The AAP Safe Sleep Guidelines speak volumes about protecting newborns and infants. If you read closely, they also reinforce the sleep challenges of families with reflux babies, including the glaring dangers of sitting devices (car seats, swings, slings) for routine sleep, as well as elevation strategies.
CharliesKids.org, a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents on safe sleep practices, regularly publishes critical information, including the Dos and Don'ts of Safe Sleep (image featured at the end of this post).
With the commonality of reflux as a feeding issue, and now 18+ months of "reflux relief" under our belt, there are clear things I would have done differently with information available today.
It's said hindsight is 20/20. When you don't get a good night's sleep for 18 months, the memories are blurry, but the big lessons are clear and stick with you.
My son was a reflux baby right out of the gate. Many experts in the field argue that reflux, colic, and related infant issues are myths, or overblown by overly concerned parents. Our reflux was real: I knew from the projectile vomit that no bib or burp cloth could hold.
I've reflected on my experience while it's still fresh enough to help others feeling this burn for the very first time.
What would I have done differently?
Pushed the reflux medication discussion
As controversial as it is, my gut — and my son’s packing on of the pounds — was telling me to wait it out (along with doctor’s orders). I'm certain something could've helped our situation while we waited out our "laundry problem." Perhaps even a small intervention would've increased his comfort and ability to achieve some gainful rest.
Asked for help
I felt completely and solely responsible for my circumstances. Layer in my husband's temporary work relocation, my full-time job as a marketing director, and early intervention for my then two year old. I should have asked for 24 hours to get my head back on straight, or in the least, regular support in-home. In the least I should have been blatantly clear within my circles at the severity of the situation, including the stress and sleep deprivation, and the side effects therein.
Sought extended leave options
I’m a worker bee, plain and simple, and financial supporter of my family, and didn’t consider short-term disability or other medical leave options or means to extend maternity leave. He needed continued care and I could've maintained a bit of sanity. Sleep deprivation is much more amplified when you add your career back in, which feels like 100% more to your plate. And yes, the other 100% doesn't go away.
Ditched the car seat, swing, etc. for sleep relief
It’s dangerous and unnatural, and yet where most turn for reflux relief (read any of the big forums) to get a wink of sleep. There are solutions out there to support safe and solid sleep as the AAP guidelines recommend. One close call is one too many. And on top of that, especially for new parents, the majority of media images out there depict unsafe sleeping situations for infants (thanks to CharliesKids.org for sharing this link as well!)
Enjoyed my newborn
Now we spent a lot of time together — mostly from the hours of midnight to 3 a.m. — but what could have been joy and bonding was mostly angst, soothing and problem solving. Can't they make a fragrance candle called "nuzzled newborn" to relive those precious moments?
Hugged my then two year old more
He got the short end of this stick, plain and simple. It’s hard enough being two and not being able to express your feelings, and then your parent giving 100% attention to the new baby because that’s how it goes. I try to make up for it every day.
What I don’t regret
General stats say about half of babies have some form of reflux, which increases for premature babies. For most, reflux is a temporary situation that resolves on its own. For many, it is scary and takes severe physical and mental tolls on the baby and family.
The AAP guidelines could be very discouraging for families at the end of their rope of stress and sleeplessness, and I want to share that there are ways you'll make it through. I don’t have any easy answers, but for most there is a beginning and end to this, and the most important thing is to keep yourself and baby safe during these trying time.
Even if your aren't going through it now, you may know someone that needs this message, which includes some coping advice. The lessons are also transferable and relatable to any concerned parent facing adversity in those early months, and good advice to those who are pregnant as well.
I want you to learn from my regrets and feel empowered over your circumstances, whether you are facing this today, supporting parents in their networks, or preparing for their own parenting journey.
How did you overcome the sleep challenges, or other obstacles, due to reflux and related issues? What advice would be helpful to other parents and caregivers?
Thanks again to Charlieskids.org for permission in sharing their resource and helpful list below!
Spit Up Support Blog
Yea, I went there. Nearly half of all babies spit up, regularly. Some more, some less, and for many it's just plain scary.
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