My Son Max's Reflux Story
My son Max developed reflux around two weeks of age. It started out small, about a mouthful of milk per feed. The nurses at the nurses support line said that was normal and not to worry. By the time he was about 4 weeks old, the spitups had become curdled with a barf-like smell and grown to one or two mouthfuls per feed. They could happen immediately after a feeding, or sometimes several hours after. I bought an army of white t-shirts so I could change 4-6 times a day without thought to matching clothes. I also bought a bundle of spit-up cloths and loads of bibs.
By four weeks Max had stopped napping unless he was held or carried in a sling or bjorn. He would cry inconsolably. Only constant nursing and sometimes the double secret jiggle while tightly swaddled would calm him. At night he would typically only sleep from 20 minutes to an hour and a half before needing to be held or nursed.
By the time he was 5 weeks old, Max's spitups had grown in frequency and force. Some days he would be fine, with only tiny spitups of pure milk dribbling down his chin. Other days would be full on stomach loads of curdled, bile-smelling barf shooting across the room and often out his nose. Occasionally he would pull off a breast while nursing and vomit on my breastfeeding pillow. Each time he would look up at me pitifully, in obvious discomfort. The doctors had us bring him in for an ultrasound to test for Pyloric Stenosis which thankfully turned out negative. They labeled him a "happy spitter." I saw nothing happy about it. Their only advice was to hold him upright for 30-60 minutes after a feed and try to prop him on his side to sleep.
The side sleeping was a breakthrough. Max finally began to sleep longer stretches at night. He still wouldn't nap during the day and would only fall asleep at night before 11 or 12 in arms or in a swing. Once he went in the crib though, he would sleep until 4 a.m. before needing to nurse then go right back to sleep until 8 a.m.
At our 8 week check up the doctor said she thought it might be a mild case of reflux. Max was still gaining weight (he should be with round the clock nursings!) so they weren't worried. She prescribed Zantac for him to ease his discomfort. The Zantac did make him seem more comfortable when he spit up, but it did nothing to minimize the spitting up. Finally with the ailment identified, I began doing research.
I learned that an upright position both during and after nursing is beneficial. I tried nursing on a pregnancy wedge but the angle was too slight. I tried nursing in a front pack and sling but those curled him around which put pressure on his tummy. I finally made a Pollywog Nursing Wedge and adjusted the angle to 30 degrees. Voila! The spitups diminished dramatically and I was able to take Max off Zantac.
Here are the adjustments that helped Max:
Virtually every spitup or vomit he has had since implementing these changes is directly related to me violating one of these adjustments.
I'm proud to report that today he is a happy, comfortable boy.
As an update, I have since had another son who also had reflux. I followed these same techniques with the addition of using a Moby wrap to carry him and a sleeping wedge in his crib. What a difference!