Is my reflux baby a ‘good baby’?

As I sit down to write about our reflux journey, the task feels daunting. For a long, long time reflux ruled our family’s days and nights. It twisted its way into every casual conversation about my daughter: is she a good baby, does she sleep at night, does she like her food, and are you enjoying being a new Mama?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions fairly without delving into Willow’s reflux backstory. How else could I explain that she often fussed, didn’t sleep well, vomited all the time and that I was finding Motherhood really, really hard.

It’s only now, as Willow turns one that I have finally stopped talking about it. Reflux has become just a word again, without the horrible meaning associated with it.

And yet, even with this, the memories are still raw, and the fear of it returning to our lives again one day is very real.

Just the other night my husband and I were talking about having more babies, (not in the immediate sense, we’re both enjoying the new found sense of calm in our household too much!) But in a hypothetical future, there would be a fair chance that little Wiz’s siblings would have the same problems with reflux.

It’s not an easy thought to entertain, and we both agreed it would be nothing short of torturous to go through it all again. What we realised though, was that with all our experience, we would surely recognise it sooner, and get the right treatment earlier.

Because the truth is, as first-time parents, we didn’t have a clue what was normal behaviour for our new born baby. For every symptom she displayed, there was a run-of-the-mill explanation found in parenting books. The trouble with a lot of the information from experts is that it’s completely open to interpretation. Yes, my baby cries a lot, but could somebody please define what a lot is. All babies spit-up, but how much is too much, what if it’s just me that’s finding normal levels of puke really hard to deal with?

Nobody wants to be that parent at the doctor’s surgery every week convinced there is something wrong with their baby, only to be sent home with a clean bill of health, and question marks hanging over their own mental wellbeing and ability to cope instead.

Looking back, that’s probably what held us back most at the start. The inherently Irish trait of not wanting to cause a fuss or be an inconvenience.

In the early days I was one of those regular visitors to the GP. And nearly every time I would go home empty handed. The conversation would always start with that annoying question ‘Is she a good baby?’ and suddenly, my reasons for coming would be thrown aside, as I quickly jumped to my daughter’s defence.

In my mind, little Wiz was never anything but a good baby and describing her as less seemed like the ultimate betrayal. Because there is no such thing as a bad baby, how can there be?

Just good babies, some of whom have health problems. In our case, a good baby who happened to have reflux. It took me a long time to figure this question out. Maybe it was the new Mama hormones; or the niggling worry that it was a) all my fault, and b) all in my head.

Willow was gaining weight as normal and the doctor could never find anything amiss on physical examination. The only proof of her symptoms was my word, and as I fumbled around in the darkness trying to articulate what was wrong, I didn’t have enough faith in these to follow through.

So, for other new Mamas out there, here are some of the early signs of reflux that I wish I had trusted in sooner:

  • Hiccups
  • Gagging, coughing and spluttering
  • Rasping, nasal breathing
  • Comfort feeding
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Poor sleeper
  • Discontented and unsettled
  • Water basing
  • Uncontrolled crying
  • Early arrival/low birth weight

I’ll be covering each of these in more detail in my next post ‘Recognising the early signs of baby reflux’.

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