GERD in Babies: Understanding Your Baby’s Symptoms + Treatment Options
We refer to acid reflux in babies as infant reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER may sometimes develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is characterized by symptoms beyond regurgitation and spitting up. Unfortunately, the symptoms can be similar to that of many other conditions. Here’s how you can tell the difference and how to treat the condition.
Why Does GERD Occur?
Acid reflux occurs when contents of the stomach come back up the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth and throat to the stomach. Sometimes, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which opens to allow food into the stomach, doesn’t close properly, allowing digestive juices and food to come back up.
Experts estimate that over 50% of all infants experience acid reflux because their LES is underdeveloped or weak. The condition typically goes away naturally by 18 months of age, if not sooner. However, if symptoms continue beyond 24 months, it could be a sign of GERD. GERD occurs when acid reflux causes repeated symptoms, leading to digestive pain, discomfort, and complications.
Symptoms of Digestive Pain and GERD
You may first think that your baby has GERD when you notice them regurgitating stomach contents into their throat or mouth. This initial occurrence may simply be GER. However, if your baby has additional and more severe symptoms, they may have GERD. This includes:
- Vomiting or spitting up, especially if it’s green or yellow fluid, blood, or a substance that looks similar to coffee grounds
- Gagging, choking, and issues with swallowing
- Wet hiccups or burps
- Arching of the back
- Abnormal movements of the chin and neck
- Refusing to eat
- Digestive pain, like heartburn or chest pain
- Regular irritability, especially occurring along with spit-up
- Coughing or wheezing
- Poor weight gain
- Issues with sleep
Causes of Acid Reflux and GERD
Researchers are still studying GERD to determine why some infants develop it and some don’t. However, there are some factors we can point to in terms of cause. As we touched on above, infants don’t have a fully developed LES or esophagus.
Infants also tend to experience more factors that can cause stomach contents to come back up the esophagus. For example, they spend much of their first six months laying down and their meals are primarily liquid. Plus, their meals are larger, compared to their body size, than older children or adults.
Certain health conditions can also make infants more likely to develop GERD, including:
- Premature birth
- Surgery to correct esophageal atresia (a birth defect)
- Hiatal hernia, which is a condition in which the upper part of the stomach can move up into the chest due to an opening in the diaphragm
- Conditions affecting the nervous system, like cerebral palsy
- Conditions affecting the lungs, like cystic fibrosis
Treatment for GERD
We never want to see our babies in digestive pain, so it’s natural to search for a remedy. Infant reflux can often resolve itself by 12 to 24 months. However, there are a few measures you can take to try to alleviate acid reflux. This includes:
- Holding the baby upright after feeding for 30 minutes
- Elevate the crib’s head
- Feed smaller amounts more often
- For older babies and with doctor’s approval, thicken bottle feedings with cereal or try solid food
Your doctor may also recommend certain drugs to help decrease stomach acid including antacids and histamine blockers. However, the research isn’t clear whether decreasing stomach acid actually aids in lessening acid reflux for babies. Doctors may also suggest surgery in some rare cases.
I recommend QBaby Digestive Mix. It’s a natural herbal blend that is specifically formulated to calm and soothe the digestive system in babies and young children. It can help reduce digestive spasms, aiding with lessening acid reflux and the symptoms of GERD. I also recommend BabyBiotics, which provides eight strains of probiotics that are commonly found in breastfed infants. It also contains inulin, a chicory-derived prebiotic that naturally fuels the good bacteria. This helps your baby’s gut microbiota flourish, helping to improve their digestive system and lessen digestive issues, like cramping and heartburn.
You can also utilize Heel Spascupreel, which is specifically designed to aid the symptoms of spasms and cramps. While it can help with period pains and uterus or bladder cramps, it can also help fight off stomach cramps. This includes the digestive pain and cramping that babies with GERD experience. Although it’s not a cure, it can help your baby avoid cramps within their smooth musculature, making them feel more comfortable.
It’s never easy to see your baby unhappy, especially when they’re experiencing acid reflux and digestive pain. Try the above treatments and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!