By the time morning arrives, before the sun is even up for the day, my lark arises at 5am. I groggily force myself up from my cocoon *sigh* to deal with DS who has decided it’s up time. I feel like I have arthritis. Every joint and muscle aches. My body feels like it belongs to my 88 year old nana, not my 28 year old self. After a particularly bad night I feel like I’ve run a marathon and been hit by a truck at the end of said marathon. Allegedly, I’m not that nice to be around. So my dear husband says. It is likely that I have been up from six to 12 times during the night winding my son. Therefore it is likely my husband is right – I am not a box of fluffies first thing in the morning.
All that winding and jiggling with a writhing, squirmy baby hurts. Not an ‘ow I stubbed my toe’ kind of hurt, but a deep aching throb. By 5am I am tired, hungry, sore and in need of food and a hot drink – usually my drug of choice is coffee. So I start my day a tad titchy to be honest. I dread my 5am wake up call but try my best to be positive and happy towards my son. After all, it’s not his fault. It’s reflux and allergies.
Reflux. Allergies. Colic. Words you hear bandied about with mums and in parenting forums a lot. Those terms are weighed down with many implications. Breastmilk or formula? Colic or reflux? Reflux or bad parenting? Bad parenting or bad baby? Born this way or developed into this way? Early weaning or extended breast feeding… The list is nearly endless. Three words that have a large ripple effect on your lifestyle. As an AP mama – a child centred way of life – I have done my utmost to make DSs life as comfortable as possible. I think it’s worked, as people say he is one of the happiest baby’s they have met.
Speaking of happy babies – before DS was born, I heard about ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’ by Dr Harvey Karp
and the five S’s. (Shh-ing, swaddling, sucking, swinging/movement and side/stomach position). I thought I would be sussed. To begin with, the five S’s worked reasonably well. After the three month mark their effectiveness decreased. I needed more ammunition in my baby settling arsenal. Cue research. I investigated colic. Then discounted it. DS didn’t meet enough of the criteria. Phew. The idea of colic positively terrified me. Crying with no reason and no end in sight? That’s the stuff parental nightmares are made of. Then I stumbled upon ‘Getting Attached’ article by Jane McConnell on The Natural Child Project website. (Thanks Google) I was challenged… Did colic really exist? Did I know what colic actually meant? Was colic just a Western term for ‘us’ Westerners not understanding baby’s cries? Hmm… Did I know colic was not even a term or word used in some cultures as they were so in tune with their babies needs? Double hmmm… I was determined to get to the bottom of DSs cries and therefore his needs. If it wasn’t colic – what was it? I knew DS was trying to communicate with us, we just couldn’t interpret what he was trying to tell us.
I had begun to dread night times. As I lay awake next to DS, my heart sank every time he twitched. Was he about to stir and start grizzling or would I get another few minutes reprieve? Fortunately, because we bed share, DS never has to cry. He just needs to start squirming and whining a little and I know what’s coming. Winding. Every now and then I would doubt myself and leave him to see if he could do this elusive ‘self settle’ I’d heard so much about. Was he crying for food or attention? No. Always no. I knew that deep down yet still checked every now and then by leaving him for a few seconds longer than usual. And people would add their two cents worth “oh I suppose he’s just used to waking now”. No. It was winding time. When it gets to the morning sometimes I have no idea how we arrived there. I jiggle DS sitting on the side of the bed and maybe I’m so good now I’ve become a sort of human goldfish, sleeping with my eyes open?? I’ll twitch and catch myself falling asleep and think wow, how long have I been here?!
I’ve massaged, patted and prodded. We’ve wiggled, jiggled and jumped. I’ve rubbed and rubbed. We’ve done cycle movements, leg pumps, tummy massages and back rubs. Colic hold, over the leg hold, baby whisperer technique – if you can name it or google it we’ve tried it. Infacol, gripe water, chamomile. Swaddles, wrap me up’s, sleeping bags or free range. On me, on DH, in a cot or on our bed. Late night, early night, anywhere in between night. Routine, no routine. It’s a big ol’ checklist to get through.
Through trial and error we have found some stuff that works. We have pulled together a compilation of techniques from my midwife, LLL, Dr Sears, the Analytical Armadillo, Kellymom, Pinky McKay, Elizabeth Pantley and TNP to create our routine. Yet I knew I needed to get to the source of the problem. These were all coping mechanisms not the root cause.
Little by little I compiled a list of ‘stuff’ I noticed. The wet burps; hiccups; coughing; excessive drool and sore ears. The writhing and arching of his back. The persistent need to be winded. His squirming from 3am to that 5am wake up call. I gathered up enough courage and blurted to the Dr ‘I think DS has reflux’ and he said ‘yes, sounds like it, let’s try Gaviscon as a diagnostic tool’. Oh. Alright. I’d been told three times before that time that it was just ‘babies being babies’ and ‘he’ll grow out of it’. So colour me surprised when a Dr agreed with me.
Gaviscon was hell. Squirting 15ml (three syringes full) of liquid into a squirmy, squealing baby is NOT easy. It’s not even hard – it’s beyond hard. It breaks your heart forcing something into a non complying little human. It helped a little. We fulfilled our prerequisite fortnight and trudged back to the Dr. ‘Good’ he said. ‘He definitely has reflux’. Oh. Alright. Time for Losec it seemed. It helped a little too. To cut a long story short, we tried the osteopath, chiropractor, the bed tilt, small frequent feeds, put him in a sling etc etc all chipping away at his unhappiness and easing things bit by bit.
It gets to eight months and DS is sitting and crawling but still waking over six times a night. Not only is DS unhappy at night but mama is fast approaching a brick wall. We haven’t slept more than two hours at once in months. I sleep when DS sleeps and nap during the day. I feel lazy and incompetent but the naps hold me together. I do one last push at the Dr for a specialist referral and I get one. A weight is lifted off my shoulders.
My prodding, pushing and probing gets me to the specialist. I’m very nervous – what if he says nothing is wrong?! That’s worse than finding something is wrong surely – that I’m a hypochondriac first time mother overwrought and imagining things?? At the end of the consult we agree he has reflux, an egg allergy, and a possible gluten intolerance. The Dr reassures me no amount of winding would have solved his problems. Phew. He doesn’t have a sleep problem, he has a ‘help I feel yuck’ problem. Double phew. After a week and a half some things are better, but some are worse. Cranky mama marches back to the Dr. We add dairy to the list of no go’s for mama and baby.
We are getting closer to the end of our journey I believe. My determination and doggedness has gotten us thus far. Now I am angry. I had to hunt high and low for the right type of child centred support I felt was needed. I’ve read more than most parents would. I’ve read sleep websites that would make a weaker personality doubt themselves and their intuition. (And just force a baby into a schedule and not get to the real problem.) I’ve read reflux support stories where mums have been given blatantly incorrect information such as how much milk you pump is how much milk you’re breasts produce (very wrong!) i.e. You don’t make enough let’s put baby on formula. When you are sleep deprived and desperate baby whisperers make sense to some people (feed four hourly, put towels under baby and remove once baby has vomited making sure you haven eye contact lest they think they have ‘won’). But resist!
I know there are other mamas out there like me. I hear you on the TNP boards. There are many different stories out there, Feel free to email me yours. I’ve vowed to make a one stop shop resource for families of refluxy and allergic babies full of correct, researched, child centred AP type ideas to help. Paying it forward. It’s the least I can do when TNP has saved my sanity.