Category Archives: reflux

The Big Guns – Teaching Your Baby to Fall Asleep and Sleep Longer – Sleep Part III

Lil Z Swaddled

Lil Z after a nice, long sleep.

Have you read Part I and Part II of our sleep story? If not, you should check them out!

When Lil Z was brand new, I’d read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. His methods seemed mean, and I made the mistake of trying to “cry it out” when Lil Z was two weeks old. It was horrible and didn’t work because Lil Z was in the throes of undiagnosed protein intolerance and reflux pain. It was terrible, but we’ll save that for another post. Let’s just say, make doubly sure your baby is not sick or in pain when you “cry it out.” And a two-week old baby will only cry for a few minutes when they fall asleep. If they cry more than 15 or 20 minutes, I submit to you, there is something wrong. But I was too young and dumb in motherhood at the time to know that. Also, if your baby has lost the ability to fall asleep on his own, I suggest you gut it out, and wait ’til he is at least four months old to cry it out. At four months he can self-sooth.

Anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures, and me not sleeping for months on end had taken its toll. I was ready to try crying it out again. I was sick of being a “sleep prop.” I talked to my pediatrician, and with her OK, we decided to try “crying it out” again. We were dreading it, but knew it was necessary. We talked to our friends, Stephen and Erin (remember, the people with the magical babies?) to get their advice because they had cried it out with their first child when he was seven months old.

So we worked our way through what is now our normal “nap-time and nighttime routine.” We put Lil Z into his jammies and played with him in his room for a while. We read him stories and prayed for him. We turned off all the lights (no night lights til they are much older) and sang a couple of songs. Then we put him in his crib – tired, but awake.

It was so hard saying goodnight that first night. I can still see Lil Z’s cute little face smiling at us. He had no idea we were not coming back into his room until he was asleep. We shut the door, and we waited. One…two… three… and the began crying. It took all our will power not to go back in there. Mike and I had to continually talk each other out of “rescuing him.” And he cried. I turned the volume down on the baby monitor. I felt sick. I turned off the baby monitor so I wouldn’t see the blazing red lights flashing. And he cried some more. We turned up the TV volume to drown it out. And he cried some more. And some more. We turned down the volume of the TV to see if he was still crying. Yep, he was. He cried and cried… and cried.

Finally, blissful sleep came. Lil Z had cried for almost two hours. But according to our pediatrician, that was normal for a baby as old as ours. We crept into his room. He was fast asleep, and his legs were sticking out of the crib bars. He wasn’t stuck, that is just how he finally fell asleep. Adorable.

I feared Lil Z would wake 45 minutes later, which was the norm for him. But, for the first time in his life, he slept almost five hours. That isn’t that long for a six or seven-month-old baby, but for Lil Z, that was a major milestone. He woke up around midnight. I fed him and put him back in his crib to put himself back to sleep. He cried for only a minute or two before falling back asleep. It was pure, amazing, awesomeness.

The next morning, Lil Z awoke happy as a clam. He seemed refreshed and showed no sign of being through a trauma, which is what I felt I had gone through the night before.

The next night was a little better: he cried maybe an hour. By night three it was 45 minutes. After day four or five, he cried around 20 or 30 minutes. When it was all said and done, it took about two weeks to have a baby that I could put in his crib at bedtime and walk out the door with little or no crying.

Lil Z became an amazing sleeper. OK, that is not being fair. He became an amazing fall-asleeper.  Lil Z continued to wake up at least once a night until he was more than a year old, and he was never a great napper, but I will save that for another time. Bedtime became fairly easy for us because he knew the routine. We didn’t have to fight with him at bedtime like I hear other parents have to. He continued to wake up in the night a lot longer than “normal” babies, but looking back, I think it is because he was dehydrated from all the diarrhea that had (and often still does).

Does anyone have any sleep struggles or sleep stories they’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment!

Magical Babies – What Sleep Should Look Like – Sleep Part II

Zeph baby sleep 2

After doing Harvey Karp’s 5s system, we would put Lil Z in the swing, car seat or bouncy seat to sleep. If we lay him down on his back, he would immediately wake up in pain.

When Lil Z was first born, I read, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp, M.D. It had a lot of, well… weird ideas about how babies should really be in the the womb three or four months longer than they are. His reasoning is that they are fussy, like to sleep a lot and be swung, and they like calm, quiet, dark places – like in the womb. And newborns do like that, so I see where he is coming from.

However, I don’t think babies should be in the womb four months longer, and God doesn’t make mistakes (and Karp wasn’t probably saying that, exactly). Most normal newborns are fussy, in my opinion because they are in a transition period – c’mon, they just spent their entire lives in a cozy, warm environment, and they haven’t learned to self-soothe yet. It comes down to them not being able to suck their thumbs… or rub their hair, or whatever babies do to calm themselves down when they are upset, which they learn to do around month four. So I think God means for the first four months to be pure, awesome, bonding time with baby, because the parents are the ones who get to be the comforter.

With that said, this book’s techniques on calming a baby are a Godsend for parents with babies who are colicky and/or sick. We used this method and it worked every single time – unfortunately, it became the only way we could get Lil Z to sleep.

A fussy baby will immediately be calmed and pacified if you do the following things (at one time):

  • Swaddle – swaddle baby, including his arms (as long as he is younger than 3 or 4 months)
  • Shush – create rhythmic white noise. We ended up getting a noise machine and set it on the waterfall setting – loud.
  • Swing – Gently jiggle baby on his side so you get a “bobble head” effect. We also had a lot of luck by placing Lil Z in his car seat and bouncy seat swaddled and jiggling him fast.
  • Suck – Put a pacifier in baby’s mouth. When babies suck, natural calming chemicals are released in their brains.
  • Side – placing the baby on his I guess is easier on their tummies and digestion.

Like I said, this method is a Godsend for parents of a sick or colicky baby. Now, if you are one of the lucky ones who gets a baby who sleeps well and can put himself to sleep, do not use this method. Let me say this again. If you have a happy baby who doesn’t have colic or reflux, or isn’t sick, DON’T’ USE THIS METHOD. You will be creating a baby who is dependent upon you to be a sleep prop (more on sleep props later). You will regret it later when your baby can only fall asleep with your help, and needs you to put them back to sleep when they wake up randomly at night.

If you are a sleep-deprived mother who has an unhappy and constantly-crying baby, skip this part. You will want to stab something with a rusty fork.

Magical Babies – Happy newborns know how to sleep:

So, apparently, there are these magical babies I had only heard about, and I thought they were the stuff of myths and legends. These babies are born knowing how to put themselves to sleep. They don’t really cry that much, except for maybe a little bit in the evenings, or when they are hungry. I have some friends (Erin and Stephen) who seem to be blessed with these magical babies. They had their magical baby, “Little J” a few short weeks after I had Lil Z. One day, we were sitting in Erin’s living room, talking and showing off our newborns. Erin said she was going to put “Little J” down for a nap. And to my shock (and jealousy), she just set him down.

No bouncing. No singing. No 25-minute routine. Just. Set. Him. Down. Just like that. And what did “Little J” do? He fussed and cried for maybe two minutes and promptly — fell asleep.

And now I’ve come to find out, after the…horribleness that I went through with Lil Z: that is what sleep should look like for a healthy, non-reflux, non-sick newborn. Yeah. That’s right, listen parents of happy newborns or parents who are about to have a newborn: a newborn baby knows how to put himself to sleep. You don’t have to help him. Don’t rock him to sleep. Don’t walk around til he falls asleep. Don’t place him on your chest and rub his back until he is asleep (OK, you can do this once or twice when they are really new – it’s totally freakin’ awesome). Anyway, if you put your baby to sleep, you will un-teach your baby how to fall asleep on his own. And it only takes a couple of days to do this. So my recommendation, as a mother of two babies who “un-learned” how to fall asleep – let them fall asleep on their own as a newborn.

What sleep should look like for a healthy baby: Swaddle them if they are four months or younger, run through a loving routine (read a book, turn out the lights, sing and pray, tell them you love them) and lay them in their cribs tired, but awake. Shut the door, and walk away. Baby will fuss and cry for a little bit, but will soon fall asleep. In fact, all babies cry before they fall asleep. If you listen and get to know their cries, you will begin to recognize their “I’m falling asleep cry.” Then your little bundle will be out. Like a light… that is, if your baby is not in pain.

If your baby is in pain, there really is no solution for him until he is out of pain (and by pain I don’t mean a little gas. Any mother of a protein intolerant or extreme reflux baby knows what I mean). Get their reflux under control. Work with your pediatrician to get them on the right meds. If you are breastfeeding, completely avoid the foods that bother them, or find a formula that doesn’t irritate them. Once your baby is healthy and not in pain, you can finally TEACH your baby how to sleep (just make sure they are four months or older so they can self-soothe).

My baby is not in pain anymore – Why is he not sleeping?! So I’d finally gotten Lil Z’s reflux under control through my diet and his medicine. For the most part, he was very happy, but despite the fact that he was a million times better, he still wasn’t sleeping through the night. In fact, he was still waking every 45 minutes.

Well, shortly after I read The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, I was told by a friend to read the Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby, by Tracie Hogg. It sounded hokey, but I was desperate. Well, this woman knows her stuff. She is baby-understanding rock-star. Every new mother needs this book. Get it. It’s amazing. She discusses everything from getting babies on a routine, understanding their various cries, introducing solids, and so on. It is comprehensive, and well worth the money.

The only thing in her book that didn’t work for me was her methods on helping your child fall asleep (it probably works if you have a happy, healthy, non-PI, reflux baby, though). Hogg feels it is wrong to let a baby “cry it out” when you are trying help them to learn to sleep. Her method involves a lot of back patting and shushing. I really wanted this method to work, because I didn’t want to have to let my baby cry. Well, I tried it her way… for four straight weeks (actually eight, but the first four he was still in pain because I hadn’t figured out his protein intolerance issues yet). Her sleep method didn’t work. I had become exactly what Hogg warns against – being a sleep prop.

So, my husband and I, tired and exhausted, were at our wits end. Our baby was six months old, and I hadn’t slept more than three or four hours since he had been born. It was time to get out the big guns. More on that… tomorrow.

How the Heck Do I Make This Baby Sleep? – Sleep Part I

Liz Z baby sleep

This was the only way I could get Lil Z to Sleep in the beginning. I would swaddle him, pop a pacifier in his mouth, and jiggle him. He would immediately wake up if I set him on his back, so he slept either in a bouncy seat, car seat or swing.

When Lil Z was born he barely slept, and he woke a lot. He napped very little, and was constantly fussy. I figured that is what newborns did. The doctor diagnosed him with acid reflux and put him on medication. But the sleeplessness continued. For weeks. Then months. It was hell, I’m not gonna lie. To top it all off, when he was awake, he was fussy and crying. He wouldn’t let me set him down. I remember calling my husband and begging him to come home early from work, just so I could get a break. He wouldn’t of course, because he didn’t want to look like a bad employee.

I had to hold back the bile (and my fist) when I met mothers who said things like, “my baby slept through the night at five weeks.” Like they had something to do with it. To this day, I still kind of want to punch something when someone talks about how well their newborns sleep.

But I digress. I read every book under the sun. I scoured the internet. How the heck do I make this baby sleep?! I didn’t even care about having him sleep the whole night – I just

wanted a good 3 or 4 hour stretch. My baby was waking every 45 minutes – all day and all night long.

What I figured out is this: Lil Z has celiac disease and protein intolerance (e.g. he was clinically allergic to the foods I was eating and was getting them in my milk). Once I went on an elimination diet and removed the “offending foods” from my diet, his acid reflux got much better. Pretty much overnight. But the night waking continued and poor napping continued. It took a while before I figured out how to get him to fall asleep on his own.

Fussy Baby – What I Wish I Had Known in the Beginning

When Lil Z, my firstborn came along in 2008, he hit our family like a freight train. He cried all the time, arched his back constantly, rarely slept more than 45 minutes, and never let us put him down unless it was to be jiggled in a bouncy or car seat. His diagnosis was gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). But no matter how much medicine they gave him, we couldn’t make our baby comfortable, and he rarely slept more than 45 minutes at a time (it didn’t matter if it was day or night).

What we later learned was Lil Z is protein intolerant and has Celiac Disease. Here is advice I wish I had gotten when Lil Z was a baby:

Painful Reflux (GERD) is not necessarily a “mechanics issue”: I heard this so many times from my son’s doctors, but unfortunately, I took their word for it for more than five months after his birth. I was breastfeeding at the time, and he ingested proteins from the food I ate, which made his GERD unbearable. I wish I had tried an Elimination Diet from the start, and I would have discovered his reflux was greatly exacerbated from several of the foods I was eating. Once I eliminated the foods from my diet, his reflux was manageable with medicine. My second son, Manimal’s reflux was only painful if I ate an offending food.

Sometimes one reflux medication doesn’t work, while another one will (we had better luck with Prevacid rather than Zantac). One doctor told us several months after putting my son on Zantac, that Prevacid works faster than Zantac, but because it is so much more expensive, a lot of health insurance companies will not pay for Prevacid until Zantac has been tried.

Mylanta helped when a really bad acid reflux “episode” would hit. When Lil Z was going through an “episode” (i.e. he would scream and arch his back for hours) we gave our son Mylanta, per our pediatrician’s OK. She gave us the exact amount to give him based on his weight and age at the time. Check with your pediatrician before giving your child any medication.

Lil Z experiencing one of his frequent "episodes" with reflux.

Lil Z experiencing one of his frequent “episodes” with reflux.

Trust your intuition: There were days (and there still are) when I know my child ingested an offending food. Or did he? No, he definitely did… no wait. I think I am crazy — he couldn’t have. But he’s acting like he’s in so much pain, but… I was so careful!

Any mom with a food sensitive-child has had that exact conversation every time their child exhibits signs of ingesting a food they shouldn’t have. Trust your gut — I feel like a mom’s intuition is rarely wrong. And try to be patient with advice from mom’s who haven’t experienced what it is like to have a baby with protein intolerance and/or reflux. They are well-meaning, but they have no idea what you are going through. Is your baby crying longer before his nap? Is his cry sounding “grinding” and guttural, like his reflux is back? You know, maybe it was teething, as I often was told, but why did it always seem to happen on days he was around other kids who were eating fish crackers? Trust your gut, and ask God to help you recognize the times your baby is feeling sick or just getting old enough to manipulate you at bedtime. It is the worst feeling to make your baby cry himself to sleep to find out later when he has a mucousy stool he was reacting to something he ingested. But realize it happens. Don’t beat yourself up too much. Just love your baby and move on.

My own mother told me that it is good for a baby to cry. I plan on doing a more in-depth article on how I got my kids to sleep through the night, which involved “crying it out.” But it is never good for a sick or in pain baby to cry it out — ever. It’s cruel. So before doing this method, make doubly sure your baby is not suffering or sick.

Once you have had your baby comfortable for a few weeks, his sleeping habits may not improve on their own. This may be because your child has conditioned himself to wake frequently. Both my boys eventually learned to sleep through the night. Stay tuned for a future post on how I made this happen.

Why can’t your kid eat so many foods?

I get a little uncomfortable trying to explain why there are so many foods my son can’t eat. At this point in time we avoid eggs, nuts, dairy, soy, gluten, corn, and nitrates – these are foods that I know either for sure bother him, or I suspect bother him. He was tested for food allergies and Celiac disease (Celiac disease runs in my husband’s family) when he was around 7 months old. Little Z tested as “not allergic;” however, in the words of my son’s pediatrician, he is “clinically allergic.” I have latched onto the term “protein intolerant” because of the research I have done on allergies on my own (and I don’t mean intolerant to all proteins, just several).

Yes, this is a self-diagnosis, and I am sure it drives doctors everywhere nuts. But, if I had fully relied on the doctors, Little Z would have had surgery to tighten his esophagus due to uncontrollable and painful Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) at 5 months. My son’s doctors have been wonderful, but it was either a mother’s instinct, or at least a mother’s absolute terror at the thought of having her baby undergo surgery, that caused me to try the Total Elimination Diet when he was 5 months old.

Our pediatrician finally referred us to a pediatric gastroenterologist, and we get to see him (or her) in early September of 2009. I am praying that we finally get some answers, and that Little Z’s “clinical allergies” are finally diagnosed – and that they are just that, and not symptoms of a more problematic underlying health issue.

This is a picture of my husband, Mike, holding Little Z
during one of his early “reflux episodes” as we used to call them.

How it all began – acid reflux, protein intolerance and possible celiac

My beautiful baby boy, “Little Z,” was born. He was perfect — 10 tiny fingers, 10 adorable toes. But something was wrong. While still at the hospital, he was spitting up a lot, was very fussy (he cried – and even SCREAMED – in his sleep!). He hiccuped constantly, and often choked on his spit up. He also had what I call “acidic puke breath.” The nurses and doctors assured me that this was normal. What did I know? I was a first-time mom.

After we took our sweet, little bundle home, his problems worsened. He ate constantly, fussed continuously, and could only be comforted while on our shoulders or if he was held on his stomach. He would eventually crash, exhausted, but would wake a short time later and the cycle would begin again. I was bone-weary.

At one of his early check ups, the doctor said that it appeared he had reflux and was prescribed Zantac. It took around six days for the medicine to finally kick in, but it only seemed to take the edge off, and the constant night waking continued. Little Z was in constant pain. I was a Zombie, and it was a rarity for me to get more than four hours of unbroken sleep a night (Little Z usually woke up every 45 minutes — all night long). I was so sleep deprived that I became an insomniac and battled depression.

I was mad at God — why had he given me this “broken baby” (yes, I yelled that at God one night). And I felt utterly evil that I resented my baby. I started to hate being a mother. I thought, “what have I gotten myself into?!” I couldn’t find good advice from anyone (a lot of it, although good intentioned, was not helpful. i.e “perhaps you should try co-sleeping with him.” BELIEVE me, if co-sleeping were the answer, I would have found that on my own).

We discovered that he would sleep the best in his swing or bouncy seat, and I kept it by my side of the bed. I would jiggle him furiously side-to-side throughout the night (to get the bobble-head affect discussed in the book, “Happiest Baby on the Block.”); however, he still woke 8-15 times a night and would scream and arch his back. He would also jam his little fingers into his mouth and claw at the back of his throat. He was in so much pain. After 5 months of watching him struggle, I was at my wits end. It hurt to watch my baby suffer through so much pain, and I was utterly exhausted from only getting 3 hours of unbroken sleep a night (if I was lucky). Also, my marriage was suffering because my husband and I didn’t see each other anymore — we spent our evenings taking turns jiggling, bouncing or patting Little Z to sleep.

No one had answers and and no one understood. After increasing and changing his reflux medication several times, the doctor said the only thing left to do next was surgically tighten his esophagus. This terrified us. I had asked in the past if his problems could be food related, but the doctors assured me that reflux is due to a “mechanical issue” and is not a food issue. However, when they started talking about surgery, I knew had to see if it was a food issue. I was breastfeeding, so I went on an Elimination Diet  (you can read about it on the Dr. Sears Web site).

I saw almost immediate results. He was happier, his acidic puke breath disappeared, and his hiccups vanished. These symptoms returned only if I accidentally ingested an offending food. His medications were able to control his reflux. He quit having diarrhea 6-15 times a day, and his adorable pot belly disappeared. He was a different baby. He wasn’t totally fussy free (because I to this day still cannot put my finger on all the foods that bother him!).

I now know he has trouble with gluten, soy, all dairy, eggs, nitrates and possibly corn, peanuts, tree nuts, MSG, food colorings, preservatives, any kind of brine (i.e. a pork in brine) and bananas. (I have never even tried introducing any kind of fish, so he may have trouble with that as well).

He was tested for allergies and Celiac disease, and they all came back negative. This is why I say he is protein intolerant. In September of 2009, we are finally going to see a Pediatric gastroenterologist to see if we can get some answers, and figure out if he truly has Celiac disease (which runs in my husband’s family).

To this day, Z is not symptom free, but life is so much better for all of us, especially Z. He continues to have diarrhea frequently (usually 3-4 times a day, but not like he was before!) and often gets yeast rashes. He seems to get sick more frequently than other children. I still can’t pin down all the foods that bother him, even though he has a very limited diet.

It has been a tough and frustrating road, but I have found strength in the Lord and have discovered a wonderful network of parents and organizations who offer great advice, tips and recipes. I hope this blog will give you much needed answers and advice if you are struggling with a baby or child with special dietary needs.