Acid reflux is also known as Gastroesophaegal Reflux. The incidence of acid reflux has been on the rise lately. This is also because of advancement in medical technology which is leading to accurate diagnosis.
Paediatricians are now keeping a watchful eye on babies suffering from gastric disturbances. Besides colic, acid reflux is one of the most common problems in young babies.
GER (Gastroesophaegal reflux) is very similar to heart burn in adults. The harsh stomach acids make their way up into the oesophagus and the throat to cause severe burning and irritation. The infant may also spit up or vomit out his food because of the build-up of bile and gastric juices. The discomfort is often expressed by inconsolable crying and irritability.
Symptoms Of Acid Reflux In Babies
The baby tends to arch or bunch up his legs close to the stomach with every sensation of pain. Drooling and spitting up is more than normal. The child may vomit excessively even hours after having eaten something. The child may gag or choke on his food and may find it difficult to eat. On the other extreme some babies may eat excessively and then vomit. Weight gain is slow because the food does not get digested properly. Sleep may be disturbed with excessive burping and hiccuping.
In severe cases the child may suffer from a chronic cough, severe mal nourishment and ear infections because of excessive backing up of stomach acids. Respiratory problems like wheezing, asthma and laboured breathing may also be observed.
Causes Of Acid Reflux In Babies
GER is commonly seen in babies and infants who are premature. The prematurity does not allow the gastric system of the baby to develop properly. During digestion, the stomach muscles tighten and contract to allow the food to get digested with the help of the stomach acids. In an under-developed stomach, the muscles relax, allowing the food to build up and back up into the oesophagus. The harsh stomach acids that back up, cause the oesophageal lining to get irritated, leading to heartburn.
GER Starts within a week or two from birth and continues up to one year of age. It lessens around the six month mark when the child starts to sit up and can take solids.
Treatment Of Acid Reflux In Babies
Mild acid reflux resolves on its own. The treatment for acid reflux is aimed at alleviating the symptoms since there is no complete cure for it. Give the baby small amounts of foods and fluids at regular intervals. Never over feed the baby. An older baby can be given thick and gruelly soups/ broths that tend to settle down in the stomach.
The best way of preventing acid reflux is to breast feed the baby for as long as possible. Breast milk is much easier to digest than formula milk. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. Feed the child when he is not too hungry. A very hungry baby may over feed. Always burp the baby in between feeds and after every feed. A slightly older baby should be propped up and made to sit upright after every feed. Let him sleep in an elevated position to prevent the acid from coming up into his food pipe. Never bathe the baby after a feed. This too can cause him to throw up.
Consult your doctor if the GER is severe, the baby is not thriving or is in acute pain.