Infant Reflux in Babies

Acid Reflux Solution Kit

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Reflux relief using 3 common grocery store items.

If you’ve had the pleasure of taking care of infants, especially one to four months young, then you’ve probably seen them spit up after feedings.  A lot of experienced mothers would say that they are not cause for alarm, and they are right.  Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) could happen to anyone, of any age, at any time.

GER is nothing more than stomach contents backing up into the esophagus, the same process that causes heartburns in adults.  While adults are seldom seen regurgitating their previous meal, very young infants experience reflux reaching up to the larynx and out of the mouth.  This usually resolves between 6 to 12 months.  Very few children spit up after their first birthday.

Babies who spit up may become colicky, and not show interest in food (they associate feeding and spitting up).  “Happy spitters” who reflux may also cough, vomit or pass blood in the stools, yet gain weight normally and grow happily.

However, if the any of the following happens, you may want to consult with your doctor immediately:

  • Vomiting forcefully, and in large amounts;
  • Vomiting refluxate (stomach content that backed up) that is greenish or yellowish, or refluxate that looks like coffee grounds or blood;
  • Straining to breath after vomiting;
  • Becoming overly fussy;
  • Showing lack of interest towards food resulting to losing weight or not gaining enough.

The above symptoms are indicative of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and like GERD in adults, may result to ulcers in the esophageal lining, and other digestive problems.

While GERD needs serious medical intervention, GER can be minimized by doing the following:

  • Breastfeeding;
  • Keeping the baby upright during and after feedings;
  • Burping the baby after feedings;
  • Feeding frequently but in smaller portions;
  • Letting the baby sleep on its back, on a 30 degree incline;
  • Clothing the baby in loose-fitting clothes.

There is added benefit to breastfeeding other than mother-child bonding and nutrition.  The mother’s milk is digested more easily compared to commercial formula.  The faster the milk is digested, the less likely it will go back up the esophagus.  In the unfortunate event it does, the acid it creates is milder than acids created by commercial formula.  Hence, irritation to the esophageal lining is less likely to occur.  When an infant’s esophageal lining gets irritated, feeding, to the child, may become a painful experience. Not only will the baby suffer emotionally, it will also suffer nutritionally.

For breastfeeding mothers, careful attention to their diet weeds out acidic sources of food that may aggravate GER.  Dairy, tomatoes, carbonated beverages, acidic juices and fruits, and fatty foods are common instigators.  If the baby is on formula, try changing to a different brand and journal the baby’s reaction to the switch.

GER does not always result to the baby spitting up.  Some infants only reflux up to the esophagus level, and the refluxate goes back down.  Because typical GER symptoms do not manifest, infants in this category are hard to diagnose.  Constant exposure of the esophagus to acids results to ulcers, and babies may be hard to pacify and harder to feed when this is the case.

Antacids, in baby doses, could reduce stomach acids like they do in adults.  But care must be exercised when medicating infants with acid-blocking drugs.  The baby’s digestive system is still in formative stage, and digestive processes that promote absorption of iron, calcium and folic acid may be interrupted.

Additionally, stomach acids kill bad bacteria, so suppressing the former could encourage growth of the latter.

To be safe, always consult with a doctor when medications are involved, even drugs considered over-the-counter.