Wednesday, February 6, 2013
How Babywearing Can Help With GERD
The following post was written by my sweet friend, Shannon and I'm hoping that her story will help other mommies and daddies :)
As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and experienced attachment parent, when I was pregnant with my third son, I knew that I wanted to invest in a baby carrier that would be both comfortable and functional for breastfeeding. I was so excited to find Amber, owner of Heavenly Hold. I was able to meet with her to try on different carriers. Amber was so helpful and patient as I tried several soft structured carriers to find one that would best fit my needs. I decided to go with an Ergo Baby carrier, and I could not wait to use it! At this time, little did I know just how much I would rely on this carrier.
When my baby, Cohen, was three weeks old, he began to show signs of Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD occurs when an infant's esophageal valves do not function properly, causing milk and stomach acid to come back into the esophagus. Unlike normal infant spit-up, GERD can be very painful, lead to feeding difficulty, weight gain problems, and even esophageal damage if severe GERD goes untreated. To make matters worse, Cohen was suffering from Silent Reflux, which occurs when the infant swallows the refluxed material, rather than regurgitating it. Silent Reflux can be difficult to diagnose, since you never actually see the infant regurgitate. Not only does the infant experience pain when the refluxed material comes up, but also when it is swallowed back down. Being an experienced Lactation Consultant, I knew the tell-tale signs: fussiness at the breast, arching of his back halfway through a feeding, and then feeding refusal. As Cohen's Silent Reflux began to worsen, we could actually hear him choke on the refluxed milk at each feeding. After feeding, Cohen's breathing would become raspy, and the refluxed material caused mucus in his nasal passages. To make matters worse, Cohen began to refuse feeding altogether.
After several visits with the pediatrician and a pediatric gastroenterologist, Cohen was diagnosed with GERD. We tried several medications and various dosages, before we found the right treatment to give Cohen some relief. However, the treatment did not always provide complete relief. Many families with an infant with GERD find that they have to go to great measures to figure out which coping techniques work best for them and their baby. In addition to Silent Reflux, Cohen was also diagnosed with dairy and soy protein intolerance, leading me to need to go on a special diet. Breast milk is important for all babies, and is especially important for infants with issues like Cohen's. Breast milk is much easier for infants to digest than infant formula and is gentle on a sensitive tummy. Likewise, when an infant has GERD, breast milk is less likely to cause damage to the esophagus when refluxed. Even though nursing Cohen became very difficult, it became even more important for our breastfeeding experience to continue for a minimum of one year.
The evenings were the most difficult time, as Cohen's GERD seemed to worsen throughout the day. Our Ergo Baby carrier became a key component to our success. There were many times throughout the day when the only way to calm Cohen's crying was the carry him in the Ergo Baby. By evening, holding Cohen in our Ergo Baby became our new routine. The most difficult aspect of Cohen's GERD was getting him to eat; I quickly learned that nursing him in the carrier was our most successful way to nourish him. In fact, there were many times that the only way to get Cohen to eat was to put him in the carrier and walk around while he nursed. When dealing with feeding refusal caused by the discomfort of GERD, it can be helpful to distract the infant from the discomfort while feeding. Nursing Cohen outside in the Ergo Baby carrier provided a new sensory experience during feedings that distracted him from the pain and discomfort. Many mothers of babies with GERD will tell you that holding the infant in an upright position seems to provide some relief as well. The Ergo Baby carrier enabled Cohen to be held upright to soothe him, while also receiving the constant close contact from his mommy, which babies also need. It can be difficult to nurse a younger baby in an upright position before the baby can sit unsupported, but the carrier is the perfect tool for providing the support that baby needs while being fed upright. I benefited too, because the carrier allowed me to have freedom of movement to care for my older two sons during Cohen's fussy periods.
For nearly 7 years, I have been an experienced breastfeeding mother and attachment parent, but Cohen helped me to gain an even greater appreciation for babywearing. For us babywearing is not just a part of our lifestyle, but an integral part of our success with battling GERD and maintaining breastfeeding. I had to share with Amber just how thankful I am for her help and for our Ergo Baby Carrier. Likewise, I wanted to share our story in hopes that other moms may find babywearing to be a successful coping technique with their babies with GERD.
Shannon Trocolli, MA IBCLC