Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Reflux Moms Really Need

Over the last three months, my son has had multiple infections. First it was a serious upper respiratory infection that almost went into pneumonia. Now, he has a sinus infection that came out his ears and his eyes, literally! Apparently, if the reflux is bad enough, it can cause this kind of problem.

The doctor explained it yesterday, but I didn't completely follow what he was saying, probably because I'm exhausted from dealing with what the doctor was describing.

When we went to the pediatric G.I. doc, he said that our son wasn't sick enough to benefit from his expertise because he hadn't been plagued by multiple ear and sinus infections, or pneumonia. I think we just took him in too early. I'm not sure what the specialist could do anyway.

What I was really looking for, when I visited the specialist at the biggest hospital in our not so big city, was a plan. I didn't need a miracle cure. I didn't want surgery. And I'm incredibly thankful my son's major problem is reflux, instead of something like Hershprung's Disease or worse. But, I still needed help, something that doctor didn't give me.

So, over the month since I visited that specialist who offered me nothing, I've developed a plan of my own. It has come in fits and starts, and has been greatly aided along the way by precious friends who have shared my journey, even in the middle of the night. So, if you are a reflux mom, taking care of a precious baby who has health challenges that aren't severe enough to benefit from the expertise of a G.I. specialist, maybe what I've learned can help:

  • Carry your baby in a carrier.
My personal favorite is a Moby Wrap, but any kind of carrier will do, as long as it keeps your baby upright. Gravity helps make the reflux easier.
  • Consider caring for your baby your full-time job.
An old poem, with multiple lines, applies well here, though I only know one phrase and it says, "Babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow, so settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep." It is very true. You won't be sorry if you spend most of your time holding this precious gift, and your house can be cleaned later. I will be the first to admit, however, that surviving between now and later, when you can clean your house, is a bit of a trick. I'm not doing so hot right now, but I keep telling myself it will get better. Regardless, my son is by far more important than anything else.
  • Nurse!
Though I've exclusively breastfed my other seven children, I've had to supplement with this little guy. And, he spits up formula MUCH worse than he does breast milk. Don't let some doctor out there tell you your baby is allergic to breast milk - it is the easiest thing for a baby to digest. Even the really expensive formula hasn't stayed down as well as breast milk. Change your diet if you have to, but don't give up on breastfeeding. It really is better for your baby.
  • Keep your baby upright for an hour after nursing or giving a bottle.
It took a LOOONNNNNGGGGG time to figure this one out, and I wouldn't have without the help of a dear friend who came over and took care of my baby boy for part of the night. But, after we started keeping our son's head elevated for an hour each time he ate, he stopped having constant trouble with congestion. I'm sure it is part of the reason he hasn't had more sinus and respiratory infections.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.
I do a terrible job with this one. After three months, I'm finally starting to ask others for help. Partly, I felt that my girls should be able to keep things going when I can't. I've decided that it isn't their responsibility, though they have been incredibly helpful. So, I'm asking others to come in and do what I can't. I'll let you know how it goes.
  • Exercise!
Caring for a fussy baby for days on end, especially after having survived the final days of pregnancy as well as labor and delivery, often contributes to postpartum depression. Daily exercise is as effective as treating it as medication, and it is much better for baby. I have found that going on walks with my son helps him sleep better than just about anything. He doesn't tolerate a swing or his car seat well, so those aren't options and the poor little guy is very tired. Walking has been a great blessing for both of us. I also just started going to Zumba classes, so I'll let you know how that works, too.

  • Get support.
I am just beginning to explore some of the online support groups available and it has been wonderful. Even though I spent maybe an hour all together, I found MANY other parents who understand my challenges and who have survived, or at least feel my pain. It gave me hope, and I think more than any thing else, what I've needed is hope.

Ultimately, what parents of reflux babies (or "gerdlings" as some call them) need is hope; hope that their babies won't cry forever, hope that the pain will get better, hope that they will make it through the challenges, hope that there will be a life beyond the chaos and sleep deprivation of right now. I'm beginning to find glimmers of hope. By God's grace, you will to.

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