Just the words, silent reflux, makes me want to start bawling my eyes out, even now I can feel hot prickly tears spring to the backs of my eyes. It’s a dreaded phrase in this house that doesn’t get spoken much of anymore and when it does it’s said in a very hushed tone. I want to take silent reflux and give it a good talking to (to put it politely) because it gave my tiny baby hell for the first 6 months of her life.
I touched on the topic of reflux in My motherhood experience so far: Part One but I don’t feel like I did the horrors of such a topic any justice. I truly believe that unless you’re a parent who has had a baby that suffers with this dreadful illness then you just don’t know what I’m talking about and I am incredibly jealous of you.
Bringing home your first baby from hospital is a scary concept at the beginning. Knowing this tiny human can’t depend on their own without you is so overwhelming. It’s hard work for any parent to adjust to life with a brand new baby. And then reflux is thrown into the mix.
I had heard of it before but of course having never been a parent or gone through anything similar I didn’t know that much about it. But boy, was I about to! It started to effect Ivy once she hit 3 weeks old. I noticed that during our breastfeeds she would work herself up throughout the day and especially if I lied her down to feed which became increasingly worse as the day would drag on, until at nighttime she was inconsolable.
This would go on from six pm until midnight; six hours (sometimes longer) of none stop screaming and crying. And that was from both of us. I had heard of colic and because Ivy was so much worse in the evenings I assumed it was that at first. I tried every over the counter drug you can think of that they recommend for colic and for wind. I took her to the doctors but they didn’t prescribe me anything at first they just told me about baby massage, about over the counter drugs and Calpol.
I massaged her every night and did the cycling legs and all of that jazz. NOTHING worked. The only thing that calmed her down at midnight (sometimes it went on until three am) was pure exhaustion from both of us. I would have her in the sling and bounce on an exercise ball for six hours whilst blasting the hairdryer (white noise is a godsend). It did wonders for my waistline but my sanity was in tatters.
My partner worked at 6 am in the mornings so it fell to me every single night. I felt like it was all of my fault. That it must be something I was doing wrong, I was breastfeeding wrong, I was trying to calm her down all wrong, I was a useless mother. I was making my child go hungry. I wrote about how I felt like I had lost my identity as a mother and that was in large due to going through this experience.
I gave in quite a few times and gave her a bottle of formula some nights and then that would make me feel even more guilty and a fresh lot of tears would start all over again. She just worked herself up over that as well.
Friends and family meant well but their advice started to really get to me. I felt like every one of them was putting me down, how could they know best? She was my baby! And some even told me stories of how their babies still didn’t sleep now that they were four. A heartbroken, sleep deprived new mother does not want to hear this people!
Me and my partner eventually took her back to the doctors to see a different one for a second opinion. This time they told us about silent reflux. Silent because Ivy showed no outward signs of it, she was never sick after her feeds for example.
They prescribed us Infant Gaviscon. It meant I had to express some milk to put in a bottle with the Gaviscon but we started her on it straight away. Unfortunately it made her extremely constipated and I didn’t know which was worse. Now she was worked up to high heaven every single hour of every day because she was in pain from not being able to poo! We’d traded one fresh hell for another.
We took her back off of the Gaviscon so the silent reflux cycle continued. I hardly went out anymore because I dreaded having to breastfeed Ivy in public because she would be constantly on and off my boob and screaming and crying. I googled homemade remedies for silent reflux and tried them all. Then I came across something called Ranitidine.
So after a couple of weeks of this we took her back to the doctors a third time but they would only recommended the Gaviscon because they don’t want to give babies any medication they might not need if there is a better solution.
I knew deep down I agreed with them but I was reluctant at first until I decided to do as I was told and give it one last go. If it didn’t work this time then I was demanding they put her on the Ranitidine if I had to go back a fourth time.
I noticed she was a bit constipated at first but nowhere near as bad as she had been the first time we had tried Gaviscon. I persevered and it eventually got a little bit better as the weeks went on. Finally after feeling like I would never see my baby smile because she would always be in pain I felt relief. Relief for Ivy and relief for my sanity as well! Now came the hard part of getting her to go down without the sling and the bouncing which she had become so reliant on!
I also felt incredibly guilty. Guilty that I hadn’t persevered with the Gaviscon in the first place. I felt like I had caused my baby extra weeks of pain that she hadn’t needed to go through. Now I know all about the mum-guilt and how that never truly goes away. I look back on pictures of Ivy from that time and I notice that she did have good times. It was just that I was stuck in this silent reflux hell and couldn’t see a way out until I could.
Whenever I hear of other parents and their babies going through silent reflux I feel a pang deep down and I want to cry for them. I know how absolutely shattering and exhausting it can be and how it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That even when other parents tell you it will end you just can’t listen.
I just want you to know that you are not alone and if I had had someone to talk to who had gone through the same then I would have maybe gotten through it a little more graceful than I did and possibly with my sanity still intact (what’s that, nobody has any sanity after they become a parent?).
So please know that I am here and if you have any questions on the topic of silent reflux then I will be more than happy to try and answer those for you.