a year!). Also, toddlers generally start getting leaner by two years of age and her constituency is of being tall and lean. So I have made peace with the fact that she will never be chubby. And her being healthy, happy and active is enough for me.
As much as I this post is an outlet for me, I hope it’s helpful for any parent who stumbles upon my blog looking for information about silent reflux. I also want to assure them that more often than not there is light at the end of the tunnel. How long the tunnel is and when you see the light cannot be predicted. We got through the ordeal when M was 18 months old.
I also want to tell my ever smiling brave M that I love and cherish every moment that i spent with her and her silent reflux does not take anything away from that. I love you M, you are the source of my strength and together we can surpass anything.