Understanding Infant Acid Reflux

Infant acid reflux is a condition in which a baby spits up or vomits the contents of his or her stomach shortly after eating. This condition usually occurs when the baby is younger and stops by the age of 18 months. As long as your baby is healthy, not experiencing extreme discomfort, and growing well, reflux is usually not a huge concern. In most cases, the child will out grow it. In rare cases, reflux can be a symptom of a serious issue like gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. It may also be a sign of a blockage or allergy.

Symptoms

The main symptom of infant acid reflux is spitting up or vomiting after feedings. Spitting up is considered the gentle expulsion of stomach contents, while vomiting is more forceful. If these actions occur shortly after feedings, your baby may have infant acid reflux.

You should take your baby to the doctor if your baby isn't gaining weight or if he or she spits up blood, a coffee-ground like material, a green or yellow fluid, or projectile vomits. If your baby refuses food, has bloody diapers, is having difficulty breathing, or begins vomiting over 6 months of age, contact your doctor as well. If your baby shows these signs of infant reflux, he or she may have a more serious condition like plyoric stenosis, or GERD.

Treatment

The majority of infant acid reflux cases clear up by themselves. Simple changes in feeding techniques can help to treat infant acid reflux as well. Here are a few feeding adjustments you may want to try:

  • Sit your baby upright during and after feedings. It is a good idea to try feeding your baby in an upright position and keeping the baby sitting upright for at least 30 minutes after every feeding. The gravity will help keep the milk in your baby's stomach. Be careful to keep the baby still as not to disrupt his or her stomach during settling.
  • Feed your baby smaller portions more often. Try feeding your baby less breast milk or formula than usual. Instead of feeding your baby large amounts at once, feed a little at a time more often. It may be that your baby cannot yet control his or her portions and is eating more than his little stomach can handle.
  • Burp your baby. Make sure you are burping your baby after each feeding to keep air out of his or her stomach. Air bubbles in baby's stomach can contribute to reflux.

Test for Allergies

If you are breastfeeding, test to see if the reflux is caused by allergies to the protein in cow's milk by eliminating dairy products and beef from your diet. If this change yields positive results, you will need to eliminate dairy from your diet until you are done breastfeeding. If your baby uses formula, try switching to a nondairy formula.

Medications

Medication is usually not recommended in most cases of infant reflux. If your baby is not gaining weight, won't eat, or has a serious case of reflux, the doctor may recommend an acid-blocking medication. It is best to avoid giving these medications to your children unless absolutely necessary, as there is an increased risk of health issues with using these types of medications in infants.

Surgery

Surgery is very rare for reflux and is usually only performed on babies who are having trouble breathing or growth problems because of infant acid reflux. The muscle that relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach will be surgically tightened, preventing acid from flowing into the esophagus.

Last Updated: March 10, 2016