All parents know that spitting-up is a normal part of infant life, and it is true that a little reflux is an expected part of your child’s earliest years. This is because your baby’s digestive system is brand new and still developing. However, more severe problems could indicate acid reflux disease, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), as it is often known. How can you know if your baby or toddler has typical acid reflux or more severe reflux disease? What can you do about reflux in babies? Here’s a closer look below:
Acid Reflux in Babies
According to the Mayo Clinic, typical reflux in babies usually stops before the child is 18 months old. In fact, most infants actually outgrow their reflux before they even turn one. If your child is still showing reflux symptoms past their first birthday, you should speak with your pediatrician about the potential for GERD.
Symptoms of Infant Acid Reflux
Signs and symptoms of acid reflux disease are also more bothersome and intense than regular reflux. Your child might:
- Forcefully vomit
- Refuse food or gag while eating
- Experience problems eating or swallowing foods
- Lose weight
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Be irritable or fussy, especially after eating
- Show signs of colic, or inconsolable crying
- Frequently cough
Treating Acid Reflux in Babies
These symptoms can also sometimes be caused by intestinal problems, allergies, and other conditions, so it’s important to evaluate the cause with your pediatrician. If it is determined that your baby has GERD, or if you feel that your child is spitting up too frequently, you can try:
- Keeping the baby upright for half an hour after eating.
- Burping your baby more often.
- Feeding smaller, more frequent bottles to your baby, instead of large bottles spaced out.
- Talk with your doctor about dietary changes that might help, such as adding more solids into your baby’s diet. Don’t thicken the bottle with cereal or other solids without first consulting with your child’s physician. There is debate over whether or not thickening the bottle is actually helpful, and also concern about choking.
It’s important not to add pillow wedges to your baby’s crib in order to keep them upright all night, as this goes against the safe sleeping guidelines suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It also hasn’t been shown to be effective for babies with GERD.
Acid Reflux in Babies Can Be Managed
Your pediatrician is the best person to talk with about your baby’s acid reflux. While acid reflux in babies certainly isn’t enjoyable, it usually isn’t a major cause for concern. If your child is having significant feeding issues, is losing weight, or is having trouble breathing due to severe reflux, then a doctor might try your child on a medication.
In rare cases, surgery can be done to keep acid from entering the esophagus. However, this is considered an extreme step and usually isn’t done unless absolutely necessary. Luckily, lifestyle remedies and patience are usually all that is required to treat acid reflux in babies.