Jan Gambino Jan Gambino's Blog

Did Baby Emily have Reflux?

This is a story about my first born daughter Emily. Sometimes I wonder if baby Emily had Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), a normal physiological condition of infancy with digestive symptoms such as spit up and occasional vomiting. In the first few months of life, she had a fussy period every afternoon and evening. Emily fretted and fussed at the breast. Eating, holding bathing, swaying, swaddling, burping did little to improve her comfort. Sometimes it seemed like she was in pain.

Sometimes I wonder if baby Emily had colic. Colic is defined as crying for 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for 3 months. Well, Emily did cry on and off for 3-4 hours every afternoon but she was otherwise healthy and easy going for the rest of the day. She nursed well and eventually started sleeping through the night at an early age.

Sometimes I wonder if baby Emily was well, acting like a baby. Lets face it, all babies cry. There is nothing to prepare a new parent for the experience of sitting in your home alone with a crying baby. The baby is thrashing in your arms, your back aches and you can’t think straight. You imagine the worse: something must be terribly wrong.

I had worked with babies with complicated medical and developmental issues before becoming Emily’s mommy. I thought that holding underweight babies with fragile neurological systems would prepare me for any amount of crying and advanced care giving. Perhaps it did. I think that I had a higher tolerance for crying and knew on some level that she would eventually stop crying. I knew quite a bit about swaddling and swaying and the need to keep her attached to me as much as possible in a baby carrier. But it was still hard work and sent me to the baby books and pediatrician for reassurance. I don’t recall having a specific conversation about her crying spells but I am sure that I did. The crying spells still left me feeling insecure and inadequate as a mother.

There is some evidence that more and more babies are being prescribed reflux medications for “acting like a baby”. If a parent brings a baby to the doctor and reports crying and other digestive symptoms, medical treatment may be given in the form of medication. Doctors and researchers fear that the increased knowledge of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and the awareness of medications targeted for infants as young as one year of age are key factors. A recently published research study indicated that the majority of babies being prescribed reflux medication for GERD did not have evidence of the disease when tested.

And here is the truth, if baby Emily was my youngest and not my firstborn; it is likely she would have been one of those babies on reflux medication too. My youngest had severe GERD and I became hyper alert to the signs and symptoms. It took awhile to figure out the symptom pattern and begin treatment. After parenting a baby with severe GERD, I am sure that I would have marched into the doctor’s office with Baby Emily and demanded treatment for her GERD before it got worse. While there are plenty of babies with GERD out there, I imagine there are plenty of baby Emily’s too.

So why do babies cry? There are many reasons including:

Food allergy
High Need/Sensitive to light, sound, noise

Colic and Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) are common reasons for digestive symptoms and fussy crying. You and your doctor will need to consider all reasons for crying and consider whether it is reflux or something else.

After ruling out a medical reason for the crying, be sure to find support in the form of family, friends and other parents who can offer support and guidance for those difficult days and nights of crying. An experienced parent or grandparent can show you how to hold rock and comfort your baby. A new mom’s support group can also provide needed support and advice for getting through the early weeks and months of parenting. We have all been there-wearing the rookie hat with the deer in the headlight look.

But in the end, both parents and babies survive and before you know it, your baby will stop crying and figure out new and interesting ways to worry and challenge you. For instance, now Baby Emily is a college freshman 450 miles away from home!


Check with your
doctor first!