Samuel seems to have developed reflux, which is quite common at his age. He spends a lot of the afternoon and evening arching his back and crying in pain, then being sick. It is caused by an immature sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach – it doesn’t hold closed properly so allows milk and stomach acid to rise back up, causing pain. Ever had heartburn? Well, its sort of the same thing.
Luckily for us (unluckily for them) we have lots of friends whose premature babies went through reflux, so I know what to do. There are medicines to help – Darren has just gone out to fill a prescription for infant gaviscon – but there are practical things you can do too. The main one is to keep their head elevated – so that gravity is on your side and keeps the stomach contents down. Babies spend a lot of their time lying down, when gravity is not their friend as far as reflux is concerned. Holding them vertically after a feed can really ease the pain of reflux. You can also tilt their cots with special wedges or with books under the bottom of the stand, so when they are sleeping they still have their head up a bit. Other things that can help are not moving them after a feed, and making sure they are winded properly – different things work for different babies. As babies grow the sphincter gets stronger, and eventually when they learn to sit up and stand up that helps too. Most babies grow out of reflux after a few months, but it is very upsetting listening to them scream in pain in the mean time – not to mention the amount of clothes that end up in the washing machine each day because they are sick so often.
Over the past few days Darren and I have spent a lot of time holding Samuel upright after feeds – or at least what we would call “upright” or “the right way up”. It got me thinking…. I bet it doesn’t feel like the right way up to Samuel. Until fairly recently he was floating around in my tummy. Like most babies in the womb, Samuel had got into a “cephalic presentation” position ready for his birth – i.e. head down. He spent at least the last 3 months of the pregnancy with his head down and his bum up. It must feel really strange to him to be the other way up all of a sudden. Maybe that is why he looks so confused all the time?
Thinking about being upside down got me thinking about bats. Bats spend a lot of time upside down.
Presumably, baby bats in the womb orient themselves “the right way up” so their heads are born first? After they are born they turn “upside down” or perhaps I should say “right way up (for bats)”, and they begin sucking their mother’s milk.
So, do you think baby bats have really strong stomach sphincters, or really bad reflux?
Either way they are very cute!