What Harm Gaslighting Causes Babies with Reflux

gaslighting by the medical community and healthcare professionals is happening to babies with reflux, silent reflux and colic, and their parents. And it's not okay


Gaslighting is a serious and silent abuse that is happening too often to too many parents of babies with reflux, silent reflux, colic and CMPA.

What is it?

Have you been affected?

Or are you unintentionally gaslighting others?


What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting involves an imbalance in power between the abuser and the victim.

IN our scenario, parents often place healthcare professionals in a position of power simply by believing that they know more than the parents themselves.

As individuals, we must start to take responsibility for both gifting medical professionals this power over us and giving away our own power in the same action. We have put the medical professions on a pedestal, and rightly or wrongly, they have accepted it. There seems to be a general belief that if a doctor doesn’t have an answer, there must not be one to have, and this simply isn’t true. If a doctor doesn’t have the answer to a question, it simply means they cannot answer that question.

It is not a reflection on the question. It’s a reflection on the individual.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that involves making someone question their own reality, feelings, and experiences of events. It is a covert form of emotional abuse that makes people think they are losing their sanity.

An article in the New York Times from July 2022 outlines some of the signs of medical gaslighting as :

  • "Your provider continually interrupts you, doesn't allow you to elaborate and doesn't appear to be an engaged listener.
  • Your provider minimises or downplays your symptoms, for example questioning whether you have pain.
  • Your provider refuses to discuss your symptoms.
  • You feel that your provider is being rude, condescending or belittling."

Now I know that these are things that are happening in relation to babies, parents and reflux on a daily basis.

And I know it's not helped by most babies being on their best behaviour when they visit the doctors. However, just because the medic sees a happy baby for the five minutes, they are with them is not enough to disregard everything their parents experience and describe their life outside the surgery.

And it's wrong.


How are parents of babies with reflux gaslit?

Whether it be unintentional or not, every time that a doctor asks a parent, “Is this your first baby?” they are gaslighting the individual.

Every time someone says, “Reflux is normal”, “all babies cry”, or “you’re overprotective”, they are gaslighting the parent.

When any of your concerns about your baby have been dismissed, you have been gaslit.

If you have been left feeling unheard, unlistened to, untrusted and not believed, you have been gaslit.

Why isn't there more awareness?

Honestly, I have no idea.

As a professional, regardless of your job title, if you have ever scoffed at a patient and described them as “overprotective”, rolled your eyes about them, or told your colleague of that crazy mother who hasn’t accepted the reality of being a parent, you have dismissed their lived experience of life, and this is gaslighting.

Two years ago, I shared a social media post titled “Stop gaslighting your clients” with a Facebook group of midwives. Within hours, I was being hurdled by abuse with a number of comments from midwives saying, “Sometimes mothers just need to be told what to do...

They don’t listen to us; we know better”. Unfortunately, my post was removed before I was able to screenshot these comments for evidence, however, the fact remained that those most guilty of potential gaslighting were unable even to step back from their actions and ask themselves if they were unintentionally acting like this.

Often, it is training bias that puts the healthcare professionals in a position where they have been schooled that they DO have the answers to everything and everyone else is wrong.

The stories I have heard and the words that have been said to me about my kid's health directly from our own doctors and paediatricians are incredulous.

These are some stories that were shared with me by clients and through social media when I asked my audience about their reflux experience recently…

  • "My hospitalised tube-fed baby would be “at risk of death” if we tried osteopathy. This was for a child who had severe tongue tie and significant body misalignments after a traumatic birth, who was struggling to feed, in constant pain, and the medics had no explanation or ability to help."
  • “Six different health professionals told me that sickness is normal. Was prescribed Gaviscon, which blocked my baby up! Was then dismissed about allergies as was told my baby was constipated (but was having heavy explosions) … But the health visitor has probably been the worst, doesn’t respond when I ask for help. Yes, this is my first baby, and that comment has been made so many times to me, but a gut instinct to say something is not right isn’t wrong.”
  • “Midwife said she’d only referred me to check for tongue tie because of the trauma I went through in labour. Not because I thought my baby had tongue tie”

This behaviour from the medical community is unacceptable.

Yet there is an ongoing belief within it that they have superior knowledge about health matters. Even in a world where they don’t know what causes reflux, they cannot ease the pain and suffering of babies around the world, and seem to have no regard for the massive impact their words have on the people they are supposed to support.


What are the costs to parents?

Parents of babies with reflux are already feeling the pressures of parenthood. we tend to question our own gut instincts, and we worry that there is something wrong with us when we cannot get our babies to do the simplest of things like sleep and eat. I know this from personal experience.

So when someone we trust tells us that our baby is fine and that we need to calm down, it is our anxiety causing their distress. It only pushes us further into questioning our own experience of reality.

Maybe our baby isn’t crying that much?

Maybe it is our fault if there’s nothing wrong with the baby.

The fact that we are not listened to and that healthcare professionals would rather blame the parents than admit that they don’t have an answer is fundamentally wrong.

Every time we experience one of these microaggressions, it is a micro trauma. And these build up over time to destroy us emotionally and mentally. They destroy our self-confidence in our parenting, our bond with our baby is damaged even more, and we believe we have to hide from the world because we are broken.

All of this, on top of the sleep deprivation and genuine worry for our babies, causes postnatal depression and makes it a million times worse.

Imagine if you were simply to listen to someone.

To hold a safe space for them to speak of their experience?

To help them process trauma?


What are the costs to babies?

We cannot ignore the fact that when the worries of a parent about their baby are cast aside, the child is cast aside.

Pain in infancy is a real thing. For babies in hospital, they are heavily medicated for less pain than they experience in many cases of reflux. Pain in infancy causes physical changes to how the spinal cord develops; it alters how this child will perceive and manage pain and other stimuli for the rest of their lives.

Ignoring reflux has many more long-term consequences for the child directly, impacting their lifelong health.

And this is not about medicating as a way to address reflux because the medications are not risk-free. This is about changing the entire approach to reflux. To believing parents, to listening to and observing infants.

If you are interested in learning more about the dangerous impacts on children from the way the medical approach treats them currently, you can join my training for professionals here. (use code AGAINST_GASLIGHTING for a 90% discount)

And this is all being made even worse in the new world of diagnosing reflux and prescribing changes over the phone, without even seeing babies, without listening to parents, without holding space.


Gaslighting must stop.

We must start listening to parents; we must start listening to babies.

From my work with thousands of families over the last six years, I know that when we find the right underlying cause for every baby, we can address it and create incredible change extremely fast.

We do not need to leave babies in pain.

We do not need to leave parents questioning their own sanity.

It is time for the medical world to take a good, long look at themselves and change how they really support babies.


If you feel that you've suffered from gaslighting, I want you to know that your reflux journey is real, and it's likely tough. And you do not have to go it alone.

From my work with parents and babies over the last six years, I know that it's possible to understand it and take action to resolve it. Start with your free symptoms tracker below, or if you would like to know you're not alone, come join the new Baby Reflux Community.


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