Acid Reflux in Babies:  Another Red Flagby Maria Rickert Hong, CHHC, AADP

Acid reflux in babies:  Both of my sons had acid reflux as babies.  Prevacid wasn’t the answer; undoing their gut dysbiosis was.

When my younger son was born, he, too, was “fussy” and “colicky”.  He had an outright problem with nursing:  he refused to.

When he would, he would shriek in pain or fill up so much (probably because he was starving) that he would throw it right back up.

Again, this wasn’t a little “spitting up”; this was projectile vomiting and, by now, I had become used to having stains on the rug, chairs and clothes that simply wouldn’t come out.

The pediatrician referred a lactation specialist who recommended that I cut out all dairy products from my diet.  She said that dairy was the most likely culprit in causing pain to my son.

Probiotics Not Enough

She also recommended that I take a probiotic, “the refrigerated kind, like they sell at Whole Foods” because this kind, unless it’s listed as being “shelf stable”, has more live cultures.

She told me that many times during childbirth, women are given antibiotic drips, which I was given because my doctor told me many years ago that I had mitral valve prolapse.

Having this condition means that the mitral valve of your heart doesn’t fully close, and, because it doesn’t, there’s a backflow that’s created, sort of like a stagnant pool of blood, in which bacteria can take over and enlarge the heart, causing death.

Dentists always made me take a prophylactic dose of antibiotics before having any cleaning work done because the bacteria scraped off the teeth during cleaning could enter my heart, causing death.

I was always suspicious of this, even though I went along with it, because if I were to get a cut or scrape, wouldn’t that be just as dangerous?

I took the probiotic and eliminated dairy, but neither worked.  My younger son continued to shriek when I fed him, so I quickly gave up nursing him and pumped for a while instead.

He seemed to tolerate this better, so I thought maybe it was just a mechanical issue with him not being able to latch on properly.

In the meantime, my older son continued to vomit after almost every meal and Pediasure feeding.  Also, by this time, I began to take him to playgroups, now that we had settled into our new house.

Our new nanny took care of my younger son so that I could get out of the house, meet other moms, and have my son socialize with other babies his age.

I quickly realized how fast germs spread among babies, and it seemed as if my son would catch whatever was going around without fail.

Of course, his getting sick made the vomiting worse, as the irritation of coughing made it that much easier for him to throw up.

His throat lining was so worn out that even crying too hard, which he did a lot, would make him throw up.  He was like an endless vomit machine.

I had horrible guilt for many Christmases after the time I went to my husband’s Christmas party in the city and left the nanny to put my son to bed, something no one else had ever done before.

He was a little over 2 years old at the time.  When we got home late that night, the nanny told me that he cried so hard over the fact that mommy wasn’t there that he threw up for quite a long time.

2-1/2 Years to Get an Acid Reflux Diagnosis!

When I took my older son in for his 2-1/2-year checkup, I mentioned to the pediatrician that typically when my son was sick, I wouldn’t give him Periactin, as there was no sense in stimulating his appetite if all that coughing was going to make him throw up that much more.

One time, however, I continued to give him Periactin, and noticed that he didn’t throw up as much.  I asked the doctor if that was perhaps because the medicine relaxed his throat muscles?

That’s when a light bulb (finally) went off in the doctor’s head, and he said, “He’s got acid reflux.  Here, try this Prevacid.”

I was furious that I had asked about acid reflux an entire year ago and had been condescendingly dismissed by this same doctor, and now, because it was his idea, it was acid reflux! 

I wanted to throttle him and the previous set of doctors in New York City for making me waste my son’s health for all of that time.  In any case, the Prevacid worked immediately, and my son’s weight steadily improved.

My Little One Had It, Too

When my younger son was 10 months old, it dawned on me (I’m a little slow sometimes!) that he probably had acid reflux, too.  Knowing the condescending attitude of the pediatrician, I made a list of symptoms to convince him.  My son:

  • Shrieked so much when he was a newborn that the lactation consultant suggested that reflux could be a cause.
  • Cried and shrieked when he was lying down to have his diapers and clothes changed.
  • Projectile vomited whole bottles of milk 4 or 5 times.
  • Spit up 2 ounces of milk the other day about an hour after he woke up from his morning nap.  He hadn’t eaten anything for a few hours and was simply playing on the floor.
  • Preferred smooth-textured foods.
  • Frequently gagged on pastier and lumpier foods.  It became worse with stage 3 foods.
  • Refused to eat more frequently.  Like feeding his brother before, it became an hour-long song and dance to get him to eat.
  • Used to have a constant chest rattle/noise when breathing, even though he wasn’t sick.
  • Had poor weight gain as well, although not as bad as his brother’s.

These are all classic symptoms of acid reflux/GERD.

Guess what?  The pediatrician didn’t think my younger son had acid reflux.

He said, ‘Just because his older brother has it doesn’t mean he has it, too.”  Again, I was furious with this doctor!  Was it going to take him another year to realize this one had it, too?

I made an appointment with the local pediatric gastroenterologist, and he didn’t believe it, either.  What did it take to convince these doctors?

Many of the moms at the playgroups were saying how their kids had acid reflux with the same symptoms, and their doctors (including the same pediatric GI) were handing out reflux meds like it was candy.

Why wasn’t my son getting the help he needed?

Instead, the pediatric GI wanted to do an exploratory endoscopy. Although it was an outpatient procedure, it required that my son be put under anesthesia.  I felt as if I had no other choice, so I agreed.

Guess what?  He had acid reflux.  It took all that to confirm what I already knew.

Maria Rickert Hong is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor who received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She specializes in recovery from symptoms of autoimmune, neurological, behavioral and digestive disorders, as she has recovered her own sons from Sensory Processing Disorder, asthma and acid reflux.  She is also a board member, social media director and blogger for Epidemic Answers, a non-profit whose goal is to let parents know recovery is possible from autism, ADHD, SPD, allergies, asthma, autoimmune, Lyme and more.

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