Gastroesophageal Reflux and Your Baby

Posted Posted by Jill Roberson, MD in Articles, Blog     Comments 2 comments

One of the most difficult things to deal with when parenting is a new experience is the crying baby.  It gets really tough when the crying just won’t stop. There may be several causes of crying in an infant.  If the baby seems to be hungry all the time, cries and arches the back with spitting up, then gastroesophageal reflux may be what is causing all the fussiness.

Gastroesophageal reflux is caused by the contents of the stomach coming up into the esophagus.  The lining of the esophagus is not designed to handle the acid from the stomach.  So when reflux occurs, it hurts!  When babies are in pain, they soothe themselves by eating. (Don’t we all.)  The eating causes more reflux, so there’s more pain and consequently more crying.  Some babies learn to limit the amount they take in during a feeding, but then they want to eat more frequently.  Other infants start to tilt their heads to the side to change the angle of the esophagus going into the stomach.  What can an exasperated parent do?  There are several methods to help with relief of GERD in an infant.One technique is to keep the infant in an upright position for fifteen to twenty minutes after feeding.  In other words, holding the baby helps to decrease the reflux.  Do not place the infant in a carseat after feeding, this puts more pressure on the stomach and makes the reflux worse.  Limit feeding amount but increase frequency of feedings.  Some physicians recommend thickening the feedings with rice cereal.  Some formulas come with rice starch already which may help decrease reflux. Feeding with certain types of bottles such as the Dr. Brown’s bottle may help decrease the symptoms of reflux. And of course, always consult your child’s physician about remedies for GERD.

There is good news and bad news about gastroesophogeal reflux.  The bad news is there is no cure for GERD.  There are medications and techniques that may help the symptoms.  The spitting up will continue but the pain is usually relieved.  The good news is GERD is self-limiting. By the time the infant is sitting well (around six to seven months of age) the reflux typically disappears.

The fussy, crying infant who always seems hungry and spits up like a fountain may actually be in pain form  gastroesophogeal reflux.  There are techniques and medications which can relieve the pain of reflux, but hold on because most of the time the infant will outgrow the difficulty in a few months.

2 Comments to “Gastroesophageal Reflux and Your Baby”

  • For grownups you’d check vitamin D and magnesium levels, because they are related to muscle strength. I don’t know how this transfers to infants, but maybe some kind of supplement is already available.

    • Henk,
      It’s a great idea. So much is coming out in the literature about Vitamin D deficiency affecting infant health.

      Dr Jill

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