Pyloric Stenosis: when vomiting isn’t just reflux

If you’re reading this, chances are you have (or have had) a very ‘sicky’ baby. Chances are, your friends and family told you ‘it’s just reflux’. And fair enough, it might be. But it might not be. If you’re not convinced, read on to find out more.

My little monkey was always a very ‘sicky’ child. Ever since she was born, she’d be sick after every feed. While that sounds normal, the amount of sick wasn’t. She’d always vomit up at least half of her bottle, and then cry because she was hungry. We endured it for 3 weeks before we insisted on her having a medical assessment. She was diagnosed with a dairy allergy, and we were told that a hypoallergenic milk prescription would fix the issue. It didn’t. We took her back to our doctor countless times, and were berated for wasting GP time as she just ‘had reflux’. We tried countless reflux medications, but everything just seemed to make the issue worse.

Once my little one had reached 7 weeks, I’d had enough. After an evening of being covered in around 18oz of projectile vomit, I took her to A&E and insisted they run blood tests on my daughter. Sure enough, they diagnosed her with Pyloric Stenosis.

Pyloric Stenosis is a condition in which the valve allowing food to pass from the stomach to the intestine becomes too thick, and the hole closes. This means that nothing can get through, which leads to malnutrition, dehydration, and even death. Symptoms include extreme vomiting, lethargy, constipation, and less wet nappies.

Once admitted to hospital, we had to watch an NG tube be placed into our little one, to drain her stomach. She had an IV inserted to keep her fluid intake up, along with some vitamins, but she wasn’t allowed to eat. We were in hospital for 3 days in total before she had her operation, and we weren’t allowed to feed her anything, which was torture when she cried.

Eventually, we were transferred by blue light ambulance to a specialist children’s hospital for her to have laparoscopic surgery. The surgery took around an hour, and my little soldier had 3 doses of infant paracetamol in total during recovery. (What a brave little thing, adults have doses of morphine after similar surgeries).

Luckily, after having her surgery, the Pyloric Stenosis was cured and we never had to return to hospital for the same issue, however, others aren’t so lucky. PS can recur in 1% of cases, and for some people, it becomes a chronic issue which requires constant returning to hospital.

All in all, we were very lucky. Honestly, I think my stubborn nature went a long way in getting her diagnosed, as before I put my foot down, doctors were dismissing me as the ‘hypochondriac mum’.

What can we take away from this? Well,

1) Trust your instincts.
Mother’s intuition is REAL, and it can save you so much bother if you listen to it. If you think something is wrong with your little one, get them checked. The worst that can happen is that a qualified professional can explain to you (at length, if needed) that your baby is healthy, and reassure you.

2) Know your stuff.
While doctors often chastise patients for having a look at good old Doctor Google, sometimes it is your ally, and a tool to be used. Before Mini Me was diagnosed, a doctor incredulously asked me “what do you think is wrong with her then?” When I replied ‘Pyloric Stenosis’, a lightbulb obviously went off for him. He ordered several blood tests and an ultrasound, and sure enough, she was diagnosed. While I’m not saying that you should use Google for everything, but when you’ve been having the same issue for weeks, nothing seems to be helping and things aren’t adding up, maybe you should consider it.

3) Be kind to yourself.
While we were in hospital, I went through a phase of blaming myself for my monkey’s illness. As a mum, its only natural to want to fix things, but some things can’t be fixed by guilt. No, most things can’t be fixed by guilt. I felt awful for the fact I hadn’t put my foot down sooner, but eventually, I was just glad that I had done it at all. I often think about what would have happened if I hadn’t said anything to our doctors, and I’m so glad I did, because the outcome could have been so much worse.

Unfortunately, Pyloric Stenosis can’t be prevented, but it can be cured, and more new mums should know that it exists. If your little one is struggling with vomiting, especially in the first few weeks, please get them checked out, and if you’re unsure, get a second opinion. While Pyloric Stenosis is rare, it isn’t worth excluding as an option.

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Colic, Reflux and Wind… Oh my!

Ah colic, every parent’s worst nightmare. I still have flashbacks to this day. I was a super lucky parent with Oliver getting both reflux and colic – lush, huh? I remember at around 5pm every night we would all look at each other and give each other a mutual nod; that was the time his colic and reflux would start to pipe up, and we would almost start preparing in advance. Cooled boiled water, muslins and infacol at the ready. Right on cue at 5pm my baby boy would start getting upset, we all took turns trying to comfort him and help him.

So the NHS describes colic as: the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It’s a common problem that affects up to one in five babies…

As a new parent I had no idea what colic was, I was out of my depth. All I knew was that my little pumpkin wasn’t happy and I didn’t know why. Fortunately  at the time, we lived with Oliver’s grandparents (his dad’s mum and dad) who were amazing with colic. We called them the baby whisperers because all his grandad would have to do was place Oliver on his shoulder and he would settle, despite the many minutes I had spent bouncing, rocking and shhh-ing Oliver, meanwhile during this time Oliver’s Nonna would make me a cup of tea and we would prepare to tag in…and honestly I don’t know how we would have made it through the colic phase without their help. As time went on his colic got more severe, resulting in 111 sending an emergency ambulance at 4am one night because his screaming was so intense.

The paramedic was so lovely, understanding and empathetic as soon as he came in the atmosphere changed, the first words he said was, “oooh that sounds like a grumpy baby, let’s see what’s going on” he examined Oliver and comforted us; “you did the right thing calling, I do think it is colic, maybe a bit of reflux, prehaps take him to his GP tomorrow and see what they advise.”

From that moment on I was a woman on a mission. We started baby massage, cranial osteopathy and took him to the GP. Baby massage was perfect, I felt so close to Oliver at the class and it was fascinating to see him learning the cues for massage and it was something everyone could do at home with Oliver. Cranial osteopathy was an interesting one, I was intrigued as my mother in-law at the time said it helped for Oliver’s dad. At the first appointment, we talked about Oliver’s birth and the osteopath had a theory that his traumatic birth could have been a big contribution to his colic/reflux now. He taught us some things we could do at home to help with his colic spells, and one thing which seemed most effective was the “tiger in the tree” holding pose which was a godsend! We just simply laid Oliver across our arm face down and rubbed and patted his back which helped massively.

However, a few months in and Oliver’s colic was back with a vengeance – none of the normal tricks were working, so the health visitor advised we went to the doctor. The doctor prescribed him infant gaviscon which did work, however it also caused some constipation for my little boy so
we were advised to give him more cooled boiled water to help.

I remember Oliver was such a “pukey” baby. I’ve said previously in a post how much Oliver would throw up over Sarah, her carpet and her sofas, though it wasn’t just Sarah! We pre-warned anyone who would hold Oliver and insisted they used a muslin, I almost felt like I needed to do a terms and conditions speech “we will not be liable for any puke-age on your clothes or personal belongings as you are holding the said infant at your own risk.”

All in all, I 100% think colic/reflux/wind is the most terrifying thing any new parent will experience… after all surely it can’t be normal for an innocent baby to scream so damn much?! Well, turns out in a warped kind of way it is. If, however, you find yourself awake at 4am at breaking point, praying your child will settle there are a few things that helped me:

  1. Message your mummy-friends; chances are they’ve been there or are currently there, and even if they don’t read it until the morning you’ll feel better for getting it off your chest.
  2. Skin to Skin with your baby – Oliver took a lot of comfort from being on my chest and it really helped calm him.
  3. Infacol/colic granules – ABSOLUTE HEROS, the granules are what Sarah actually recommended to me when I was at breaking point one night.
  4. Cranial osteopathy/Baby massage – Even if you are unable to get to a baby massage class there are tutorials on the internet.
  5. Look at cry-sis who are an amazing support line for any parents who have a crying and sleepless baby, offering support and advice for any exhausted parent.
But, lastly, parents around the world, know this when you’re awake at any unholy hour questioning everything in the world. Your baby loves you, you are doing all you can and…this will pass.

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