Reflux and (not) sleeping – Grace
I see lots of friends with freshly done hair, makeup on and show-home standard houses with newborns. I always ask them how they manage it and they reply ‘they sleep all the time I have loads of time to get things done’ Argh that explains it when you have a reflux baby they don’t sleep, hardly ever and even if they do it’s for five minutes before they awaken again normally vomiting or in pain and requiring soothing for the next hour.
Even If you do manage to get them to sleep for more than five minutes, the likelihood is you haven’t slept anywhere near enough o function without a serious amount of coffee and the washing pile is starting to resemble mount snowdon (big tip here just close the bathroom door and pretend it’s not there for now and take a nap instead!)
Joking aside you can tell this is probably the part I struggled with the most, I know a lot of people have it worse than me but I require 8 hours a night and without that I cannot function. So I started a mission to get baby S to sleep.
Here are some things that have helped me:
My disclaimer: before you continue to read I’m not here to do product endorsements nor advertise in any way, and any advice I have been given by medical professionals purely applies to my son only (please check with your own doctor or paediatrician.)
1) Using a dummy really made a big difference to baby S not only for soothing but remembering to breathe at nap and bed time. Although in some cases they can increase stomach acid production for us it helped keep it away and keep his eyes closed for more than five minutes.
2) Sleeping environment matters a lot and reflux babies tend to awaken more easily and find it harder to self soothe in my opinion. Try to keep the atmosphere quiet, calm and soothing. Baby S was always going to room share with us and still does now aged 18 months and will stay that way until he no longer wishes to be in our room (most people predict age two but can be longer) without a shadow of a doubt I know he wouldn’t sleep 10 til 10 like he does now if he was in his own room. After he stopped breathing when he was six weeks old I still keep a watchful eye over him even when he’s asleep and so am I if something is not quite right with his breathing I somehow hear him and wake up. It’s not for everyone but it works for us.
3) Elevate the head end of the cot/crib/moses by 30 degrees. I used cot blocks for this purely because baby S was a wriggler so wedges didn’t really work for us. At around 11 months (under GP advice) we added a toddler breathable foam pillow too which he loves and these ones are designed for them to maintain the correct posture when asleep.
4) If your little one can tolerate it I’d advise baby wearing when you can, this was a life saver on days when he was struggling. I’d say try and pick a carrier that doesn’t add any pressure to baby’s tummy, I used a carrier and not a sling, I found it easier to make sure he was in the correct position also he would only nap upright so this gave my arms a rest. He would nap and I could start reducing mount snowdon down to a mere hill of washing!
5) Sleep suites/baby grows are your best friend. Baby S never wore anything but those until he was past seven months and the reflux started subsiding. Two main reasons firstly they put less pressure in the stomach region so they don’t aggravate it, plus those little jeans and tops look cute but when you’re in a mountain of puke you just want to change and go. Secondly they come in multipacks, so what’s not to love? (Now you’re wondering why that’s in a post about sleep but think about how much you love your pyjamas and how comfy you are in bed…pyjamas all day…you need to be comfy to sleep so same goes for babies (wearing pyjamas all day are acceptable for adults too, there were days I didn’t get dressed when he was little out of pure exhaustion.))
6) I purchased a very upright baby bouncer, one that is suitable for napping. Between that and his baby carrier I managed to start getting him to take naps. Also again, I could give my arms a rest and drink my (cold) tea. The one I got is more like a traditional bouncer but very upright and has a washable cover (hooray) for that as it got puked on pretty much every day. He grew to love this though and as soon as he was able to bounce he didn’t stop. Whenever he was feeling poorly or grumpy I’d put him in and all would be forgotten as he bounced away even the reflux hiccups didn’t bother him in that thing!!
7) I started a routine and I used the baby whisperer method… he actually slept through from six weeks (12-6 to start with) at night with the above and using the easy method.
Eat. Activity. Sleep. Your time.
The naps were always the hard part for him, the reflux threw some blinders but I always had it at the back of my mind and tried to stick to that albeit with a flexible approach.
8) What they eat in the day effects what happens at night… that used to ring in my ears as I watched baby S puke up his full bottle. In the end with the constipation etc from the mix of the Gaviscon and Ranitidine then changing formulas etc etc. I found it easier to keep a diary so whenever I had an appointment I could tell them exactly how much he’d eaten in the past week how many times his sleep was interrupted (or how many times he didn’t nap) how many hours he was getting at night and on some days the diary entry was just “screamed for three hour’s” getting an overall realistic picture of what happened between appointments did help because when your also sleep deprived it’s not always easy to get your point across and it helped gage if we should up medication doses or consider another change. Which leads onto…
9) Medication without Ranitidine and anti-reflux formula sleeping probably never would’ve happened. That sounds extreme but without managing the reflux there’s no way he would sleep unless he would exhaust himself to the point of passing out. We were going to move to Omeprazole but decided against that. Currently we are starting to reduce the Ranitidine as he was on a high dose hoping to remove in completely within the next couple of months.
10) I tried to be positive and take each day as it comes, sounds silly but if your dreading bedtime because yesterday took three hours and your shattered going into a bedtime routine with a negative attitude normally ends in a negative result. IF all else fails call on friends and family so you can to get a couple hours of sleep yourself. When he was really struggling with reflux due to teething or illness amplifying it, Where we could My partner and I took it in shifts to sleep and if it took a walk in the pushchair to calm him down or he only wanted to sleep in the bouncer so be it, obviously not long term solutions but desperate times call for desperate measures until it passed.
Now at 18 months old he’s very predictable he sleeps through the night pretty much from 10pm till 9.30am ish and has a 2-3 hour nap during the day. Most people shudder at the thought of a toddler being up till ten but honestly I’m grateful we managed to get to this point. The only exceptions are when illness flares the reflux up but luckily baby S has all his teeth bar one so that’s another obstacle out of the way. Just got to work on getting him to sleep before nine now but pigs may fly before I manage that!