Sebastian, Gastro-oesophagael reflux disease and Spain

The twins, Celeste and Sebastian were born a month early, at 36 weeks gestation. In terms of premature babies, that's not really very much (it's possible to be born at 24 weeks old and survive). But Sebastian had to spend 3 days in an incubator as he had problems breathing. During that time, he wasn't allowed to breast feed. So to start with, it was just me and Celeste and she took to it like a duck to water. (See 'Giving Birth in a Spanish Hospital')

Symptoms of reflux in babies

By the time we got home, the babies were 5 days old and Sebastian had started to breast feed. He wasn't quite as quick as Celeste, but I thought I'd give him time to settle down. After feeding, he often seemed quite uncomfortable, whinging and complaining, wriggling his back. He was a little possety but nothing like his older brother Dante had been.

What is reflux in babies?

Dante had reflux, or gastro-oesphageal reflux disease (GORD) big style. GORD is when the muscle at the bottom of your oesophagus (the tube that goes to your tummy) is a bit weak, which means that food can reflux back up the tube. It's really common in babies and made worse by the fact that they have a purely liquid diet so the milk goes up much easier than solids would (or so the theory goes). With Dante, at times, he would vomit his entire feed up. A bit like the exorcist, he'd smile sweetly and suddenly I'd be covered from head to foot in milk. However, it didn't really seem to bother him much. I did try thickeners but he just used to vomit thickened milk up.

Some babies get discomfort with reflux and some don't actually vomit

Sebastian was different, he didn't vomit a lot of feed but I could tell that he was refluxing as he'd make a funny face as though he were tasting something in his mouth. And he did seem to be quite uncomfortable.

Medication to treat babies with reflux

The doctors told me to tilt his bed up. It didn't make any difference. I don't think they really believed me when I said he was uncomfortable. Or at least they seemed reluctant to give him medication.

In the UK, doctors would generally prescribe rantidine to stop the pain (it can be painful as the acid in your tummy can irritate the bottom of the oesophagus as it goes back up) and gaviscon to thicken the feed (although difficult to give if breast feeding but not impossible.)The ranitidine makes the liquid in your tummy less acidic.

Eventually, here in Spain they prescribed a drug called domperidone which didn't work. After several trips back and forth they finally prescribed omeprazole which also reduces the amount of acid in your stomach. It worked like a dream. Poor little Sebastian was transformed into a content and happy baby. It's just a shame that I had to wait so long to get the medicine that worked for him.

Do babies with reflux get better?

The natural course of GORD is for it to resolve, generally by a year of age. As the babies get older, the muscle gets stronger and the increase of solids in the diet also helps. The only way to tell is to try them off the medication. He's nearly 9 months old now and we stopped his medication a few weeks ago. He seems to be fine now. He's still sick from time to time, but he doesn't seem to be in any discomfort. In fact, he's a happy smiley baby.

For more information on reflux check out snotty-noses website.