This post on Mumsnet has prompted me to examine the link between infant reflux and PND. I’m not going to add my comment to the thread itself as it would make me identifiable in RL, but my heart went out to the poster. She talks about her daughter’s silent reflux and her resulting PND being much easier to cope with when the baby is feeding well.
My youngest son has reflux – and has had from about 3 weeks of age. Its severity when he was a very tiny baby was such that he was an inpatient at the hospital for a month from the age of about six weeks. He has been on adult strength antacid medication since then and shows no signs of needing it less.
The impact on our family life of this condition has been huge. I have chronicled B’s sleep problems enough not to go on about it again here, but one reason we have failed to act decisively about sleep training is because we are always second guessing whether he is crying because of acid pain, or for other reasons. At almost two, he is still too young to tell us what is going on, so a lot of it is guesswork.
But in the early months, it was so much worse. Seeing your baby screaming in pain almost 24/7 is extremely traumatic. He had to be held upright all the time, which has given my partner a chronic back/shoulder condition. Breastfeeding was a nightmare and seeing him screaming while attached to my body was a major factor in stopping (not to mention unsuccessful breastfeeding being a key indicator of PND). No amount of “help” could alleviate the agony of seeing him in so much pain, and my inability to do anything about it. It’s impossible to feel good about life and about yourself when you have “failed” at such a basic and instinctive task – keeping your baby safe from harm. All I could try and do was cope. And then deal with the guilt I felt about my powerlessness.
Things have improved hugely since then. In the daytime at least, B is a very happy toddler. His screams currently stem from his being nearly two and angry at the world for not indulging his every whim, and not physical pain. This is due in part to medication, and in part to his body gradually maturing. At once stage he looked like a candidate for surgery, but that possibility has receded. It is now about managing symptoms with as little medical intervention as possible.
But the early mental scars remain. I still panic when I see him refluxing (made worse when teething or ill). It taps into a very dark part of my psyche, one that wants to shut off and ignore the reality because I can’t bear my baby’s pain. The original poster probably will never read this blog, but across the ether I wish her well, and hope both the PND and reflux improve. TIme is certainly a healer on both counts, but it is an issue that I think should be flagged up to GPs and other HCPs when dealing with babies with chronic and painful conditions.