Written by Dr. Srikanta J T
Babies spitting up milk after a feeding session is a very common sight. No one gets alarmed by a few drops of milk. This could be harmless acid reflux or a more serious GERD. GERD and reflux in babies are more common than you think.
Be it breastfeeding or feeding semi-solids to the baby, every parent puts in a lot of effort, time, and love to ensure the baby is full and satisfied. To see all that come out in no time can be very alarming and frankly exhausting! Let’s find out why this happens and see how we can help the baby struggling with this condition.
In The Article
Reflux is a common digestive issue experienced by both adults and children. It is when the digested food and other contents from the stomach flow right back up into your food pipe, causing a burning sensation in the throat.
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a digestive disorder that is chronic in nature. It is more serious than acid reflux. It is also long-lasting in some cases. GERD is when the acid reflux is more frequent and long-lasting. In case of a baby, if the reflux does not subside even after 12-14 months of age, and prevents them from feeding properly, it is a cause for concern.
Reflux is very common in both children and adults, GERD on the other hand is not. It is the next step of reflux when the issue does not resolve on its own and causes more trouble.
In most cases, it can be just severe reflux, which will subside on its own. In very few cases it actually progresses to GERD. Only a small percentage of babies who suffer from acid reflux an infant is diagnosed with GERD as they grow up.
In the case of infants, the ring of muscles between the esophagus and the stomach is still very immature. The muscle is responsible for retaining the stomach contents and not letting it go back up. Since these muscles are not fully mature yet, the muscles open up at other times too, causing the contents to flow back upwards.
The following factors contribute to the reflux episodes.
Some of the more uncommon and serious causes could be
If you notice your baby be experiencing or suffering from the following, it could be reflux or even GERD.
The doctor will confirm a GERD diagnosis, in the following ways.
Your doctor will ask for a chest X-Ray to check for aspiration. It is when the stomach contents move up into the lungs.
In this test, the top parts of your child’s digestive system will be checked. The top parts of the small intestine, the stomach, and the food pipe will be checked by making your child swallow Barium – a metallic fluid. This Barium will coat the organs as it moves down the system. Once coated, the organs will be clear on the X-ray and any ulcers, or sores will become prominent.
In this test the inner part of the digestive tract is checked. An endoscope is a small flexible tube, which is inserted into the digestive tract. The tube has a camera and light attached to its head. This will allow the doctor to see the insides of the digestive tract and if needed tissues can be collected for testing.
In this test the strength of the esophagus muscles will be put to test. It will help identify any issues your child might have with swallowing or reflux. A small tube is inserted into the esophagus, through your child’s nostril. Then it will measure the pressure of the esophageal muscles when at rest.
A tube is inserted into the esophagus through the nostril. This tube has a sensor to measure the pH levels. The other end of the tube, which is outside the body, is attached to a monitor. Now, the pH levels are recorded for 24 – 48 hours. Your child can carry on with their normal activities.
The aim of the test is to see how the body functions and how the pH levels change with regular activities. The doctor will ask you to keep a detailed record of what food is consumed at what time and if your child is showing any symptoms of reflux. All this data along with the readings of the pH level will be compared to make a diagnosis.
The time taken for gastric emptying is studied. A delayed emptying can cause reflux and GERD.
[Read : Gas in Babies]
Not all babies go through acid reflux or suffer from GERD. However, all babies are born with an immature system. So, why do some babies get it while others don’t? Why are some children more prone to GERD than others?
Here are some factors that can make some babies more prone to GERD than others
[Read : Epilepsy In Babies]
Small changes to the diet and lifestyle is enough to treat acid reflux and GERD. You will have to take care of what your child eats and how they eat it. Since we are discussing babies, the diet is mostly restricted to milk or semi-solids.
Here is how you can get the reflux situation under control
There are many medicines, calorie supplements, or even surgery to reduce the severity of GERD. If you feel your child has a serious case of GERD, consult your paediatrician. They will be able to guide you to the specialist concerned or prescribe medicines accordingly.
Yes, most of them do. As their digestive tract matures and learns to hold down the food particles and not throw them back up along with stomach acids. Different babies take different times for this to happen.
In very few cases, the reflux does not subside on its own and the child might suffer from GERD even after they grow up. This is a very small percentage, and these children might need medical assistance to get over this digestive issue.
In most cases, it should not last more than a few months. GERD can last anywhere between a few months up to 14 months. If it does not subside on its own, you need to consult a concerned specialist to rule out other complications, and to decide on the next step going forward.
GERD may not really harm your child in the long run, but in some cases, the following complications can arise.
If your baby is suffering from acid reflux, here are a few tips to help it get better if not cured.
If your baby is suffering from acid reflux, here is what you can do at home.
GERD and Acid reflux are common digestive issues that will subside on their own. Very rarely do they become chronic and keep troubling the child even after they grow. Sometimes you need professional guidance and getting it at the right time might save you a lot of trouble.
No. It can even happen to a newborn who is still on breast milk. It is more common with a liquid diet.
Yes, you may have to. If certain foods are triggering reflux in your child, you need to avoid them.
No, they are not. However, if you have a history of reflux, your child is only in the risk category.
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