Health Lessons From Having A Reflux Baby
Last updated: March 2023
Before you brush off this article by telling me that baby reflux and IBS are not related at all, just hear me out. Of course, the 2 things aren’t the same. But there are a couple of similarities that struck me, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.
If you’ve ever had a baby who suffered from infant reflux, you know how draining it can be. My second son was constantly vomiting, squirming in pain, too uncomfortable to sleep. And I wasn’t able to put him down, ever.
The first month, he struggled with weight gain a lot. But supplementing with breast milk and formula quickly put him back on his growth curve, which caused doctors to tell us that all was well. All was well, and yet he screamed all day long. All was well, and yet we never slept for more than an hour at a time for almost 2 months.
Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well, it kind of reminded me of the beginning of my IBS journey. It was hell on earth for me, and yet medical professionals just kept repeating that all was well with my body.
Seeking answers for reflux
After being sent home by multiple doctors who saw nothing wrong with my son, I refused to give up. As I did with IBS, I started looking for answers online. And I soon found them. There is a community on Instagram that firmly believes that infant reflux is a symptom, not a cause. Thus, identifying the root cause of reflux is necessary so baby can get better. I liked this approach a lot, and so I tried.
The first possible cause that spoke to me were food sensitivities. My breastfed baby wasn’t only vomiting, he was also constantly constipated. On a whim, I eliminated dairy from my diet as this seemed to be a common culprit according to Google. Lo and behold, the vomiting stopped! Continuing on that journey (later aided by a dietitian and lactation consultant), I proceeded to eliminate soy, beef and other foods. Within days, my son stopped screaming in pain, started pooping daily and sleeping 2 to 3 hour stretches at night!
Yet, no matter how relieved I was, I knew that this wasn’t all. As with my IBS, eliminating foods only solved part of the problem. A big part, sure, but still not all of it.
After speaking with a dietitian and explaining our situation, she advised me to see a lactation consultant to rule out any feeding issues. According to her, my baby’s remaining discomfort was less likely to still be caused by food.
So, I made an appointment with a specialized lactation consultant. And guess what? She took one look at how my son was feeding and told me that he would need some work. Apparently, he had so much tension in his neck and mouth that his tongue wasn’t working properly, causing him to swallow air. This tension also explained why he refused to sleep (or lie) on his back.
Tension and IBS symptoms
At almost 4 months old, my reflux baby was adjusted by an osteopath. Ten minutes later, he turned his head to the left for the first time. And a day after that, he took his very first nap in his crib.
Were our reflux and sleep problems finally all gone? No. But it did get better. A lot better. And now I’m asking myself: if infant reflux can be caused or worsened by seemingly unrelated things like tension, are we sure that it can’t be the same for IBS?
Tongue ties, antibiotics, and so much more
We’re not at the end of our reflux journey. We’ve barely even begun to get answers. But this journey so far has taught me that digestive problems in babies can have so many causes beyond food sensitivities – even if these do play a role. Antibiotics, tongue ties and many other things can be a cause, too. And if they can cause reflux in babies, maybe things like that could cause IBS, too?
During our appointment with the lactation consultant, my partner found out that he has a tongue tie (she checked because we mentioned that both baby and daddy are mouth breathers). He’s always dealt with sleep problems, all of his life. While these 2 things may or may not be related, what if they are? How many health issues are we bypassing by not digging deep enough?
What if IBS was a symptom, too?
Of course, I’m neither a doctor nor do I know what I’m talking about. I’m just wondering: what if IBS was a symptom caused by something else? Could there be other root causes for IBS that are not food sensitivities? After all, we know that stress and anxiety can cause symptoms, and those aren’t food related either! What if there might be a way to get better if we only dug deep enough?
What do you think?
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?