Is your baby spitting up his/her food frequently? Is he/she acting fussy with food and cranky when feeding. These may be signs of a common issue called as Gastroesophageal or acid reflux in infants.
Gastroesophageal reflux is when the acid that is normally in the stomach backs up into the food pipe.
Healthy babies often have reflux, and spit up milk or formula after eating. This does not usually hurt them, and most babies grow out of it without treatment. But in some babies, the reflux is more serious. This is called “gastroesophageal reflux disease,” or GERD.
Is my baby at risk of getting GERD?
Some babies have a higher risk of getting GERD, including those who were born prematurely or are around cigarette smoke.
How can I tell if my baby has acid reflux?
If your baby spits up a lot, but seems otherwise happy and healthy, he or she probably has what is called as “uncomplicated” reflux. This is very common. Burping your baby often, and keeping him or her upright and calm after feeding, might help with the spitting up.
If your baby has GERD, the symptoms might include refusal to eat, crying and arching of the back, as if in pain, choking on spit-up, vomiting forcefully and not gaining weight normally.
Should my baby see a doctor?
If your baby spits up a lot and has any of the symptoms listed above, talk to his or her doctor. On further examination, the doctor might decide to do some tests to check whether your baby’s symptoms are caused by acid reflux or something else.
Uncomplicated reflux does not usually cause pain, and usually does not need treatment. If your baby cries a lot or is having trouble sleeping, his or her doctor can help decide if this is normal or caused by GERD or some other problem. All babies act fussy sometimes, and this does not necessarily mean anything is wrong.
Is there anything I can do to help my baby feel better?
Yes. If your baby’s acid reflux is making him or her uncomfortable, you can do the following things:
Keep the baby upright after eating – Your baby might spit up less often if you calmly hold him or her up on your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes after a feeding, instead of putting him or her in a sitting or lying position. Also, don’t try to get your baby to eat when he or she doesn’t want to.
Quit smoking – If you smoke, or if anyone in your house smokes, it will only make your baby’s reflux worse and can cause other health problems. So ensure you keep your baby away from cigarette smoke at home and out of the house as well.
A milk-free and soy-free diet – Some babies have trouble digesting cow’s milk or products made with soy. Your baby’s doctor might suggest that you try removing milk and soy from the baby’s diet. Then see if your baby’s acid reflux improves after a few weeks. If your baby drinks formula, there are special brands available that do not contain cow’s milk or soy. Most babies who have trouble with milk or soy outgrow the problem by the time they are 1 year old.
Thickened feeds – Adding baby cereal to your baby’s bottle to make the milk thicker might help with acid reflux. Oat cereal is often a good choice. There are special thick formulas available, too.
How is acid reflux treated?
Most babies with acid reflux do not need medicine. Plus, medicines do not always make the reflux better. But if you have tried the ideas above, and your baby is still having trouble with reflux, your baby’s doctor might suggest trying medicine. There are lots of medicines available for adults with acid reflux, but not all of them can be used safely in babies.
If your baby’s reflux is serious, his or her doctor might recommend some medicines that stop the stomach from making acid. Talk to your baby’s doctor before you give your baby any medicines for acid reflux.
Your baby is bound to outgrow this problem sooner or later. In the interim troublesome period, these measures will surely decrease your baby’s discomfort and smoothen the feeding process.
Dr. Shreya Sharma
Dr. Shreya Sharma is a childcare expert and an M. D. in Pediatrics, she is currently a Pediatrician with fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology, Mumbai.