Acid reflux can be painful for baby and parents alike. For the parents, acid reflux means watching your little one struggle with eating, vomiting, and irritability. For the baby, acid reflux can often lead to pain in the stomach and throat, eventually creating a disinterest in eating or even colic.
Despite the tears from baby and the panic from the parents, acid reflux is common, even in healthy babies. Babies under a month old will experience it several times per day, often soon after he feeds. As your baby grows older, it will become more and more infrequent. By the time he is a year old, most babies will grow out of it altogether.
What is acid reflux and what causes it in infants?
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux or GER, is when the acids and content of the stomach come back up into the baby’s esophagus.
It happens because the lower esophageal sphincter isn’t fully developed. This causes the muscle of the esophagus to let the stomach acids and content flow up from the stomach into the esophagus. When this happens, your baby will often spit up or vomit.
As your baby grows, the esophageal sphincter becomes stronger and prevents acid reflux from happening.
However, if it fails to develop correctly or becomes weak, a baby may develop GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) which has more severe complications. Luckily, GERD is quite rare. It only occurs in about one of every three hundred babies.
How do you know if your baby has acid reflux?
The symptoms of acid reflux are typically clear and easy to read. Here are the top signs that your baby might be suffering from acid reflux:
Healthy babies will spit-up frequently. But if your baby is vomiting after each meal, he may have acid reflux. Because the lower esophageal sphincter is still developing, the pressure on your baby’s tummy triggers him to vomit.
Many babies with reflux will even experience projectile vomiting or vomiting with such force that parents may become worried about their child’s safety.
If you notice your baby vomiting frequently, he may become dehydrated. Try giving small amounts of liquid to keep him hydrated. You can give him a little water, depending on his size.
However, babies can become dangerously dehydrated very quickly. If you notice darker urine, diapers that have stayed dry for more than three hours, or tearless crying, go to your pediatrician.
Likewise, if your baby has lost weight due to vomiting, it’s time to talk to your child’s doctor.
If your baby suffers from reflux, he will likely cry and become fussy. Infants nearly triple their weight in the first year which means your baby is taking in a lot of calories into that tiny tummy.
Taking so much fluid into their stomach can cause the stomach to distend or cause the contents to come back up into the esophagus. The acid of the digestive juices irritates the stomach and esophagus, making baby irritable.
Persistent Coughing or Wheezing
Many new parents don’t realize a persistent cough or wheeze can actually be a symptom of acid reflux. There is a link between acid reflux, wheezing, coughing, and even asthma. If your baby has a chronic cough or wheeze, it could be caused by the acidic stomach contents irritating the esophagus.
If your baby is coughing at night, after a meal, or while lying down it may be a sign of reflux. Before treating the cough, check in with your pediatrician to see if reflux could be the culprit behind the cough.
Because the acidity of the stomach’s contents irritates the esophagus and stomach, it may make your baby disinterested in eating or even cause him to refuse to eat.
If you notice your baby’s feeding habits have become less frequent, try feeding him less milk more frequently. This can help make sure he is still eating enough while reducing the chance that it will come back up.
If your baby has lost weight or has refused to eat for more than five to ten hours, call your pediatrician. It’s essential to ensure that these symptoms aren’t being caused by something more serious, so talk to your doctor.
The persistent crying of a colicky baby could be a symptom of reflux. The irritation of the stomach and the esophagus from all those digestive juices may trigger your baby into colic. The pain will cause him to feel frustrated and uncomfortable, leading him to cry for long periods of time.
How do you help a baby with acid reflux?
If you noticed your baby has any of the symptoms listed above, here are some easy ways to ease the symptoms of your baby’s reflux and reduce his discomfort.
Feed less, more frequently
Overfeeding your baby can cause the stomach to distend and may cause the contents of the stomach to flow back up through the esophagus and into the mouth. To prevent reflux caused by overfeeding, just feed your baby more frequently but with less milk.
Feed your baby every two or three hours with half of the typical serving. The smaller amount of fluid will be absorbed and digested faster, preventing your baby from spitting up as much.
Burping your baby frequently can also help prevent acid reflux in your little one. A smart way to avoid it is by burping every ounce or two to help keep the stomach pressure to a minimum. This will help your baby lower the chances of regurgitation and will help him digest the milk quicker.
Keep Baby Upright after Feeding
Holding your baby in an upright position after feeding can also help prevent acid reflux. The gravity will help keep the milk down and may stop vomiting. Keep him upright for at least half an hour to ensure the milk is digested correctly.
Give Breast Milk or Change Formula
Breast milk can help babies with an irritated stomach because it is more easily digestible to the baby’s system. It will not only minimize acid reflux, but it will also aid digestion because of the particular enzymes found in breast milk.
If you are using formula, try using hypoallergenic formula. These are more suited to the sensitive and developing digestive system of infants. These formulas are created to be digested quickly, reducing the amount of time it is in the stomach and therefore reducing the chances that your baby will spit it up.
Try Gripe Water
Gripe water can also be a great way to ease the symptoms of acid reflux in infants. It is a natural approach to help reduce the stomach acid that causes pain. The mixture of herbs is designed to soothe and relax the infant’s developing digestive system.
Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water is a safe and gentle way to help ease your baby’s stomach discomfort. The organic ginger and fennel relieve the irritation and prevent the stomach acid from flowing up into the esophagus. Fennel is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and acid in the stomach while ginger’s phenolic compounds help relieve irritation and reduce gastric contractions.
You can use Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water up to 6 times in 24 hours.
As always if you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your pediatrician.