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When the Pediatrician Makes it Worse

When Eli was brand new, he had a tendency to make this high pitched noise, followed by gagging and coughing. I, of course, panicked at first, but my husband assured me it was reflux and it was normal because most babies don’t have the necessary flap in their esophagus at birth (this is the benefit of being married to a doctor). I was totally fine to leave it alone as long as it didn’t seem to bother him and so we watched and waited. We would hear him do his cough/gag thing a few times a day or do some loud swallowing, but he was happy and never seemed to care.

Until a about two weeks ago.

The gag/cough and swallowing didn’t stop and suddenly, it seemed to be a big deal to Eli, especially the swallowing. He would do this loud swallow and then SCREAM. It was a high pitched, shrill cry that was unlike anything he usually did. He also started to have an increase in spit up, but not the normal spit up after eating, it was usually at least 30 minutes later and was clear and acidic smelling. I’d pick him up in the morning and his pajamas would reek of acid.

This in addition to the sudden onset of grunting all night was enough for me. Clearly the reflux wasn’t getting better as I had been promised it would, so I called the pediatrician…and was told there were no appointments until July 9th. I blame myself for this because I did not adequately explain the need to be seen soon. I called back a few days later and was given an appointment that afternoon with another pediatrician in the practice.

The pediatrician greeted us and had me tell her what was going on. Immediately her tone changed and she stopped being the warm woman who introduced herself to us. She seemed…skeptical. She would ask me questions and when I said no, she’d ask me again as though I was lying. After I got through the whole story, she asked me how much Eli was eating and when I told her 2.5-3oz per feeding, she gasped. Apparently this is on the “upper end of normal” and we’re overfeeding him.

My 9 pound 6 week old baby is overeating, apparently.

She did an exam, concluded that he had no visible erosion from the reflux and told us that he’d outgrow it and didn’t need medication. When asked how to manage the overeating “problem” she had no suggestions except to not give in. When asked about the reflux pain she said it was probably newborn fussiness and I was misunderstanding.

I have almost no words for this situation that are not profane. I’m sorry, I know that I am a new mother, but I know my son. I know his cries and I know when things are okay and when they’re not. I also know that trying to feed him less is completely unrealistic because he screams and screams and holds his breath until he’s purple and screams if he’s not full. We do this 8 times a day, trust me, cutting him back is not going to work.

So now I’m home with a baby in pain who can’t just take the nearly completely harmless acid reflux medications that would provide him relief and I’m stressing about how much food he’s taking. I feel like that trip, where my concerns were completely dismissed, made everything worse instead of better.

I love our pediatrician, but this woman is not one I’ll be seeing again unless there’s an absolute emergency. She doesn’t have to agree with me, but a good doctor should never make a mother feel stupid for being concerned about her child, and that’s exactly what she did.

Read more from Katie on Overflowing Brain!
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