How to Know When Your Baby has Reflux – and What to Do About ItJune 10, 2014June 9, 2016
How to Know When Your Baby has Reflux – and What to Do About It
by A. Lawrence, Ph.D.
Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of acid reflux at some time in our lives. Perhaps after a heavy meal we have laid down too quickly, only to be woken by an awful sensation of involuntary vomiting. Our mouth is suddenly filled with evil tasting bile as the regurgitated content of our esophagus is expelled backwards in the wrong direction. It can be an alarming moment for anyone, particularly an infant, and especially so if it becomes a regular occurrence.
All babies spit up at times but it when it happens too often, then chances are your baby is suffering from acid reflux – gastro-esophageal reflux to give the full medical name, GER for short. Statistical research tells us that over half of all babies experience some reflux during the first few months of life. It is a common problem that typically resolves itself by the ages of 12 – 18 months. Although most likely to occur after feeding, it can happen almost anytime your baby coughs, cries or strains. Sometimes it can be tougher on the parent than the child – most babies remain happy, hale and hearty even when covered in thrown up, semi-digested food.
If the problem persists and particularly if baby is not gaining weight normally, it may be time to change one’s feeding patterns and to speak with your child’s physician. Smaller but more frequent feedings, changing position or interrupting feedings to allow time for burping may be all that is needed to get reflux under control. Many moms have found gripe water to be effective in helping to contain reflux and calming the digestive process.
What causes reflux and how to recognize it
Nature has provided its own means of preventing acid and other stomach contents from flowing back up into our throats and mouths. A valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens during normal digestion to allow food to pass into the stomach but closes after eating to prevent the stomach’s contents from escaping back up the wrong way. If for some reason the LES has a weak action or does not function at the right time, then food and stomach acid can be regurgitated back into the esophagus as earlier described. A baby spends most of the time in a horizontal position, the liquid contents of baby’s diet are more likely to flow back into the esophagus. If this happens a lot then your child may be suffering from GER.
The symptoms to watch out for are: frequent and recurrent vomiting, persistent coughing at meal times, and signs of heartburn, gas or abdominal spasms. As the child moves into its second year, additional symptoms may include slowed growth rate, persistent refusal of food and a hoarse scratchy voice. Chances are the problem will resolve itself in time. But it never does any harm to consult your pediatrician who is able to perform a whole batch of diagnostic tests where deemed necessary.
Although GER is not so difficult to spot, quite often it passes unnoticed because parents are not aware that babies can suffer from the effects of acid reflux. Although all babies spit up from time to time, it is necessary to be able to discern the difference between normal spitting up and recurring vomiting in order to arrive at a diagnosis.
It is also important to bear in mind that infants suffer from a different form of acid reflux to that occurring in children and adults where therapy may be complicated for a wide spectrum of reasons and where the patient’s physical condition and life style can play a decisive role.
Treatment for infants is usually a whole lot easier. It is generally agreed that elevating baby’s head in the cot can help prevent reflux. During and after feeding, it is also recommended the infant be kept in an upright position for about 30 minutes, again to reduce the chance of reflux. These are simple preventative measures that pose no threat to the infant. Doctors may also recommend thickening bottle feedings with cereal, altering feeding frequencies, trying solid foods and steering clear of any highly acidic foodstuffs.
It takes about 100 days of life for a child’s digestive system to become fully developed. Prior to attaining maturity, a lack of coordination in the gastrointestinal tract may lead to constant acid reflux. But only if your infant’s GER does not improve within a reasonable time frame, might your doctor opt for the use of medication. Most OTC products are formulated to deal with the pains associated with excessive gassiness. Many parents report that the actual problem of reflux often responds well to the use of natural gripe waters such as ColicCalm that can do a great job in helping infants through that vital period of adjustment and development for their delicate and maturing digestive systems while keeping GER at bay.
What Parents Are Saying
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