I think parents and especially mothers have a sense that something is wrong well before everyone else. Yet even when the baby is having digestive problems that suggest a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), some babies must wait weeks or even months for a diagnosis. A recent study confirmed what parents tell me all the time: many young children with reflux are not diagnosed for months while a few children are not diagnosed for over a year. Further, most children are seen by two doctors before being diagnosed. Meanwhile, parents are left on their own, scouring the internet and bookshelf for information and advice on how to cope with their inconsolable, difficult to feed baby. So why does it take so long to diagnose GER and GERD, a relatively common and treatable condition?
I called the doctors office constantly and went back and forth to the doctor. Maybe it is colic… maybe she has her nights and days mixed up… maybe you need to let her cry it out. I was exhausted and frustrated.
My husband did a Google search for "crying baby" and found some descriptions of reflux symptoms that matched our baby 100%.
I was late to the Moms Group again. It just takes so long to get ready since my baby will cry the moment I put him down or spit up all over his clean clothes. I can barely take a shower or pack the diaper bag. He was shrieking in the car seat and dribbling spit up. I was disheveled and on edge. We were quite a sight One of the moms took one look at us and said, "Reflux?" and I shook my head "yes" with tears welling up in my eyes.
If a dad can "diagnose" reflux on the internet or another mom can see the telltale signs from a few minutes with you at the Moms Club meeting, why does it take so long for doctors to diagnose reflux? The simple answer is there are many, many causes for infant crying, poor sleep and poor eating. The doctor needs to look at all of the common and uncommon reasons for the symptoms and determine the diagnosis and treatment in the few fleeting moments of a typical office visit. Often the reflux symptoms are clear and a diagnosis is made at the first office visit. Other times, the doctor may want to wait and watch first to gather more information before making a diagnosis. Another doctor may try some simple but effective home care treatments such as swaddling; small feeds and extra burping that help a baby with colic, reflux and just normal, everyday crying and fussiness. Unfortunately, the doctor may take a slower approach to treatment than a parent would like. If you have been up night after night with a sleepless baby, you want answers today and you want the "miracle get your baby to sleep" treatment plan in place by sundown.
If you think there is something wrong, trust your instincts and go to the doctor with your questions and concerns. Be sure to come to the appointment with an organized list of symptoms and questions. It often helps to keep a journal for 3-4 days so the doctor can see a typical pattern of sleeping, eating, fussing and spit up/vomiting. It is likely you will receive information on home care treatments and maybe a special diet first. Most importantly, ask the doctor when you should come back to follow up on the recommendations and evaluate the success of the treatment plan. During the next appointment, the doctor can check your baby’s weight and find out if the symptoms have been reduced and new treatment recommendations can be made. This careful approach takes more time and effort but will likely lead to a good outcome for the majority of babies with GER and GERD.