Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Surviving Infant Reflux

The first thing I can tell you is that if you feel like curling up into a ball on the nursery floor and crying yourself stupid right now, you're not alone. The past several weeks have pushed me to the brink of borderline insanity. Truly, the idea of being locked in a padded room in straight jacket actually sounds like a vacation.

When you think of bringing home your newborn you have visions of watching that sweet little bundle cuddled up in their bassinet or crib far away in dreamland for approximately 14 hours a day. Let me tell you, if your baby has reflux (or what's technically called GERD) this is NOT going to happen.

Don't get me wrong, there have been lots of good moments too...

They just typically involve me holding her.

Which is wonderful to snuggle that little bundle 24/7 at first, but becomes very exhausting when you eventually would like to do simple things like shower or eat a meal.

Sure, every baby spits up, but my husband has taken to calling Jean Mount St. Helen because of her constant and endless eruptions. It's almost a guarantee that a quarter to half of what we feed her is going to end up all over the both of us. Which is just the beginning.

Laundry, okay sure, I can handle doing a couple extra loads a day. The real killer is that it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to get her to sleep. There have been many days where I feel more or less like I'm living with Linda Blair and end up thanking the heavens above for any 20 minute power nap I've managed to squeeze in, because the likelihood of getting a solid hour of sleep would truly be a miracle.

I had mentioned in my earlier post "Is your baby eating enough?" that from the moment Jean was born that she's been a difficult eater. What we didn't know at the time is just why it was so hard to get her to eat. Essentially, our poor little girl is in a constant state of discomfort.

These are signs that you should look for if you suspect that your baby might have reflux:

  1. Frequent and large amounts of spit up. I'm not talking about a few spots on your shirt. I'm talking about an amount that soaks both you and your baby so completely that it requires both of you to hop in the bath immediately. 
  2. A consistent cough and/or wheezing. Jean sounds like she's imitating Darth Vader all the time basically. 
  3. Refusal to eat or difficulty eating (i.e. coughing and gagging).
  4. Frequent crying or fussiness when laying flat. Or basically laying anywhere other than your arms. 
If any of these symptoms sound like your baby I would contact your pediatrician. Especially since some cases are more severe than others. Hopefully they're not like the one we originally had who doesn't return your calls.

I will tell you though that the good news is, according to my mom (NICU head nurse) that eventually this will pass as her digestive system develops further. The bad news is, that it typically takes 9 months to a year for that to happen. Which frankly is a tough one to swallow knowing that I have to go back to work next week.

However, through trial and error (and pure desperation) here are a few things that we've found that have helped ease some of her discomfort:

  • The single most important thing that we've done that has helped was finding the best possible formula: Enfamil A.R. We started her out on the Newborn, then we tried the Gentlease, and even the regular Infant one. None of them helped in the slightest because they were just too thin and it was impossible for her to keep it down. This one is infused with rice powder which makes it sit a lot heavier in her stomach, but is fine enough to pass through the Dr. Brown's 2 Natural Flow Level 2 Nipple compared to regular rice cereal that just seemed to clog the bottle. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't resolved it completely since it can't cause her digestive system to develop any quicker, but at least she's not crying from starvation every hour like she was before.
  • We keep a essential oil diffuser running constantly to help clear up some of her congestion. If you would like to know what oils we're using, please send me a message through the Contact Form on the left. Since I'm an advocate for essential oils, I'm not allowed to actually post links on this site.
  • Swaddling. I hadn't been doing this once she started to be more alert and wiggly because I felt that I was restricting her too much. However, this seems to make her feel like I'm holding her so that I can get in a small break every now and again to stretch my elbow. 

  • Keeping her upper body elevated at all times. We purchased a Serta Perfect Sleeper Crib Wedge along with the Reste Sleep Positioner to keep her from sliding down the wedge while sleeping. These are both considered "safe" sleep aids for your baby. I'll admit though that I use a memory foam pillow in the Pack ' N Play that we keep in the living room since she won't always let me put her down in her crib. I'm basically watching her every second that she's in there since I don't want to keep transferring the wedge back and forth. 

  • Finally, white noise. I downloaded the free Sound Sleeper app on my phone. The thunderstorm one seems to distract her from her discomfort long enough for her to drift off for a bit. 
I know it all seems like a lot of juggling and micro managing, but when you're little one hurts, you do everything in your power to make it better. I know not all babies are the same, but hopefully some of the tricks we've found help someone out there on the verge of insanity like we have been just a little.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Is Your Baby Eating Enough?

The past 7 weeks have been a whirlwind really. First, our newest addition, Jean, decided that she was going to jail break 3 weeks early. Nothing triggers panic quiet like going into labor prematurely. We were terrified that something was going to be wrong with our new baby. Thankfully she came out pink and healthy with all 10 fingers and 10 toes with no indication of anything being wrong.

I applaud the moms who choose to breastfeed, but let me say now, that's just not me. My first birth was a c-section and I don't come out of the anesthesia quickly so Lena had been fed several times before I ever woke up and wouldn't latch no matter how hard I tried. This time, I didn't even bother.

Bottle or not, even before we got to bring her home from the hospital I expressed concerns about the fact that I was having trouble getting Jean to eat and that I was concerned about how much she was spitting up. The nurses however kept telling me that the small amount she was eating and spit up was completely normal and not to worry.

During her first week home she continued to be difficult to feed. When we took her for her one week checkup we discovered that she had been losing weight instead of gaining it. Her pediatrician recommended that we bring her back the following day for another weight check.

Again, in 24 hours, she'd lost another ounce. At this time I mentioned my concern again about her disinterest in eating and that she was spitting up. It was dismissed again. Her pediatrician simply told us flat out that she had no idea why she'd be losing weight. Instead we were instructed to bring her back the next day and if she lost any more weight we'd have to readmit her to the hospital.

We hadn't even left the parking lot of the pediatrician's office when we called my stepmom, who thankfully happens to be the head NICU nurse for the hospital she works at. "I don't know" wasn't even a thought in her mind. She immediately asked her weight and started calculating the amount of food that our daughter should be eating within a 24 hour period. Evidently there is a specific calculation for how much an infant needs to eat in order to gain weight.

Is your baby eating enough

1 pound = 2.2 kilograms
Your baby should eat 120-150 milliliters per kilogram
Your baby should eat every three hours - no exceptions if they are losing weight.

Example: Our daughter was 5 lbs 7 ounces
5.7 / 2.2 = 2.59
2.59 x 120 = 310 millimeters
310 is the minimum amount your baby should eat in a 24 hour period

Personally, we use the Dr. Brown's bottles since milliliters are clearly marked. The lavender and pink are really cute, but I will tell you that it's harder to read the side of them to see where your water level is. 

We spent the next 24 hours basically force feeding our premature newborn using any tactics we could to keep her awake. What seemed to work best was using a cold baby wipe on her neck and legs. I have never felt more cruel than I did that day. 

When we returned to the pediatrician's office the following morning our little girl had regained her lost ounce and we were able to keep our baby home.

A couple days later, my mom came down to do a full check up on Jean. When we first described her symptoms over the phone she attributed her lack of eating to her being premature, but after spending the day with us and handling a couple of feedings with her, she determined that she had GERD, or what's more commonly known as infant reflux. That has come with a whole different set of challenges that I will address in a later post.

We followed the formula and the eating regimen religiously. We documented every milliliter that she ate and when she ate it for a month straight. I'm pleased to say that she has been consistently gaining weight at a steady pace ever since and she has now begun to demand food on her own without being forced. Sometimes we still have to wake her up during feedings because she has a bad habit of falling asleep, but for the most part she's taking 4 to 5 ounces every three hours, even if it does take her an hour to finish them.Needless to say, we're also in the market for a new pediatrician.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Creating a Character Fan for Kids

Six weeks ago we added a new addition to our family. A beautiful baby girl. The older girls are loving their baby sister. However, we have been making sure that we do some extra special things for them to show them that it's not just all about the baby.

This week I made Ann an Avengers ceiling fan for her room to surprise her with when she gets here this weekend.

It was actually very easy. You only need four things:

1. A basic white ceiling fan (usually its a "wood" color on one side and white on the other).
2. An Acrylic Paint Set.
3. A paintbrush.
4. A set of vinyl wall decals of your choice.

Amazon has tons of them to choose from depending on what your little one is into: Dr SeussFinding NemoTinkerbell FairiesMinionsAvengers, and a ton more.

Before assembling the blades I simply painted the white side with the colors I thought complimented the characters the best and then applied the vinyl stickers.

It was a quick and easy project that I know will thrill her to no end and make her feel extra special. Best part is that the total project ended up costing less that $100.