How baby reflux affects your relationship?

Baby reflux nearly wrecked my marriage!

Have you found the impact of having a baby with reflux has taken a huge toll on your relationship?

Having a baby with reflux was one of the biggest challenges I faced personally, as a mother but also in my marriage.

So how does having a baby with reflux affect your relationship?

Like with all parents, the arrival of a baby massively changed the dynamics of my relationship. 

We were tired (that’s an understatement), and our priorities shifted. But it was when our second child came along that the foundation of our marriage was tested in such a way we both wondered if we would make it! 

This blog post is going to explore the reality of how having an unsettled baby, suffering with reflux and/or colic can affect your relationship and furthermore share some strategies you can implement to help you safeguard it!

Becoming parents

The affect having a baby has on your relationship isn’t talked about enough. 

I remember it being touched on briefly just once in an antenatal class. In fact, I got into a bit of a heated discussion with the midwife. She was saying during the night partners should get up and sit with you whilst you are feeding, do the nappy change, burp the baby, ‘it takes two to make a baby’ so the load should be shared equally. 

Generally in principle I agreed with her. However, our first baby was due in July. My partner would be out harvesting and I didn’t want to make him sit up all night whilst I fed. The thought of him being exhausted and driving a 30- tonne machine on no sleep terrified me.  I said,

 ‘We won’t be doing that! 

‘Equal’, just wasn’t really practical or realistic in my eyes at that point in time. I got quite a raise of eyebrows and my poor hubby got a look of distain, as if he was a hopeless Dad already!           

Consequently, I guess we both underestimated was just how much everything would change. I assumed it would change (for a bit at least) but that things would settle and go back to  ‘normal’. Little did we know normal wasn’t really on the cards for us. 

Will having a baby bring us closer?

It’s common to think having a baby will bring you closer as a couple. What having a baby really does, is shine a magnifying glass on all the little fracture lines in your relationship. Your ‘normal’ totally changes.  Now throw into the mix a baby that is in pain, crying constantly, never sleeping and not only are you questioning everything about yourself, but about your partner too! 

In fact for many of us, never is our relationship pushed to the limit more, and by something you thought would bring you together. On the contrary, it can have quite the opposite effect!

Off to a rocky start

Ollie our second was born at home. This was planned, not a ‘whoops’ we left it too late to get to the hospital home birth. But it was a little more dramatic than the lovely, serene home birth I had envisioned.

He was in a bit of a hurry to arrive but then got stuck and the whole thing was rather stressful. More so for my husband than for me. Due to the speed at which it all happened, I was in shock, not really aware of what was going on in that moment. For my husband he was a bystander in our baby being resuscitated in the corner of our bedroom whilst I was shaking uncontrollably, white as a ghost and unable to speak.

Despite all the drama, it all turned out fine! Ollie just needed a little bit of oxygen and a helping hand. Once the adrenaline had worn off and I’d had a piece of toast I was good to go as well.

When all the drama was over, I can clearly remember the look on my husband’s face as he said to me, ‘I thought I’d lost you both’! He looked a little broken in that moment.

I realised that the labour had been emotionally harder on him than it had physically been on me!

Consequently as a result of the labour, Ollie was born with a massive bruise to the side of his head. He had what was probably a banging headache for days/weeks and from day one really was not a happy chap! 

This was the start of our journey and battle with reflux, unsettledness and endless crying! 

Why is my baby crying?

I could not put him down. He needed constant, rocking, feeding or cuddling. 

It really wasn’t the dream start, or experience of motherhood second time round I had been anticipating.

A crying baby completely dysregulates your nervous system. I felt constantly overstimulated. Always close to tears, if not actually just sobbing.  My fuse was so easily lit and I would blow up at the drop of a hat. Ollie cried all the time! For hours upon hours. I couldn’t figure out why, or what to do to help him!

There was no time to think about anything else, and we had a toddler too! The guilt I felt from not being able to do anything with our older son, play with him or look after him properly, consumed me! I felt like such a failure!

The rise of rensentment

My husband and I found ourselves sliding into bickering, snapping and blaming each other for things that weren’t anybody’s fault. Exhaustion, frustration and the constant crying made it impossible to think clearly. There was no taking a moment to choose our words thoughtfully.  We said many things that were hurtful or inconsiderate. We were so exhausted but in that moment we just didn’t care.

At that time I had no capacity for anything else. Taking care of Ollie, feeding him, clearing up the vomit, trying to settle him took all my energy.  Round and round the vicious circle of feed, vomit, cry, repeat we went. I couldn’t think about anything but this. I felt so overwhelmed!

What took me by surprise was the level of resentment I felt towards my husband. I felt so angry and jealous! He got to leave and I had to stay! I hated that everydaywas the same, feeling trapped in the four walls of our home with a screaming baby and a bored, grumpy toddler. The soundtrack of my life had become constant crying and the ridiculous happy singing of the kids TV shows on endless repeat to keep my toddler amused. It was the weirdest (overstimulating) combination!

Every morning my husband would get himself up (after at least some sleep), eat, and leave for work.  This made me so jealous! I didn’t see this resentment growing at the time. 

I couldn’t find a way to understand what I was feeling, let alone change it. That resentment and anger just bubbled away. I took it out on him. I would shout and cry and be so angry at him. For the little things like no milk or the bins not going out. I felt that I was drowning and he was doing NOTHING to help. 

Mum guilt

Looking back this was so unfair. Leaving early, often not back until late in the evening was the nature of his job, it wasn’t a new thing, but suddenly this wasn’t working for me anymore. He worked so hard for our family and then at the end of a long day, had to return to a house where everyone was crying.

Ollie would be thrown into his arms with a curt, ‘thank god it’s your turn now’, before he’d even taken his boots off.  I’d run off about how awful my day had been, that I hadn’t had a shower, let alone eaten anything as well as berate him for being so late home!

I really had no interest in hearing about his day. I was angry at him for getting to have a day that wasn’t just this existence I was in, so I didn’t want to know. Our only conversations were about the kids and how crap things were. I felt he didn’t understand, that he ‘had things so much easier’.

Despite this really not being his fault, all that anger and resentment sort of merged into this cloud of hatred. What’s more, I had nothing left to give  to anyone else at this point! I couldn’t stop myself from taking out how I was feeling on him. Guilt and shame weighed heavily. Why wasn’t I a better mum than this, and why couldn’t I help my baby?

It is a huge strain

Years later, my husband told me how much he dreaded coming home at that time. That he would almost subconsciously find jobs at work that needed doing, to delay having to come home. He said, ‘I knew you needed me to come home, that you needed a break, but it was just so shit, I hated being there!’

We both felt ourselves drifting away from each other, forgetting how much we loved each other. The monotony of struggling each day with the children, the exhaustion and lack of having any time together took such a huge toll on our relationship,  when we thought we were solid.

It just went to show the strain our situation was putting on both of us.

What a bloody mess we were in!

Baby proofing your relationship

We were told that reflux is normal.

That our baby was gaining weight so we would just have to wait it out!

Neither of  us knew any better. We tried all sorts of things to try and help but the toll it took on all of us was huge!

We tried to just keep going despite all the while our relationship being chipped away at by the exhaustion, loneliness and our inability to have any energy or desire to make some time for each other.

Looking back now, it really was a miracle that we survived!

Having an unsettled baby affects you in so many ways, that other people just don’t see let alone understand.

It’s a whole other level of hard. 

Obviously, this experience and the impact aren’t the same for everyone, but we really should talk more about the feelings of guilt, anger and resentment it creates.

We hide it because we feel ashamed, but really what we need is the right support to  help get our babies get out of this cycle of pain and crying. It isn’t normal, or something that we have to just wait to pass!

Crying is their way of communicating to us that something isn’t right. Yes babies cry, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do to help them! Helping your baby, understanding them better, may enable you to get back some enjoyment in parenting and create the space and capacity for a little more investment in your relationships.

These baby years are a season where your relationship takes a back seat. Dynamics do change and it is a huge adjustment for you personally and as a couple. But if you are struggling to keep your head above the water, there are  things you can do to help.

Steps you can take right now!

If I had my time again these are the things I would do differently.

1. Talk more! I would make the time to have a conversation with my husband! And not only about the kids. Yes, that was the season of life we were in, but sometimes parenting becomes so consuming you forget who you are. Finding a little snippet of time for a cuddle, to listen to how his day had been, may have helped us feel more like a team at that time. 

2. I would tell him more clearly what I needed:

        ‘Please leave a sandwich in the fridge so I can eat something today’. 

        ‘I need you to try and get home on time.’

        ‘Can you set a reminder to take the bins out, get milk, pick up some more nappies!’

        ‘Please ask your mother to stop suggesting we give a bottle’ etc etc. 

I wanted him really to do these things without me needing to ask, but we were both too tired for guessing games! We both could have been clearer about what it was we needed from each other at that time.

3. GET BETTER SUPPORT– I wouldn’t settle for ‘waiting it out’. THIS WAS NOT THE ANSWER. 

Yes with time most things get better and will pass. But thinking this was my only option nearly ruined my marriage. It totally stole any enjoyment in being a mother. 

I would find someone who could help me understand what was going on for my baby, and find ways to help make things better, quicker!! Neither of us had the right answers at that time, but instead of getting the right help, we just continued to silently blame one another. There are ways to make this season of parenting easier to bare so that the impact on your relationship isn’t so damaging.

Baby reflux sucks!

Furthermore, if this is where you are right now, I hear you, it so is bloody hard!!! Having a baby with colic, reflux or who is so unsettled completely sucks! But know this,

You are stronger than you think! 

You will get through this. But you DO NOT have to battle on alone. Baby reflux can really affect your relationship negatively. You do not have to just wait it out and allow this possible catastrophic damage to continue.

What could you do right now, to take some steps to improve your relationship?

Talk– Tell your partner how you feel. Talk about what is worrying you. Ask them not to try and fix it or come up with a solution but to just listen.

Action– What do you need right now? 20 minutes away to go for a walk, have a bath. An hour to have some sleep? What in this moment will help just a bit to lighten the load

There isn’t a magic wand that’s going to solve everything in an instant, but communication is the first step you can take together right now.

How to help baby reflux.

Not wanting other parents to have to experience this was why I created the Root to Calm programme.

I want to empower parents to identify and address the root cause of their baby’s discomfort. To bring their baby relief, happiness, and be more settled. To enable you to feel more confident as a parent! 

Helping you thrive, not just try and survive life with an unsettled baby.

It is a unique, high-touch programme. You have ongoing access to support from me, (and other baby specialists) to help you navigate this season of parenthood!

Want to know if this is the right support to help you and your baby?

Here is a link to my webpage all about The Root to Calm Programme, click here

Or get in touch with me for a free call. We can chat about what is going on for you and your little one. Let’s talk about whether working together is the best next step to help you get out of overwhelm, exhaustion and worry!

I don’t want any parent to have to struggle in the way we did with a baby suffering from reflux. 

You don’t have to just wait for it to get better, I can help you start to make things better right now!

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Alice Lucken

I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Parenting Practitioner. I have been a nurse for nearly 20 years and have over 10 years of experience working with families as a Health Visitor and Infant Feeding Specialist, supporting complex infant feeding challenges. I now work independently to help families overcome any infant feeding or parenting challenges they are facing.

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