Infant acid reflux is also known as gastro esophageal reflux (GERD) which occurs when the contents of the stomach flow back upwards into the throat or esophagus. The esophagus is the tube which connects the stomach to the mouth and opens in order to allow the food to travel down. Infant reflux is quite normal and tends to happen after meals. One of the symptoms is regurgitation or spitting up and that is why so many parents know the disease by that name (spit up). The spitting up can occur after regular meals, bottle or breast feeding. There are some benefits to a baby being breast fed. This illness occurs in about 2/3 of all healthy infants and usually decreases as they age. Unless the babies show other signs such as respiratory disease, weigh loss, vomiting green fluids and esophagitis, this condition is not dangerous to the children’s well being. The secondary sings and symptoms are the time when a doctor needs to be notified.
Those additional signs could mean that the child is experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease which is less common, but much more dangerous. Sometimes this more severe pathological process is known as “pathogenic GER” and does require lifestyle management and a medical diagnostic evaluation. Around 1 in every 300 babies will show symptoms of GERD and it seems to be getting more common. The sufferers can exhibit symptoms which do inhibit a healthy life such as wheezing, chronic sinusitis, growth failure, discomfort and crying during feeding, unhappiness and other similarly serious symptoms.
I understand the concern of many parents as well as the helplessness of not knowing and understanding why their baby has acid reflux. The occurrence happens very often during the first 3 months of the infants life and should stop somewhere in between 12 to 18 months. The main thing that you, as a parent, can do is educate yourself as much as possible and this will help you deal as well as manage the treatment and recovery of the baby. It is hard to place the emotions aside, but remember that “the things you can’t do shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you can.” The good news is that there is help out there and you can make this time much easier on the child.
The cause of gastroesophageal reflux is the inability of the muscles located at the bottom of the esophagus to work properly. This ring is known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and when it is weak (as it is in infants) often it opens and allows the backward flow of the stomach contents and acid. This is then seen as vomit or spit up. A lot of factors such as screaming, crying, strain and pressure to the stomach may also trigger this illness.
The important thing is that the child is evaluated and that the doctor decides what is causing the symptoms. Since there are many other illnesses with symptoms that might overlap, it is not recommended for anyone to try and diagnose themselves with the help of a medical book or the internet. The information found can help point you in the right direction, but it is much more helpful once at least the diagnosis is made correctly. You could just as well be trying to treat a completely different illness and cause more damage than good.
Warning: If left alone, this illness might lead to poor growth, inability to eat, pain, blood loss, voice changes as well as breathing problems.
Diagnosis of Toddler Acid Reflux
Treatment of GERD in Babies and Children
The treatment will differ substantially depending on the babies age and symptoms. There are often times, when no treatment is needed and all the baby requires is some dietary and lifestyle changes.
The doctor might suggest an alternative feeding schedule, sometimes GERD is triggered by over feeding as this places too much content within the stomach. The baby should be grazing (eating small meals often) and not get the 3 larger meals that you might be doing yourself.
If food allergies are a problem than the child’s diet will need to be adjusted, or the mother’s if she is breast feeding. For slow growth, higher calorie intake or tube feedings might be necessary.
Some of the more serious cases require medication and these usually work by decreasing the amount of acid which is present in the stomach. The medication is rarely a one stop solution, and other changes might have to occur as well.
When the medication isn’t enough and the baby has problems keeping any food down and not breathing properly, a surgery is the last option. It is very rare and should be discussed in detail with the nurse or physician.