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GERD And Reflux In Babies

5 min read

GERD in babies
Most babies end up spitting post or in-between feeds, and this is deemed as normal. Some babies even vomit once in a while without any apparent reason. These episodes are not serious of your baby is growing steadily and is gaining weight. However, if your little one spits way too much and this affects his growth, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when infants vomit or spit out the milk frequently after feedings. It can cause heartburn, chest and stomach discomfort. Reflux is quite messy and is extremely frustrating. But it is not at all a sign of some illness. It is transient and usually passes off.
The burping related to GER is actually an outcome of stomach acid content going back to esophagus. This is due to the wrong relaxation or improper closure of esophageal sphincter. Read more about burping here.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of GERD?

Following are the problems associated with GERD-

  • Wet hiccough or wet burp-when the baby regurgitates liquid whenever he burps or coughs
  • Spitting up , vomiting or regurgitation after meals or feeds
  • Wheezing or choking caused due to contents of reflux entering the windpipe and lungs. Persistent and frequent cough
  • Wet hiccoughs or wet burps
  • Irritability after eating, colicky behavior, abdominal pain, gassiness and fussiness
  • Refusal to eat
  • Failure of weight gain, poor growth
  • Breathing problems
  • Eosphagitis- redness caused Recurrent vomiting
  • Difficulty in feeding, gagging or choking while feeding, heartburn
  • Recurrent pneumonia

The symptoms associated with GERD are almost similar as in adults. An important point to keep in mind is to understand GERD or reflux. The going back of regurgitated matter going back in the esophagus irritates the esophageal lining and can cause heartburn or chest pain. It can also gag or choke the infant and can worsen the situation. You can avoid theses by keeping the baby upright while feeding and making him burp after feeds.
Anything that causes the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter) to relax, or anything that increases the pressure below the lower esophageal sphincter, can cause GERD.
Baby GERD Remedy

Natural Remedies For Reflux In Babies

Instead of resorting to harsh pharmaceuticals, rely on simple home remedies for relief.

  • Essential oils: Apply essential oil such as ginger oil mixed with coconut oil and rub it clockwise on the stomach of the baby. Ginger has been well known for its time proven digestive effects. You can also use Chamomile or orange oil for treating reflux
  • Mix rice cereal: If your doctor recommends, you can mix a bit of rice cereal to breast or formula milk so as to thicken it. The doctor would advise you on the mixing ratios
  • Raise baby during feeding: Placing the baby on rocking chair or sleeper is an excellent remedy to deal with reflux. Make him sit while feeding because this ensures milk to go directly in to the stomach and prevents its staying in esophagus. Right positioning will reduce reflux symptoms
  • Hold your baby upright: Another simple remedy is to hold your baby for 30 to 40 minutes after every feed. If the baby feels sleepy, you should elevate in order to minimize the chances of acid reflux
  • Gripe water: Since ages gripe water is regarded as a useful remedy to soothe abdominal colic. Gripe water contains ginger, fennel, lemon balm, chamomile and peppermint. However, always consult your doctor first. Is Gripe Water Safe? Click here to know
  • Burping: It is always good to make the baby burp after feeding as this reduces the probability of GERD
  • Properly feeding the baby: Feed your baby more often during the day instead of giving a large meal. Feed him whenever your baby demands
  • Bottle feeding: Use correct size of the bottle and nipple to avoid reflux. Bottle fed babies can gulp in air if the bottle’s nipple is small and if nipple is large, the milk flow will be fast.Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, avoid feeding your baby at least two or three hours before sleep
  • Change your infant’s position: Changing the position of the baby is also recommended. Sleeping on the back is just ideal for babies as it cuts down the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) but this position can obstruct baby’s airway in acid reflux. So put your little one on either side or on stomach. Gravity will help in preventing the gastric contents from reverting back in esophagus. You can place a wedge pillow beneath the stomach to support the baby while sleeping

Feeding baby upright

Diagnosing GERD In Babies

If none of the simple remedies are working for your baby, the doctor may suggest you to eliminate cows milk from your diet and switching to a hypo allergic formula. If these changes also do not help, medications may be prescribed. The doctor may also advice some tests, which may include X-rays of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and in some cases an upper endoscopy of the digestive tract may also be done. Various lab tests of blood and urine may also be done to identify GERD. Sometimes, to measure the acidity in your baby’s esophagus, pH monitoring may be done which will require you to stay in the hospital for about a night.

Treating GERD In Babies

Your baby’s age and the seriousness of the reflux determine the line of treatment of reflux. The basic and first step in the treatment consists of resorting to home remedies. GERD can be treated with infant doses of PPIs or proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers such as Zantac. These medicines educe the acid content n your stomach. Surgical treatment may be prescribed if the condition continues for long and other steps have failed, then fundoplication is done. This process is done especially for children having great difficulty in breathing and growth

Reflux In Babies And Sleep

GERD can cause discomfort while sleeping due to irritation caused by regurgitation of gastric contents. The sleep can be further disturbed if the baby is fed just before sleeping. Make sure that there is some gap in the time the baby feeds and sleep. Some people place the baby on tummy – this may help with GERD but can increase the chances of SIDS. Talk to your pediatrician for further help in treating your baby’s GERD.

Reflux In Babies At Night

Babies crying due to reflux become exhausted and fall asleep. Usually it is seen that once the baby sleeps, reflux does not occur. You can raise baby’s head with the aid of a pillow to avoid regurgitation of milk in esophagus.
Reflux in babies

Reflux In Babies Without Spitting Up

The baby spits up the gastric contents due to GERD but sometimes GERD is present without spitting up. Babies suffer from excessive gassing and abdominal discomfort but there is no spitting up. If the baby appears uncomfortable and colicky after feedings or shows disinterest in feeding, that affect her weight gain, you must speak to your pediatrician.
Spitting disappears generally by the age of 1, and is quite uncommon post the age of 18 months. Most cases of infant reflux clear up on their own without causing problems for your baby.

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