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Does My Baby Have Acid Reflux?

Updated on November 23, 2016
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Whitney is a mom trying to evoke a healthy, happy life for herself and her family.

In infants, the ring of muscle in-between the esophagus and stomach is not yet fully developed, which can allow stomach contents to back flow into the esophagus.

Risk factors that contribute to reflux that aren't avoidable include

  • Lying flat most of the time
  • Almost completely liquid diet
  • Premature birth

Most infants with acid reflux are completely healthy. Rarely, it can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as Gastroesophageal reflux disease, pyloric stenosis, a food allergy or eosinophilic esophagitis.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) - There's enough acid in the reflux to irritate and damage the lining of the esophagus
  • Pyloric stenosis- A valve between the stomach and the small intestine is narrowed, preventing stomach contents from emptying into the small intestine
  • Food allery - A protein in cow's milk is the most common cause
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis- Eosionphil, a type of white blood cell, builds up and injures the lining of the esophagus

Symptoms

  • Spitting up or vomiting often
  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Refusing to eat
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Irritable during feedings
  • Crying during or after a feeding
  • Spitting up when burping or hiccuping
  • Heartburn, gas, or belly pain
  • Failing to gain weight

Treatment

Infant acid reflux often clears up by itself, but there are a few things that you can do to try to alleviate the discomfort.

Feed your baby smaller, more frequent meals. Your baby may be more likely to reflux and spit up when this stomach is too full. When the stomach istoo full, it can put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the ring of muscle that blocks food from backing into the esophagus. Pressure on the muscle can cause it to lose effectiveness, causing reflux.

Burp more often. Whether you're bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, burp your baby every one to two hours after feeding to help relieve gastric pressure. For bottle-fed babies, burp about every one to two ounces. Burp breastfed babies any time they pull away.

If bottle feeding, use a different size nipple. If the nipple is too big or too small, your baby can be swallowing air. Using the right sized nipple will allow the right amount of milk flow without allowing your baby to swallow too much air at the same time.

Hold your baby upright for about 30 minutes after feeding.

If breastfeeding, eliminate dairy, beef and eggs from your diet to test if your baby has a food allergy.
If feeding formula, change the type and/or brand of formula.

With your pediatrician's approval, thicken formula or breast milk with rice cereal.

Give the baby gripe water. Although, there isn't any scientific evidence of its effectiveness, gripe water is thought to be a natural remedy often used for colic. Consult your pediatrician before you give your baby gripe water or any natural treatment.

Incline the baby. For babies with mild to severe reflux, let gravity help keep the stomach contents from backing into the esophagus. Place a foam wedge underneath the mattress or the baby to elevate your baby's upper body. There are even some pillows designed to elevate the baby's upper body.

Medications and Surgery

If your baby's acid reflux is severe enough, your pediatrician may prescribe a medication to help.

Common medications include proton pump inhibitors, like Prilosec or Prevacid, or H2 blockers such as Tagamet or Zantac. These medications reduce the amount of acid that's in the stomach.

Surgery is another option that your pediatrician may consider if the reflux is severe and if the above options do not help and the baby isn't gaining weight. The procedure will tighten the ring of muscle around the esophagus, making it more stable so that less acid flows back up. This is a rare surgery on infants, and it's usually reserved for babies who's reflux causes breathing difficulties.

Did your baby have acid reflux?

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If your baby has/had reflux, what measures have you tried to alleviate his discomfort?

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