Is it Colic or Acid Reflux?
We’ve all looked down lovingly at our bulging bellies and daydreamed of what life as a mother was going to entail; snuggling a soft relaxed baby who sleeps peacefully when we need to run errands, one who doesn’t spit up on the all white outfit you just had to have. So imagine my surprise when my imagery of motherhood was splintered almost instantaneously after my sweet baby boy began to scream until he became hoarse and exhausted–and then screamed some more.
Although there are theories on what colic is, ranging from digestive tract inconsistencies to sensory sensitivity in babies, there is no definitive answer. Colic is defined as “cry[ing] more than three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks or longer”, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although colic is common, there is no treatment and often no way to comfort baby during these crying bouts.
Acid reflux is common in babies, as well as adults, and is caused by stomach contents reintroducing itself into the esophagus. Since babies have an underdeveloped esophageal sphincter, they are more susceptible to the discomfort and frustration of this condition. The most common symptoms are:
- Thick, or chunky, spit-up and/or vomit that can be volatile and look undigested
- Refusal or irritability to eat in the form of crying or tightening of body
- Inability to gain weight or weight increase from self soothing with comfort nursing
- Frequent coughing fits and gagging
- Wet burps accompanied by unpleasant expression
Being a first time mother, I was unaware of what was particularly deemed normal behavior of newborns. I was embarrassed to come forth and tell my partner, or anyone around me, that it was becoming all too much for just myself to handle. I was loosing sleep, loosing my self confidence in being a mother, and loosing my ability to perform even the slightest of daily tasks in attempt to calm my baby for hours each day. By the time he was five weeks old, I knew something wasn’t quite right and with a quick search of his symptoms I anticipated it was colic, but set out for some guidance from his pediatrician. After a few visits to his routine doctor with no avail, I made an appointment with a different care provider on a whim to seek a resolution.
Follow Your Gut
It took the doctor only moments to agree that my son was in distress and needed the aid of medicine. When he labeled the reasoning for the wailing infant in my arms as acid reflux, my heart shattered at the pain he was in but I was relieved to know there were some answers to the problems we were facing. But–how could this be?
Colic and Acid Reflux, or GERD, in babies can have a lot of similarities on the surface:
- High-pitched crying bouts that peak at certain times and last several hours
- Fist clenching, drawing knees up toward stomach or chest, arching back
- Unable to be soothed with feeding or movement
- Tightening of stomach muscles
- Disturbance of sleep
- Flushed face when crying
In fact, oftentimes it is encouraged that you make an immediate appointment with your children’s pediatrician if you believe they have colic, or are producing colicky behavior, so they can deduce that baby doesn’t have another underlying health problem–such as reflux.
His pediatrician gave me a few of the following tips to ease his symptoms in conjunction with his medication.
How to Ease Acid Reflux
- Feed more frequently with smaller portions
- Elevate baby immediately after feeding, by swinging or by propping up in a sitting position, to allow gravity to help keep stomach contents down
- Burp the baby after every ounce from a bottle, or 2-5 minutes to alleviate discomfort
- If formula fed, switch to a hypoallergenic blend as regulated by your doctor
- For sleepless babies, place them at a slight angle so their head is above their chest
- Wearing the baby and applying pressure on their stomach can help to ease pain
- Use blended rice or oat powder to help keep stomach full and contents down
- Melting a bit of star peppermint into baby’s bottle can help to soothe stomach discomfort
After regulating his medicine and following the tips above, only weeks later we were able to slowly decrease the dosage until he was completely able to stop all together. Now my cheerful, giggly, always grinning baby boy is eight months old and you’d never even fathom he was once unable to not smile.