Infant Gastroesophageal Reflex Disorder (GERD) or Acid Reflux

What is Infant GERD?
Infant GERD goes under many names, so it may be useful to know the following terms:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflex Disorder (GERD)
  • Gastroesophageal Reflex (GER)
  • Infant Acid Reflux

These names all connote the same disease. GERD occurs when stomach contents move back up into the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. There is a ring at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophagus sphincter (LES). This ring allows the passage of food as it opens and closes. When you burp your baby, this ring opens. Because your baby's digestive system is still immature, food usually moves back up the esophagus during burping. This is commonly referred to as 'spit-up'.

Symptoms of Infant Acid Reflux
Some of the common symptoms include:

  • spitting
  • repeated vomiting
  • coughing
  • poor feeding
  • irritability

There are other symptoms caused by acid reflux that can cause concern:

  • blood loss in stool
  • poor growth
  • breathing difficulties due to esophageal acid damage
  • irritability

If the above occur, you should contact your health care provider.

Treatment of Infant Acid Reflux
Treatment options vary widely depending on the age of the child and the severity of symptoms. During a check-up, have your child checked for GERD.

Infants who display some of the symptoms and appear happy and healthy usually go un-medicated. This is because GERD usually resolves itself by 12 to 18 months. Instead, measures are prescribed to prevent the discomfort of GERD, such as frequent burping and holding the child upright for 30 minutes after a feeding. You can also talk to your pediatrician about adding some rice cereal to formula if you're not breastfeeding.

For infants who display some of the more worrisome symptoms, medical treatment may be prescribed by the doctor. In particular, watch for large amounts of vomit or excessive projectile vomiting; difficulty breathing; pain when swallowing or difficulty sleeping; irritability; vomiting yellow or green fluid or vomit that is similar in consistency to coffee grounds. Medications, such as proton-pump inhibitors or H-2 blocks, will be prescribed.

Prevention of Acid Reflux
Remember that you can prevent a GERD from causing a baby discomfort. Simply burp frequently during feedings. Also, keeping your infant upright after a feeding for about 30 minutes will keep stomach contents from coming back up the esophagus. Remember not to overfeed your infant; try feeding your child smaller meals but feed him more frequently throughout the day. Lastly, try having your baby sleep with his head raised.