To GI Study or Not

by tinysneakers

It’s Friday night. It’s only 9 o’clock but I glance at the clock repeatedly, counting down the minutes until I can go to bed. “You are not a bad mom you are not a bad mom”, I tell myself over and over but I can barely hear the thoughts in my head over the inconsolable baby.

I’ve spent the day running up and down the stairs with the baby wrapped tightly against my chest, dancing to Bollywood-esque music on my phone because that’s what the baby seems to like, and bouncing on an exercise ball that’s not quite inflated enough with the baby in my arms. I try everything I can think of. Swaddling. Shhh-ing. Swinging. The 5-S’s can bite me.

colicky baby

I know babies cry. I know. But deep in my heart I felt this wasn’t normal. I didn’t have any reason to think so- I’ve never been around a baby 24-7. But it just felt wrong. I called my mom one morning after a daily screaming session. “How do I know if my baby’s crying because he’s a baby or if he’s crying because something’s wrong?” I wanted to call the doctor but I needed the reassurance that I wasn’t being crazy or weak. Of course she made me realize it was ok. It didn’t matter if I had no reason to justify it, I thought my baby was in pain and there was nothing wrong with calling the pediatrician’s office.

While I was waiting for the nurse to return my seemingly insignificant call of “my baby’s fussy and I don’t know why”, I reached out to my #newmom friends on Twitter with a plea asking for how much 6 week old babies are supposed to cry. An impossible question to answer, but their answers none the less made me glad I’d already put in the call. The responses I received made me realize the amount of time my baby spent crying was a) not normal and b) it didn’t matter- if he was dry, fed, and comfortable and still screaming, calling the doctor was not silly.

Within a few hours we had an appointment. I figured Murphy’s law would put itself into play and my little angel would act just like that- a non-crying, happy angel. But as we sat in the waiting room, the shrieks started. And they continued so long the doctor couldn’t accurately listen to his heart or lungs and had to leave and come back to try again.

Though I hate listening to my baby cry in pain, I’m glad he was crying in the doctor’s office- it justified everything I’d been feeling: the pediatrician agreed his cries were frantic, painful, and abnormal. *Sigh of relief for not being a crazy, over-anxious new mom.*

Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t have an answer for us. Yes, something was wrong, but she didn’t know what. Colic? Luckily that wasn’t a good enough answer for her. We needed to keep looking. Though he showed some signs of silent reflux, he didn’t quite fit the picture for a diagnosis, nor did he fit the picture for a diagnosis of anything else.

The pediatrician {who at this point I’d fallen in love with for the dedicated time she spent with us and the clear concern on her face, though she deals with new moms every day} left to consult with another doctor in the practice. When she returned, she decided it’d be a good idea to start ranitidine, a reflux medication, just to see if it helped. Though it wasn’t a clear cut picture of reflux, the medication could help an immature gut for a variety of reasons. In addition, she wanted to look at his entire gut to check for developmental abnormalities; a kink or other problem in the intestines, possibly from his early birth. She ordered the medication and called the hospital to schedule an upper GI series with small bowel follow through, a procedure that involves feeding the baby a bottle of barium, then taking x-ray pictures as it goes through his esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

upper gi study infant

Pleased that we weren’t just crazy, we left the appointment hopeful that we would soon have answers.

I never would have turned to medication so fast had I been the one hurting, but I didn’t want my baby to hurt a second longer. We gave him his first dose that night and he slept well for the first time in 2 weeks. We prematurely did a happy dance, thinking our baby was cured and smacking ourselves in the forehead for not calling the doctor a week earlier.

ranitidine

Only the magic recovery didn’t last. He seemed a little better, but was still clearly in pain. The last thing I wanted to do was subject him to any kind of invasive procedure that wasn’t absolutely necessary. I called the radiologist and had them explain the procedure twice, even though I already knew exactly what it entailed. The barium, the x-rays…they didn’t make me happy but I could handle it. The part that got me: the baby couldn’t eat for 4 hours beforehand. That, my friends, is pure torture. On a good day he screams if it’s been 2 hours since the last time he’s eaten.

So since Tuesday I’ve been wrestling with what to do, playing out every option, scenario, and what-if in my head over and over and over again. We have until 7 am Monday morning to cancel the procedure, which is scheduled for 7:30 that morning.

After days and days of research I’ve wondered whether other options might not be more favorable- trying probiotics or doing an elimination diet, for example. But I keep coming back to my baby’s screams of pain- what if there is something developmentally wrong and I delay it because I don’t want my baby to be hungry for a few hours and have some x-rays after swallowing some gross chalky stuff. What if I’m over-reacting? 6 weeks is a notoriously hard time for new moms- it’s the peak of crying, a typical time for a growth spurt, and the “newness” of a baby has worn off- you’re home alone trying to resume normal life, but baby’s not necessarily letting you.

It’s all happening so fast- time moves so much slower when you have an unhappy baby. You want to do everything and anything you can to make it better.

I have a feeling I won’t make the decision until 6:59 Monday morning.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley February 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I wish so badly I had some comforting words to make all this go away – but I don’t and I’m sorry 🙁 I’m not a Mom, not yet anyway. In 10 short weeks I am due with my very first baby and am scared, excited, and all those crazy feeling that come along with preparing to meet you child for the first time. I just wanted to stop in to say thank you for this post and tell you how brave you are. The post was honest and thoughtful and reminds me to speak up and advocate for my baby and for what feels right. Good luck with everything!

Reply

Alison February 27, 2012 at 3:50 am

Awww I am so sorry you have to go through this 🙁 I don’t know if this is helpful, but if I were in your shoes I would probably do the test — feed him really well four hours before, try to get him to sleep as long as possible and have mr. pacifier ready. Whatever you decide, hang in there – it will get better and you are doing a great job!

Reply

Marci February 27, 2012 at 4:13 am

I am sure the 4 hours will be harder on you than him. I think I would do the test to be thorough and rule out anything GI related. Sorry you are going through this, but nice that your doctor is helpful!

Reply

Heather February 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

I am so sorry for what you are going through! I had a similar situation with my little girl, she would projectile vomit 5-6 times after every single feeding. Since she was only 4 lbs. at birth it was torture because there was no way she was getting what she needed to grow and thrive and there was nothing we could do about it. The vomiting was upsetting to her tummy and (I’m sure) her throat and she would cry and cry and cry. Our pediatrician set us up to do a GI study when she was around 6 weeks and I fought with the same questions you are facing in this decision, but we ultimately decided to do it, and I am so glad we did. I fed her exactly 4 hours before the appointment, and she did get fussy but we had a pacifier ready and I was ready to feed her as soon as it was over. The study ended up being negative (thankfully) but we were so relieved to know that everything inside was normal. Even though we still didn’t have a diagnosis for what was happening at the time, it was a weight off our shoulders that GI issues could be eliminated from the mix. I know this is difficult, I will keep you and your little one in my thoughts and prayers <3

Reply

Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength February 27, 2012 at 10:45 am

So sorry to hear you and the little man are having such a tough time. 🙁 Hugs.

Reply

Jennifer Cullen February 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I’m sorry that you’re in a tough spot. It’s hard enough being a new mom. If you trust your pediatrician, and have a good gut feeling about them and how they practice medicine, then I would go by their recommendation. I think not knowing if/what is wrong is only second to fearing that your little guy is hurting. Sounds like you’re already a great mom.

Reply

Christina February 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I don’t think I have ever posted, but I could have written this post about 6 months ago. Forgive me if you have heard all of this, but the following was our experience and news to me at the time being a first time mom.
My son started crying around the 3 week mark, increasing until the 5 week mark. At this time, in conjunction with some slight exzema, some runny and mucousy stool, and general unhappiness, he was pre-diagnosed as milk and soy protein intollerant. At his age, the positive diagnosis comes from removing the protein for at least 2 weeks in his system, 4 weeks from yours if you are breastfeeding. I had nursing supply issues and the milk and soy elimination diet dried me up completely. Fortunately, there are options of formula (expensive options) that don’t have these proteins. For about a week, the crying improved greatly. As in, he cried for only 12 hours a day as opposed to 16. He was honestly only sleeping 8 cumulative hours in a 24 hour period. Hell.
A week later the crying increased, but the other symptoms stayed at bay. I spent the majority of July in South Texas holed up in a tiny bathroom rocking and bouncing my baby with the hair dryer on high. The noise was the only thing to coax him to sleep. It was like baby bikram. The ped saw no signs of reflux. He never spit up, and we didn’t hear or see him swallow after a bottle. Then one day I walked past his crib where he was napping and realized he was awake and turning blue. I turned him over and smacked his back until he took a breath and we headed to the hospital. We were admitted and the hospital ordered the barium swallow for 7 am. I felt the same as you. I didn’t know if I could “starve” him for 2 hours before the test. But we did the test, and he only cried for a bit. The test immediately showed he suffered from severe reflux.
I am not familiar with the medicine you were given, but know there are 2 types. An H2 blocker like zantac and then meds like prevacid (the type escapes me). Zantac is like a bandaid. It is helpful for some, but it only deals with acid on the spot. In fact, it is often prescribed with prevacid to provide relief until the prevacid works. Prevacid and other meds like it build up in the system and help heal the damage from reflux and prevent it from future occurrence. Typically, you will have the best success with this type.
Also, please know that they “advise” 4 hours to ensure the baby is hungry. If you are certain that he will be hungry at the 2 hour mark, call and ask if you can feed him 3 hours out. He is young enough, I imagine they would agree.
Good luck to you. There is absolutely nothing harder than a baby you can’t calm down. But this will all be a memory to you soon, and he won’t remember any of it.

Reply

Kristi February 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm

My heart goes out to you! Have you already tried doing an elimination diet? I think you are exclusively breastfeeding, right? Sorry if I already missed this topic in another post- sometimes I get distracted by the adorable photos 🙂

Removing as much protein from your diet might help! Dairy, soy, beef seem to be the big offenders.

Good luck! And I’m so sorry your baby is hurting.

Reply

Kailee Adams February 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm

So sorry you’re going through this! I’ve had two babies and have not experienced this. My oldest had problems at night and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I can’t imagine 24/7 screaming. I will pray you find the strength to make the decision you think would be best and that no matter what you choose, your sweet baby (and you!) find relief!

Reply

Steph February 29, 2012 at 7:05 am

I went through this with both of my boys. Zantac needs to be upped every time they gain weight so he might need a dosage change.

With DS1, he was spitting up so bad that the doctors sent him for a milk scan {which confirmed the reflux} and an upper GI to rule out any abnormalities. The GI came back fine and once he started solid foods, he got better.

My best advice is to trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, you do whatever you need to do to make your baby better.

If you ever need to chat, don’t hesitate to send me an email!

Reply

Leslie February 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I had to go without feeding my three month old baby for about six hours for an MRI once, so I feel your pain. I’d go ahead and do it if I were you, though. Then you will have one less thing to worry about and can try something else. I don’t think the pediatrician would have ordered the test for no reason. They are used to new moms and colicky babies and they don’t order that for everyone. Remember that YOU are the expert on your own baby! Good luck.

Reply

Elizabeth March 1, 2012 at 10:38 am

What a heart wrenching story! No matter what you decide, I hope you are able to find a solution soon. As the mom to a 7 month old, I so feel for you. I’ll be thinking of you Monday — please keep us posted!

Reply

Triplezmom March 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I’m a mom of 3. I say do the test – not because I have any real experience here (my easiest baby was the one who suffered from reflux, my second easiest was allergic to dairy and my most challenging had no issues at all), but because I have experience with being freaked out. And yes, it will be a terrible 5 hours for you both but after that’s over you’ll know whether he’s got a serious issue or whether he’s just a challenging kid. I think the doctor’s concern is something to take seriously – 7 years ago when my oldest had reflux my doctor’s advice was to keep her propped up after meals and to not overfeed her. Mainly because she was a really happy baby, except for the minute before and the minute after she threw up. Your little guy is different so have him checked out. Then you can try the elimination diet and other methods (my challenging one was SO challenging one night I put him in his crib and went downstairs to take a few deep breaths, he’d been crying for so long – when I went back upstairs, he’d fallen asleep on his own. He was overstimulated and my comfort efforts were apparently making it worse.

Hugs, I hope you get answers soon.

Reply

Ashley March 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I hope you get everything figured out soon!!! Best of luck to you all.

Reply

Janice- The Fitness Cheerleader March 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm

My oldest daughter was a preemie and cried for her entire first year – she still has food sensitivities (and eczema). If that test had been an option for me I would have done it just to ease my mind. Hugs! Consoling a baby that’s always crying is hard – I hope that everything turns out ok.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: