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Acid Reflux And Babies

Understanding the Risks

When most people think of acid reflux disease, images of spicy foods, heartburn, upset stomach and other troubling symptoms often come to mind. Rarely does anyone think of small children or babies when it comes to having acid reflux. However, this condition is not restricted to adults – babies can and do develop problems when it comes to excessive acid in the digestive system, so it’s important to be aware of the risks and symptoms.

When you’re talking about acid reflux and babies it’s important to distinguish between gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the normal, harmless reflux that happens to most babies from time to time. Almost all babies will “spit up” at one point or another. This can happen from a trapped air bubble during feeding, hiccups, drinking too much milk, or even a cough or cold. In general, these rare episodes of spitting up are nothing to worry about, and resolve themselves in time. As long as your baby is growing and thriving, occasional spitting up isn’t a problem.

GERD is a more serious condition, one that may require medical intervention to treat. Babies who suffer from this type of acid reflux often have a difficult time keeping down foods, whether breastfed or bottle fed. The acid can damage the delicate tissues of the baby’s esophagus and cause further digestion problems if not treated. Contact your baby’s pediatrician right away if your little one shows any of the following signs:

  • Irritability during feeding or nursing
  • Refusal to eat or nurse
  • Continuous, hoarse crying at feeding times
  • Spitting up after most feedings
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive drooling
  • Crying when the abdomen is touched (an indication that your baby has abdominal pain)
  • Frequent coughing after feedings

When treating acid reflux and babies’ overall health, it’s important to turn to a pediatrician for a confirmed diagnosis. There are several tests for this condition, including monitoring the pH of your baby’s esophagus, urine and blood tests. In severe cases, an endoscopy may be required to be sure that your baby’s internal glands are working properly.

For mild cases of GERD, there are formulas specifically designed to help reduce the instances of spit up and discomfort. These formulas may be a bit thicker than traditional formula, and feedings will need to be adjusted on the advice of the pediatrician. For breastfed babies, mothers can reduce the amount of acid in their diet and baby’s milk supply by cutting back on colas, acidic foods, spicy foods and other traditional heartburn/acid reflux culprits.

There are also several medicines on the market which can reduce the amount of acid in the baby’s system. However, with regards to acid reflux and babies, these treatments should be given with due caution. This is because anything that represses stomach acid can leave your baby more vulnerable to infection. It can also cause digestion problems, as some nutrients cannot be as easily absorbed if the amount of acid in the baby’s system is diminished.

If your baby is spitting up frequently and the pediatrician determines that GERD is not the cause, there are still things you can do to improve your baby’s digestion and reduce these normal incidents of reflux. The biggest thing you can do for your baby in this instance is to burp him or her often.  Pause about half-way between each feeding to gently burp your baby. There are also special bottles for bottle-fed infants that reduce the amount of air that your baby swallows during feedings.

GERD and normal reflux can be difficult for parents to tell apart. For this reason, if you have any concerns about your baby’s feeding habits, you should let the pediatrician give you a firm diagnosis. Acid reflux and babies’ health does not have to be a cause of concern – there are many effective treatments once a diagnosis has been made. So the sooner you contact the doctor, the quicker you will have peace of mind.

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