Did you know that parents change about 2,000 diapers during their babies’ first year of life?
For us, one of the strangest aspects of new parenthood was realizing how many of our conversations now revolved around poop — and still does, even though my son is almost three. Typical evening conversation topics: How many times did he go? What did it look like? Does he have gas? And, yes, it was also the source of much of our squabbling during these early years of parenting: Whose “turn” was it to change the diaper? Who had changed more diapers? Who had changed diapers that were grosser than the other spouse? Whose turn was it to empty the diaper pail?
When our entire household caught the dreaded “stomach bug” recently, these few days brought our experiences with “poop problems” to an entirely different level. My husband and I were so nauseous and sick that we could barely stand up, and my son was suffering from diarrhea as well. I for one would rather change 10,000 newborn diapers than change toddler diarrhea while suffering from a stomach bug.
My son’s poop also became the source of a great deal of anxiety during his first year. When he was about six weeks old or so, he started having blood in his stools. My son’s pediatric GI doctor told us that this was most likely a symptom of dairy (or other) allergies. Bowel movements had become painful for him. We tried different hypoallergenic formulas until we finally found a prescription, “elemental” formula that did not cause blood in his stools.
My son also had acid reflux (or heartburn) during his first year that caused further discomfort. Reflux occurs because of the decreased strength of the valve (esophageal sphincter) that shuts the esophagus off from the stomach. We learned that many lifestyle changes can improve acid reflux in children, including infants. After a child eats, it’s important for him to wait a while before lying down or going to bed. We also elevated the head of his crib, allowing for fewer stomach contents to flow into the esophagus.
Reflux is pretty common in teenagers — about 3-5% of teens experience it — and there are several over-the-counter treatments for reflux if lifestyle changes don’t work, including antacids, histamine receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Labels for these drugs should be read carefully because most of them are not appropriate for young children under 12. Always speak to your doctor if you are still confused after reading the Drug Facts Label. My son ended up taking a PPI that seemed to improve his symptoms, but it was prescribed by a GI doctor because PPIs are not available over the counter for children.
Severe abdominal pain and blood in the stools — both of which my son experienced frequently — are two “red flags” that something serious is going on in the digestive tract that needs to be evaluated by a doctor. (For more information about other “red flags” and about other stomach and intestinal issues, such as constipation, please check out this article by OTCSafety.)
I, for one, am looking forward to the days when we can talk about poop and tummy issues quite a bit less!
Disclosure: I received compensation for this post as part of the CHPA OTC Safety Ambassador Program. All the opinions reflected here are my own.
Which sorts of tummy troubles have been common in your house? How did you cope with them?