baby

Nadia Bartel writes: "My son was suffering with a silent health condition. I had no idea."

My post today is very targeted (sorry fashion friends) so all you mummas and specifically mums who have dealt with a baby with silent reflux, or think their baby may be struggling with it, this is for you.

Firstly, I am not a doctor. You obviously, all know this, but I am stating the obvious, as I am not claiming I am an expert in the field.

I am a first-time mum that struggled with Aston, and I actually found the most help and comfort from reading personal experiences online, chatting with friends and reading blog posts.

I first started writing this post in June last year (yes, yonks ago) but I kept putting it off, going back and forth in my head if I should or not. I don’t want it to come across as a whining post or that I am complaining that he was a difficult baby. It’s not his fault. He was in pain and the only way for him to express himself was to cry. I am beyond grateful to have him, he is my special boy, but I think it is important to share my honest story and feelings.

Listen: Mamamia caught up with Nadia Bartel to talk about just how she does it.

Before having Aston, I had no idea what ‘reflux’ or ‘silent reflux’ in babies was. I thought it was just like the reflux us adults get when we eat spicy food. You know the type that causes a little discomfort and then it passes. I think back to conversations I had with girlfriends of mine years ago, they struggled with their babies or told me about their friends’ babies having reflux and at the time I remember thinking how horrible that must be, but I had no idea what it actually meant.

Aston was a really fussy baby from day dot. You know how a lot of babies are in that sleepy ‘unawaken’ newborn phase in the hospital and they just sleep a lot? Our boy never went through that stage.

It started from that second night in the hospital, screaming all night long and this continued for months and months. Our baby was the one you could hear in hospital screaming on the top of his lungs during the night while Jim and I walked his bassinet around the hospital corridors trying to get him to sleep.

Aston was just one hour old here, and yep I was totally besotted with him. Look at his little smile (melt).
ADVERTISEMENT

Those zombie weeks.

The first four weeks with Aston was a blur, I am sure this is no different to how lots of new mums feel. Everything is foreign and you are trying your best to find your way. At the same time, I wanted to enjoy this incredible time with him, but I remember feeling scared, overwhelmed and unsure if I was doing a good job.

Thank god for Jim and my family (especially my mum) who were so supportive and there every step of the way but Aston would cry non-stop. All day and night. Sitting here now reflecting it is certainly a lot easier to write these words, but in all honesty, it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and the feeling of not understanding exactly what was wrong with my little man. Let’s also add those crazy mum hormones, nipples bleeding and mastitis. I was not in a good place.

I did feel a lot of pressure on me. I think being a mum you always feel a lot of responsibility on your shoulders even if you have a huge support system.

ADVERTISEMENT

He was constantly in a lot of pain, it seemed like it was more than just the normal baby fussy cries, but being a first-time mum, who was I to say what was normal or not? I had nothing to compare it to and I felt like if I told people he cried a lot and wouldn’t sleep at all then it was a sign of weakness on my behalf.

My Mum and close family also thought he was far more irritable than your average baby. He would scream for hours with a bright red face, clenched tight fists and nothing would settle him. Even when he slept he had a painful looking screwed up face. If he wasn’t sleeping, he was screaming.

You know your baby best, follow your gut.

It was strange as when I went to maternal health checkups or the doctors that followed he was mostly calm in those appointments. Of course, I was happy that he was calm for once, but it was frustrating as they only see your baby for 30 minutes max, so they don’t know what they are like for those other 24 hours a day, so then I felt like maybe I was overreacting because I was a ‘first-time mum’.

Aston was thriving at all his checkups, he was a big boy, loved his milk (would guzzle it down super fast, I later found out that this was a symptom of silent reflux) and growing really well (98th percentile) so when I explained to them what I was experiencing (Aston’s non-stop crying, screwed up face and fists, harsh coughing, extremely fussy on the boob, not sleeping at all) I got the response with a little laugh that motherhood is never easy and babies do cry a lot. They said it was probably colic, and it should get better by the time he was three months.

I then doubted myself and thought I needed to harden up so I didn’t go into a lot of detail with them how hard I was finding it. I knew motherhood wasn’t meant to be easy. It was only early days so I thought it would get better.

ADVERTISEMENT

But I knew that something wasn’t quite right with my boy and his screams weren’t your usual baby cries he was screeching in pain.

Breastfeeding was also a nightmare. He was always really uncomfortable when feeding and I thought what I was eating could be upsetting his tummy. He was so restless, latching on and off and also very frantic on the boob. I got mastitis a week after I had him and had to take antibiotics so I thought these antibiotics were still in my system and the reason he was so upset, as I thought they may have affected his sensitive tummy.

I cut out all dairy, coffee, sugar, etc and it seemed to make a big difference, but it was so hard to maintain the no coffee. I later found out at the doctors that babies with silent reflux get affected by the protein and dairy in certain foods and it can stir up the reflux (I have detailed below which formula I have used once I stopped breastfeeding that was really gentle on his tum)

I know you shouldn’t look at others, but I would compare Aston to other babies, friends' babies and they weren’t unsettled like him, they didn’t scream with a red face non-stop. They slept in their cots or in their pram.

Time passed and if anything, he was getting worse.

Those long nights.

The nights were long, and I mean really long.

It would start at 5pm, bath then his feed, but it was impossible to settle him to sleep after it. He would scream in agony.

I would try to rock him, put him on the boob again, walk up and around the house, juggling and jiggling him, swaying him down the hallway, singing every song to get him to sleep. (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and ‘Aston’ the Snowman - yes he loved when we swapped Aston for Frosty- were his favourites)

I would then finally get him to sleep in my arms and gently put him in his cot, after 30 minutes he would start screaming again and it would be time for his feed again, as it took so long to settle him, this cycle would go on all night until the morning. It was torture, I was only getting 40 minute catnaps night after night.

These two kicking me out of my new wheels, thanks @doncasterbmw #doncasterbmw #bundoorabmw ⚡️⚡️

A post shared by CHRONICLES OF NADIA (@nadiabartel) on

ADVERTISEMENT

On the super hard nights when I was just too tired. Jim and I would put him in the car, driving him around the streets until he would finally nod off.

There were times when I would just cry. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t even feel sad (which I know sounds ridiculous because I was crying) but I couldn’t help tears pouring down my cheeks, I think it was my body dealing with the exhaustion of no sleep all night and the feeling of helplessness, as I didn’t know what to do to help him.

After his morning feed (around 10 am) was when he was the calmest and I loved those special times with him and at these times I thought maybe this motherhood business isn’t too hard, but as the day progressed he would become more unsettled and hell would start again.

I found it really difficult to leave the house because Aston wouldn’t settle in the pram, he couldn’t handle lying flat. So both the pram and his cot were the enemies. In the pram, he would scream so much that I would have to pick him up out of the pram and walk him upright in my arms. I was worried when visitors came over because if he was awake, he would be screaming.

Getting him on a routine.

I had read Tizzie Hall’s Save Our Sleep when I was pregnant from front to back and I was adamant I was going to get Aston onto a routine, trying to get a baby with silent reflux on a routine is not easy, it’s nearly impossible. I think her book and advice is amazing as it did finally start working when Aston’s reflux got better and older, but I wish I didn’t put so much pressure on myself to get it perfect as every baby is different.

You know the drill what works for one baby, won’t necessarily work for the next and the number of times I hear. ‘The reason ‘Sue’ has a good baby is because they are really chilled, they are just such amazing parents.’

ADVERTISEMENT

Home is where the heart is ❤️ so happy to be home with my boys

A post shared by CHRONICLES OF NADIA (@nadiabartel) on

Trust me, ‘being chilled’ has nothing to do with it when you have a baby that is in pain and irritable.

It really frustrates me, when people say this to me, as I feel it’s their nice way of saying, maybe, you are the reason that Aston has is irritable. (And for the record Jim and I are both very relaxed)

And then a hero came along.

After chatting with friends and family, we decided it was time to get a sleep nanny, just one night a week. I needed help and was struggling to function.

I was recommended an incredible lady, Daani, and she honestly changed my life. She doesn’t have a website but you can contact her via text or phone her.

She has worked as a midwife nurse for over 20 years at the St Vincents Hospital (so she has seen it all) and now works as a sleep nanny full time. She is so qualified and knowledgeable about babies, as she has worked as a midwife for so long and she taught me so much. She stays up with the babies all night long and monitors their behaviour.

As soon as she stayed over, she was certain Aston had severe silent reflux. As she could see and hear him struggle with the acid going up and down his tract. Finally, an answer. I googled like crazy and Aston fitted the ‘silent reflux’ description to a tee. I didn’t initially think of reflux because he wasn’t spitting up, but silent reflux is different, they have no spit up.

ADVERTISEMENT

So think of the worst possible heartburn you have ever experienced, but then put it in a newborn babies body. Ouch.

The ring of the muscle between the oesophagus and the stomach is not yet mature in babies, so it is unable to hold stomach contents down. With silent reflux babies then swallow the stomach contents. The problem is that the stomach contents are acidic, so it burns on the way up and back down and is super painful for them.

I ended up making a doctor’s appointment and explaining what I thought and he assessed Aston and said he had silent reflux.

Daani was incredible at giving me so many tips to combat his silent reflux and she ended up coming a few times a week for a little period of time to work with me to get him on a routine and finally sleeping, woo hoo!

Aston’s symptoms:

- Really frantic to nurse at night, but then would pull off and on, in pain and scream, then be frantic to nurse again and this would repeat. Feeding was really hard
- Hiccoughs, that would last for long periods and seemed aggressive and continuous
- Full on crying and screams. It was always worst from 5m onwards and continued all night long
- Clenched fists and stiff body and red screwed up face
- Only slept for really short 40-minute bursts on and off
- Nappies were always a weird consistency and really green
- Bad smelling breath
- He would feed frantically fast, and would just continual to drink bottle after bottle or stay on my boob all the tim
- Lots of coughing that was really harsh.
- Trouble breathing if laid flat.

My tips to help reduce silent reflux.

Aston started taking Losec, it was prescribed by the doctor. It actually took a long time for Losec to work, around four weeks and only really kicked in when I used it in combination with these other techniques below. Aston had to stay on Losec until he was seven months old. We tried quite a few times to wean him off it as I hated him being on such strong medicine so young, but I hated seeing him in pain too, but when we would try to wean him, he would revert back.

Gaviscon and Mylanta, we worked the Gavison into a paste and gave it to Aston before his feeds.

We swapped his formula to goat's milk as it is far more gentle on the stomach, he was only taking about one bottle of formula a day until I stopped feeding at six months.

We then moved him to Aptamil Allerpro gold +- which is gentle on babies with a protein allergy, so perfect for babies with silent reflux

I saw the incredible Dr David McRae in Armadale. Yes, he is a chiropractor, which I know can freak people out and I don’t agree with ever working into babies tiny bodies like that (no back cracking!) but David is amazing, he explained the way they’re growing in our womb can affect their digestive systems so he massaged Aston’s body and taught me techniques to turn his legs in the bicycle motion every time I changed his nappy to get his digestion moving. We saw David a couple of times a week, then once a week for eight weeks and it seemed to really help with his pain.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cheering on Uncle Chaz @chazcity at the footy today for his 100th game!

A post shared by CHRONICLES OF NADIA (@nadiabartel) on

Propped the cot up, we used three thick books, so it was on a slight angle, which helped to keep that acid down.

So here I am now and Aston is 16 months old and thriving. As soon as he turned seven to eight months his silent reflux seemed to disappear. I forgot to add this when I first posted, but I think the reason for Aston getting better was also because he was eating a large amount of solid food at every meal time. We introduced solids when Aston was three and half months old to help with his reflux. Solids helps to keep the acid down.

So please hang in there. It does get better (and I never thought I would say that).

And again, this is my own personal experience and we all know that every single baby and person is different in this world but if one person can identify with something in this post that could help them, then I would be more than happy.

Remember, never feel apprehensive to consult your doctor, because no one knows your baby better than you do.

This post originally appeared on Nadia Bartel's blog Chronicles of Nadia, where she talks all things fashion, beauty and lifestyle. You can read the original post here.

Tags: babies , health , infant-reflux , parenting-2
00:00 / ???