Article Summary:Does your baby have acid reflux?
Our family was darn lucky to survive.
Two years ago, when our youngest son was born, our only hint of impeding trouble was that he would only sleep in his car seat - refusing to sleep in his crib. Then things changed quickly. He hardly ever ate -and when he did, he was either screaming, or vomiting, or both. He rarely slept, and when he was awake there were hours and hours and hours of crying.
It was hard to believe that a baby so small could cry so loud, and for so long.
We were told everything under the sun to explain his intense crying. It was "colic". It was "Mom's fault". He was "precocious". Finally getting good medical care we learned he was suffering from gastroesphogeal reflux (GER, also known as acid reflux) and his little esophagus was getting an acid bath over 150 times a day!
Today, acid reflux is just beginning to be truly understood, diagnosed and treated, and colic may soon be a five-letter word for the doctor that really doesn't know what is going on!?
GER is, in very simple mechanical terms, a plumbing problem with the digestive system. This problem occurs when the valve in a person's esophagus does not close, or does not stay closed properly allowing the stomach contents to escape. This valve, the lower esophageal sphincter, works well in most infants; however, current estimates are that upwards of 5 - 8 % of all new born babies might suffer from reflux. Many outgrow it quickly, but there are some that do not. Our child is one of those who did not.
We have learned a lot these past few months. One thing, is that prior to having a sick child we would have easily dismissed many of the horror stories that abound with living with an infant with acid reflux. Now that we have a child diagnosed with it (and still suffering from it) we don?t dismiss a single story. In fact, we tend to think that most of these stories grossly underestimate the toll that is taken on a baby's and family's quality of life.
Another thing that we have learned is that taking care of a baby with reflux (even if just for a short period of time) can change you forever. We have also learned that the expectations put on parents as caregivers of chronically ill children can be enormous. Never before in this situation, we didn't know that it would be up to us to not only manage his illness, and determine which doctor we should contact next, but we also had to maintain our family and ourselves.
When our heads were finally above water, we looked at each other and wondered how other families survived before us. We figured that many families did not, and were not able to cope with the baby's constant crying and suffering, and the relentless stress and strain that the entire family endured. We even had grandmotherly types tell us that in the old days when a baby was diagnosed with colic the moms were medicated, and then mom and baby were sent along their way with little or no help at all.
But now things are different. There are several steps that you can take to help take the sting out of acid reflux in children. Here are three that we found to be very critical:
Step 1: Don't underestimate how difficult caring for a child with acid reflux can be.
Step 2: Research like crazy. The more you know, the more you can help. One of the best sources of information that we is the website of the Pediatric / Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER) < http//:www.reflux.org >.
Step 3: Get support. When things get tough call out the Calvary - such as friends and family. They can make an enormous difference in the quality of life, for both you and your child.
Dr. Mike Davenport is a writer, coach, speaker and consultant who for years has been helping people survive, thrive, and excel. He is the author of several books. Tracy Davenport is a trained scientist and an advocate for children and parents. She is the director of an award winning camp for girls. They are parents of two children, one of which suffers from severe gastroespogheal reflux disease. Together they have written "Making a Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux." A survival guide for caregivers of infants that suffer from acid reflux. This book can be found at www.makinglife better.org.