The second in the series of stories by parents who have achieved success against the odds. Having children inspired and motivated them to accomplish great things!
Rachel Phillips’ experience as the sleep-deprived mother of a child with severe Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), inspired her to set up an advice website and online specialist retail store. While the website has become a lifeline for many worried parents, the retail side of the venture has developed into a flourishing business, turning Rachel’s negative experience into a positive.
“We had always wanted three children as both my husband and I come from large families. We were delighted when our first daughter Jessica was born in 1998. She was a very sicky baby and back then there were no discussions about ‘infant reflux’ with health professionals.
We were just told we had a ‘sicky’ baby and struggled on for a year. Our second daughter Chloe arrived in 1999 and with no excessive sickness; we felt Jessica’s vomiting was a one off. Little did we know that the birth of our third daughter Willow in March 2007 would challenge that, in more ways than one!
At first Willow would bring up part of her milk as a projectile vomit, perhaps once a day, with intermittent sickness between feeds. By her six week check with the GP, Willow was sleep-deprived, had a permanent cough, was projectile vomiting every feed and her weight gain was just at ‘the acceptable level’. She was crying out, grumbling and distressed all the time and never slept, just napped for moments at a time. We couldn’t lie Willow flat to change her without her screaming or being sick. She was fussy around her feed, staying on the bottle for only a few minutes before screaming out in pain and arching her back. All of our attentions seemed to focus on the detail of each feed and trying to find ways of keeping the milk inside Willow long enough to be digested, in most cases resorting to feeding tiny doses ever 2/3 hours.
Surviving on a few hours of sleep each night…
We were surviving on a few hours of sleep each night, tag teaming the baby sessions. Night time was always worse than day, Willow’s crying seemed louder (in a sleeping house). We’d routinely creep about our own home like strangers, looking for sound-proofed parts of the house, so as not to wake up our other children. We couldn’t even resort to the night time drive, as the vibration of the car caused Willow to become unstable. It was impossible.
Unhappy mum, unhappy baby…
Visiting our GP was such a relief. Her immediate response to my pale and weeping demeanour was ‘Unhappy mum, unhappy baby’. It was suggested Willow was suffering with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) or ‘Infant acid reflux’ for short. Reflux is the word used to describe what happens when the stomach contents come back up into the gullet or into the mouth. In some babies, the stomach contents rise but never reach the mouth so the baby doesn’t show any visible sickness, but still suffers with the pain of Reflux.
“I didn’t move a muscle….so she would sleep, without pain”.
We were quickly prescribed medication starting with milk thickeners, and then moved on to antacids and acid suppressers/blockers and motility medicines. We realised that despite the cocktail of drugs Willow was taking, we still needed to ‘manage’ her reflux day to day.
We found that the connection between a successful small feed and a nap was crucial to keep the milk down, so we found ways to feed Willow and let her sleep wherever that may be, rather than trying to force a routine of finding a cot or sleeping place. There were times when Willow would drift off to sleep on my already dead arm and I didn’t move a muscle, shallow breathing and talking in whispers – so she would sleep, without pain. The washing built up, the house was a mess, the dinner sometimes forgotten, but we slowly saw our daughter a little bit happier, feeding better and in those moments of ‘live pause’, I actually shut my eyes too.
Until she finally overcame her reflux issues at fifteen months old, Willow’s positioning and handling was the key to not only keeping her feeds down (well some of it at least), but also maintaining her happiness and stability. We felt reassured and more relaxed about what we were dealing with. We looked at buying specialist reflux products but it was hard to source anything in the UK at all. In fact, we found that many UK parents and carers were seeking advice from the USA or International websites as the UK doesn’t seem to cater for reflux specifically.
From sickness to success…
In no time at all, we had accumulated some specialist baby reflux products. Over a period of months of talking to other parents and trying out products, I had acquired a wealth of knowledge about the condition and so I decided to make use of this by launching a website to help UK parents. www.babyreflux.co.uk is designed to help UK parents discover more about baby reflux/GORD. Together with online support and advice pages, we have an online store providing specialist products for babies with reflux, just like Willow.”
Are you thinking of setting up your own business?
RACHEL’S TOP TIPS
1) Tiredness can zap you of all you positivity and drive, so ensure you have people around you to help you get things off the ground.
2) I would advocate all the usual preparations like analysing the marketplace, understanding the undercurrent in the chosen business sector and striking out at the right time, but make sure you have a support network around you (friends/family) to help you overcome things like the lack of self confidence that can occur when you are tired.
3) When I started babyREFLUX, I was tired, very tired. So I started small, controlled and within my time and financial limits. If you bite off too much when you are tired, it may seem like a huge task to drive forward.
Has parenthood inspired you to achieve something great? Overcome an illness, set up a business, fulfil personal or career ambitions? If so, I would love to hear from you. Please get in touch on [email protected] or contact me on Facebook or leave a comment below.