A few months after my daughter was born, I noticed that she was spitting up a lot. I was a quite concerned whether she was getting enough nutrients because it usually happened after every feeding. I brought her in for a check up and my pediatrician told me that my daughter has infant acid reflux.
Acid reflux in infants is quite common, and it affects more than half of all babies. The cause of infant acid reflux in babies is usually an immature digestive system. At birth, the gastrointestinal tract is immature in terms of digesting and moving food along the tract. The lower esophageal sphincter is a specialized muscle that functions like a valve, which only opens to allow food and liquid to be swept through into the stomach. If the muscle has not fully matured like those in babies, stomach contents may occasionally regurgitate, or flow back up to the esophagus and out of your baby’s mouth.
The signs of infant acid reflux include spitting up, irritability during or after feedings, and poor feedings. Normally, infant acid reflux doesn’t really interfere with your baby’s growth. However parents need to be watchful for other signs, which may indicate a more serious condition like gastroesophageal reflex disease or GERD. This is a severe form of reflux that can cause vomiting, pain and poor weight gain. You need to contact your doctor if you notice that your baby is weak, or if he spits up forcefully, and if he resists feedings. Take note as well of the amount and the color of the fluid that your baby spits up. Your doctor must be informed if your baby spits up green or brown fluid, or if the amount of fluid is more than one or two tablespoons per episode.
Although infant acid reflux is expected to clear up on its own, it can be quite distressing for parents. Modifying your feeding habits may be essential in its management. Feed or nurse your baby in a peaceful environment. A frantic baby is more likely to regurgitate his feeding. It is also important to feed your baby in an upright position to prevent reflux. Likewise, maintain your baby in a sitting position 15 to 30 minutes after each feeding. Infant seats and baby carriers can help in keeping the baby upright, thereby allowing stomach contents to settle.
Your baby may tolerate small frequent feedings better. Try giving an ounce of formula at intervals, and limit nursing to one breast at a time if you are breastfeeding. . If you’re using a bottle, check if you have the right nipple size. If the nipple is too large, it will allow milk to flow faster. On the other hand, a nipple that is too small may only allow your baby to swallow more air bubbles. This should be avoided because air bubbles in the esophagus may lead to reflux. It is also essential to burp your baby frequently to keep air from building in the stomach. Do not burp your baby over your shoulder, as it may only put pressure on his abdomen. A better way is to prop your baby in a sitting position, with your hand supporting his head.
If home remedies won’t work for your baby and if the symptoms persist, consult your health care provider. If you’re breastfeeding, your doctor may suggest that you avoid cow’s milk. Switching brands may also minimize the symptoms for formula-fed babies. Infant acid reflux may bother some infants as well as parents, but if the symptoms can be managed by modifying feeding habits, burp cloths come handy in keeping the mess to a minimum.
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