QA With Author Tracy Davenport: Developmental and Psychological issues for children with reflux continues

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • Part 2 – The psychological issues for babies and children with reflux

    Can you talk about some of the developmental and psychological issues that can happen to children with reflux?

    A few weeks ago, my son ate several bites of a food we thought was safe for him. About 30 seconds after swallowing it, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, I feel itchy.” About 2 minutes after that, he got up from the table and went out and threw a handful of gravel at his Dad’s car. This was not a usual behavior for him.

    At preschool, while the other 11 children in my son’s class lay on their cots and go to sleep at nap time, our son just sits quietly upright on his cot for the entire 90 minutes.
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    And at bedtime, our son will only go to sleep sitting up in a big chair, and then we carry him into his bed once he is asleep.

    In the first situation, did our son express his frustration of having such a limited diet the only way a four year old knows how, by throwing gravel? At naptime, is he afraid to lay down and rest because he doesn’t want to have a reflux episode at his school? And in the third scenario, does he equate lying down with pain?

    As with many situations involving the science of psychology, I don’t think anyone can say for absolute certain which of our son’s behaviors are directly linked to a lifetime of reflux pain, and which are just unique to him as an individual. As parents, what we can say for certain, is that many things seem very different with him as compared to his brother when he was at the same age and stage.

    For an outside opinion, I asked Jan Gambino, Associate Director of the Pediatric Gastroesophageal Reflux Association, about what other parents have reported to her regarding the psychological and developmental issues that can happen to babies and children with reflux. She said, “Many issues come to mind, including the fear of doctors and medical procedures, clinginess to parents from being held so much, and perhaps being home more and not venturing out into the world as much as other children.”

    She went on to say, “It sometimes helps parents to connect with other parents (of non refluxers) to get some perspective. It might seem normal that an 11 month old is only on a bottle and a tablespoon of rice cereal per meal. Then, you see your neighbor's 11 month old dig into a bowl full of cheerios, some yogurt and half a bagel while whining for Mom’s glass of iced tea. It can be depressing, but it can give you an idea of where you are.”
Published On: August 17, 2006