Oh Baby: Is it Reflux … or Colic?


Teddy was not very comfortable. Or happy. Thankfully, he’s much better.

Walking the floor with a new bout of tummy trouble

by Lynn Rees Lambert

Every time I see a pair of women’s moccasins, I think of my mother. She told me, years and years ago, that she once wore out a pair, “walking the floor with your brother.” And I, being just a kid at the time, didn’t understand what she meant.

And so she explained: “Colic. He cried for the rst six months of his life.”

Now that I am well past the childbearing stage, I am grateful I skipped that particularly horrid experience when I had my two. Fifty years ago they couldn’t tell a mother why her normally contented baby would wind up around the dinner hour and begin to wail for hours. Could be an underdeveloped digestive system. Could be allergies. Could be anything, but it got put down to colic. Why, exactly? All these years later, they still don’t know.

Colic may still be out there, keeping parents walking the floor but there’s a new ailment in town. Only lately I’ve heard its name: reflux.

Reflux, as in excess stomach acid that adults sometimes get? But in babies?

Oh yeah, in babies.

Where have I been these last few years? Now that I’m a grandmother of two, and have friends who are grandparents as well, how come I haven’t gotten the heads-up about this “it’s not colic but just as bad” thingee?

I realize the world has changed since I was a new parent. And I’m glad. A lot of advances have been made. I rejoiced, for example, when I learned there is a vaccine for chicken pox, which makes life a whole lot simpler. No need to take your children to your girlfriend’s house, where kids are itching like mad and absolutely covered in spots, so that you can expose your kids to her kids so your kids get it next week, not this week, when you absolutely have to finish that report and cannot call in sick to work. Next week you can call in sick. Because your kids have the chicken pox.

But back to reflux. I don’t know how I got this far in the grandparenting game without knowing about this. Apparently, it involves a lot of crying. Infant and mother. No one gets much sleep. So far, it sounds like colic but I am assured it is not.

Reflux may or may not involve some spitting up.

Don’t all babies, breastfed included, spit up occasionally? I ask. Obviously no cause for alarm. ( This is why I am not a medical doctor and no one takes my advice/comments seriously. For good reason.)

Just how bad can it get?

Awfully bad. Got the word from a first-time mother who says she has had three months of misery. My cousin’s daughter, Jen, had a healthy eight-pound baby boy who, she says, was unsettled from the get- go. “Everything started to ramp up when Teddy was six weeks old. The pediatrician said that he might be ‘a bit of a chucker.’ ” (Jen lives in Australia, so you can forgive the terminology).

A few days later during a visit to the GP for vaccinations, she got the same advice: he may be a bit colicky. “For the next five weeks and five doctor visits later, we suffered through long nights and ridiculous bouts of crying. I tried changing formula, tried feeding him smaller amounts, burped in the middle of feeds, kept him upright. We did everything.”

Her wee boy was “stiff as a board.” He arched his back; he spit up; he was congested; he coughed; he was irritable. She figured her baby was colicky but she also believed there was something underlying that was making him so. It was frustrating, and defeating, she says, going to the GP and being told she needed to find support resources to help her cope with Teddy’s colic. “I think I went home and cried.”

Enter Google.
“When Teddy was 10 weeks I finally had enough and went back to the pediatrician and explained to him that I thought Teddy had silent reflux.”

He agreed. Infant Gaviscon was prescribed and, if that didn’t help, she could get a prescription of Losec (Prilosec).

Once on the meds, a different baby emerged. On the anti-reflux formula and the meds for over two months now, it’s a relief for everyone, mother, child and father. “He’s still a terrible sleeper, but much more susceptible to being comforted back to sleep and there aren’t long bouts of crying all day, every day.”

Huh. Colic may still be around but reflux is the new issue in the nursery. Moms know. Even new moms.
And now this grandmother knows, too. ◆

Lynn Rees Lambert is an award-winning writer, author and grandmother of two Ottawa tots. Her book, Are You the One Who Writes That Column? Conversations, is available by emailing conversations14@gmail.com.

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