Acid Reflux in Babies: Another Red Flag

by Maria Rickert Hong, CHHC, AADP

Both of my sons had acid reflux as babies. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Two and a Half 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 that he was prescribed for his failure to thrive. 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 the pediatrician 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 four or five times.
  • Spit up two ounces of milk after waking from his morning nap when 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 three 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 my kids’ 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.

Prevacid Not the Answer

Ultimately, Prevacid wasn’t the answer; undoing their gut dysbiosis was. Sometime after both of my boys were prescribed Prevacid for their acid reflux, Pediasure and Periactin for their failure to thrive, and Miralax for their chronic constipation, I began working with a naturopath for my own health problems, and he taught me about the profound influence of diet on health.

I put both of my boys and myself on a dairy-free diet and gave them probiotics. The acid reflux went away, so I stopped giving them Prevacid. Their appetite improved, and they also no longer needed Miralax for constipation. After discovering that I had been duped by multiple doctors who told me nothing about dietary changes and only about medications, I was angry again but determined to continue to work with our naturopath to improve our health.

About Maria Rickert Hong CHHC AADP

Maria Rickert Hong is a former Wall Street sell-side equity research analyst who is now a Certified Holistic Health Counselor.

She is the author of the bestselling book Almost Autism: Recovering Children from Sensory Processing Disorder and the co-author of Brain Under Attack: A Resource for Parents and Caregivers of Children with PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalitis.

Maria is the Education and Media Director for Epidemic Answers, the 501(c)3 sponsoring non-profit of The Documenting Hope Project. She can be reached at www.MariaRickertHong.com

Maria Rickert Hong