Life with a reflux baby

All babies are sick, right? They bring back up a dribble of milk occasionally after a feed, sometimes a bit more. But when your baby is sick a lot, it can make for a difficult life for a while.

Of my four children, both my sons had reflux. I had my daughters first so, to be honest, I can’t remember how sicky they were. But I do recall it getting worse with each child. I had severe reflux myself when I was born, and I’m told it was custard that kept me alive as I couldn’t keep anything thinner down! That was the mid-70s, thankfully I’ve not been given the same advice as my mum was then, even though it seemed to do the trick!

Monkey 3 had the worst reflux and went through a period around three-six months old of bringing back almost every feed. He started to lose weight and was put on thick formula which I gave him during the day while I breastfed him at night. He was also prescribed baby Gaviscon but I only gave it him a couple of times as I didn’t like the idea of clogging him up with that too. Inevitably, babies with reflux being treated this way end up with painful constipation so it’s often better to let them throw up and be happy than have a full, hard tummy and be miserable.

This time, with Monkey 4, I know it won’t last, but even still, reflux is hard to live with…

Sick on and in everything!

As I type this, my leg is cold and wet as Monkey 4 just sicked on me. I can’t change my clothes as I have nothing clean to wear (and with a limited post-maternity wardrobe, anything that fits!) so it’ll just have to dry. I’m wondering if mums should just wear babygros too during the first six months as adult clothes don’t come in multipacks that can be washed and dried in a day!

The other day both my shoulders smelt badly of milky sick, I could barely turn my head for the pong but daren’t ruin yet another rare clean top so put up with it. In the early months it hardly smelt at all but now it’s getting stronger. My hubby came home from work and gave me his usual welcoming kiss only to splutter as the aroma of l’eau du posset hit his nostils. Lovely!

There’s sick on his blankets, on countless bibs and muslins, on the carpet, in my shoe, in my hair, on my lap, down my back (it gets to the weirdest places!), on the new wool sofa cushion, in the crevices in the car seat… you get the idea.

My washing machine threatens to leave me for the rubbish tip every time I put a load on, at least it would get some peace there!

There’s no such thing as digestion!

Monkey 4 is exclusively breastfed (can you see my halo from where you are?), and I’m glad to be over the hurdles of the first few months. But feeding a reflux baby watery breastmilk is a challenge. He’s a great feeder and has put on good weight, but still kindly throws lots of milk back at me – usually in my lap! The doctor and anyone else who’s ever been here will say to sit them upright for 30 minutes after a feed to make sure it all goes down. This makes perfect sense but in reality it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.

With two other children to fetch and carry for, it’s near impossible to have that time for perfect stillness after feeding Monkey 4. So inevitably he’s sick because I dared move him, but even when I’ve managed to do as advised, all seems well and then even an hour or so later – between meals – he still throws up! I’ve found using the ‘evil’ dummy is helping him in some way as it’s making him swallow and so keep the milk down. He also seems to soothe much easier with it so I’ve had to give in to that particular health visitor no-no (she’s always got clean clothes on so she can, frankly, get lost!).

I was advised that I could wean him earlier than six months if necessary, but I’ll see how the next month goes before I start on the hard stuff as we’ll be back to the ole ‘bunging up’ problem then!

Sicky babies hate sleeping on their backs!

Babies generally sleep a lot, which is great – though of course it’s in blocks of a few hours at a time so that’s the hard part, but with a sicky baby we rarely even get that. Monkey 4 falls asleep a lot, but the problem is as soon as he’s relaxed, the wind or tummy pain starts and he’s sick, so this then wakes him up because he’s choking on his back or is just wet and uncomfortable. I do ensure he sleeps on his back and has the right covers on, but he thrashes around so much that it’s simply impossible for him to settle this way.

I was advised (as before with my other son) to raise one end of his bed, or sit him in a chair to sleep. This doesn’t seem to work as if he’s too raised it squashes his tummy and he’s sick. If it’s slightly elevated it makes no difference at all. The only deep sleep he has is at night (yay!) in bed with me; I’m usually cradling him with one arm (hence a permanent crick in my neck and pins and needles). I’m really conscious of keeping him as safe as I can, so I’m careful that he has lots of space around him, and Hubby and I have been relegated to one half of our king-size bed. He’ll sleep in his (bleeping expensive) crib next to my bed for about an hour at most but even when he does this I know there’s no point me sleeping as it won’t be long before he’ll thrash himself awake wanting a feed or cuddle or just to be sick on me.

During the day he naps until he’s sick (about half an hour tops) and then needs changing or burping again. I end up carrying him around a lot. I know this will create a bad habit for him too, expecting to be carried or rocked to sleep, but he needs to be a bit older and his tummy stronger before I can start retraining him.

The thing is, nothing gets done when your arms are full. The housework literally piles up around you. If something gets dropped it stays on the floor. And rather than sleep when your baby sleeps (hah!), I end up whizzing round cleaning or putting a load in the machine or frantically typing emails trying to make a dent in the mountain. When I’m really losing the battle I just take him out for a walk or to meet a friend – no use getting more frustrated sitting on the messy sofa, covered in sick with no clean clothes to change into, looking at the mess while watching daytime telly which is bound to leave me feeling a bit, well, trampish!

Think like a pirate!

For all the training I’ve had, I’d make a great Captain Hook! Doing things, like eating a meal, one-handed becomes second nature once you’ve had a baby, but with sicky babies this is an even more essential skill. Some things, though, definitely need two hands… have you tried washing your hands or buttering toast one-handed, while carrying a baby… yeah, bit too much of a challenge. I invested in a fabulous sling which I use to carry Monkey 4 in when he’s being particularly sicky or when I really must use two hands (see it’s becoming a bit of a luxury!), but he doesn’t always like being in it so it’s not always ‘fun’ (replace baby with strapping an angry cat to your chest and you’ll get the idea).

I gave Monkey 4 to Hubby the other morning while I got dressed and he stood and carried him for about five minutes. Then Monkey 4 got cranky and Hubby needed the loo and to get dressed himself. I must admit I stood and laughed a little at this. He knew if he put him down he’d start bawling and sicking, so he had no choice but to stand with him and sway. The ‘martyr’ in me couldn’t resist saying ‘See what it’s like when you have no arms.’ But, as great as he is, Hubby has little patience with being restricted and while I’ll gladly sacrifice my wee-time, meal-time, rest-time so that Monkey 4 is as comfortable as possible. Hubby finds it harder to do, which leads me on to…

Dad’s often don’t get it

My hubby is great and pretty attentive to Monkey 4 considering he often gets screamed at for not being Mummy, but even still I think he finds it hard to understand how tiring a sicky baby is. He’ll come in from what I consider a ‘bit of a jolly’ at the office – sitting down, getting and drinking cups of tea, going to the toilet whenever he likes in peace and quiet, being able to use his arms… that kind of thing – and doesn’t seem to realise that there’s no dinner because I had ‘no arms’ or that the reason I’m jiggling so much is because I forgot to take my chance to have a wee about four hours ago.

I have good days mostly, but by the time poor Hubby gets home I’m exhausted from the feeding, holding, rushing about, and would give anything for just half an hour so I can lock myself in the bathroom and do the wee that’s been sat in my bladder all day. This usually is communicated by me putting Monkey 4 in his arms and running in the opposite direction, until I hear the cries (from both!) and know I’m needed again.

Everyone else loses out on my time with Monkey 4’s reflux as it’s a full-time job, so it’s rare to get chance to spend a decent block of time with my other children (and that really is where Hubby comes into his own). I feel guilty for that but I know it won’t last and I do try to even things up when I can.

It’s not forever…

Monkey 4 is thankfully not as sicky as my other son and is gaining weight well, so I just have to live with it until he grows out of it. So until then, I’ll rock, mop and cuddle my little munkin as much as he wants, though the first thing I’ll do when he stops sicking is buy myself some new clothes and decent perfume!

[I wrote this post when Monkey 4 was 3 months old – we’re now onto weaning at 5 1/2 months old and being covered in carrot-coloured sick too! Osteopathy is helping though]


Grublet, wearing yet another massive bib, looking like butter (or rather, sick) wouldn’t melt…

Monkey 4, wearing yet another massive bib, looking like butter (or rather, sick) wouldn’t melt…

2 thoughts on “Life with a reflux baby

  1. I don’t know if it was reflux, but my daughter was an incredibly sick baby – projectile vomiting after every feed for about six months. I wish I had read your post then, because some days the constant cycle of feeding, vomiting, changing clothes, doing laundry etc, felt like it was too much, Our nights were unbearably hard too for a while which of course didn’t help. Thanks for this post – I hope others read it and are comforted, because it doesn’t last forever and sometimes it’s hard to see that xxx

    • Thanks. Certainly sounds like reflux to me. It’s really not fun at all. My other son is hardly ever sick now so I’m hoping baby can get over it too. x

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