Can you talk about some of the developmental and psychological issues that can happen to children with reflux?
In this blog, I’ll talk about the developmental issues that can happen to children with reflux, and in the next blog, I will address the psychological issues. I am also going to limit my answer to include the babies and children who are otherwise healthy, with uncomplicated reflux (if there is such a thing) and without preexisting developmental delays.
Even with these limitations there is still a lot to cover related to the multitude of developmental problems that can be caused by acid reflux.
As an example, many parents and medical professionals know that acid reflux can cause "failure to thrive" which is when babies or children have difficulty gaining or maintaining an appropriate weight. It is also common knowledge among the developmental experts that failure to thrive can cause inhibited growth and development. So understanding that acid reflux can cause inhibited development isn’t too much of a leap. Of course, this isn’t to say that if your baby is underweight he or she will be developmentally delayed. It just means that not getting enough food (or not keeping it down) can affect a child’s development by causing deficits in nutrition to the brain and also by causing diminished physical energy for learning and should be taken very seriously.
There are also other developmental delays that seem to coincide with acid reflux whose origins are not as clear, but are none-the-less very real to those who are in constant contact with babies and children with acid reflux. Speech development is one such delay. While the official data is somewhat scarce, there are some in the field that believe speech development may be more delayed in children who experienced acid reflux as babies.
And, there may be developmental issues related to food. Let’s face it. For many of these children, food has meant pain. Who could blame them if they began to avoid feeding situations?
There may be other feeding issues as well. For babies and children with reflux, a very limited, bland diet is all they have ever known. So, it seems to reason that even if the reflux eventually resolves, an integration of "normal" food may take place at a slower pace for a child who has had acid reflux.
One also has to wonder about the developmental issues related to socialization. We have heard of many babies and children with extreme feeding issues who have missed out on some of the activities other children have experienced at the same age. As a parent of a child with reflux, let’s just say Halloween and "Easter Egg Hunts" don’t have the same appeal they once did.
As a result of our book, Making Life Better for a Child with Acid Reflux, we often receive emails from families thanking us for getting some much needed information out to them, and they frequently update us on their child’s progress. I found it very interesting that I received this email today that shows that reflux and developmental issues can go hand-in-hand:
"Thank you for the book. The babies are doing pretty well now. However, Jack is very sensitive to new foods and we have an allergist appointment tomorrow. My oldest son gets early intervention speech services. Several of the speech pathologists have commented that they have seen a connection with reflux and speech delays and issues with food textures too. "
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.