Babies are scary little things. Even with two or three children under your belt, each newborn is different and will do things that will both terrify and surprise you. One thing that can be scary for a mother, no matter how many children she has, is gastro-esphageal reflux (GERD) or what we call acid reflux in an adult. With gerd infants it can be hard to know why they are crying or screaming in pain as they can’t tell you what is wrong. You are frantically trying to figure it out and nothing seems to work for very long. If the acid starts to choke your child, you can feel like you are suffocating right along with your baby.
When you feed your baby, food travels from the mouth to the esophagus and then down into the stomach. At the opening of the stomach is what is known as a sphincter muscle. This muscle opens and closes during eating and also when the baby needs to burp. If the ring does not close properly, food can come back up and either lodge in the esophagus or come up into the throat and mouth. This gives the burning sensation that grownups often describe as heartburn. Unfortunately, your baby cannot tell you that’s what it feels like.
Figuring out what is wrong with your baby isn’t easy. He or she may cry more than normal and they may drool or have a hard time swallowing the formula. Many parents notice that something is wrong when the baby starts to act differently after eating or sleeping. Eating obviously aggravates the condition as the sphincter muscle is being put to work. Sleeping is also a problem for gerd infants as lying down allows the food to come back up easily. Your baby may wake up crying or not sleep like normal infants. This is a warning sign that something is going on.
If you think your baby has acid reflux, immediately make an appointment with your paediatrician. If you don’t get this treated, the esophagus may become damaged. Your doctor will most likely diagnose this from what you are describing. If at all possible, you need to write down when the baby seems to be in the most pain and what he or she was doing right before that. Was he eating or sleeping? How often does this occur after a meal? Being able to answer questions like that will give your paediatrician a better idea of what to look for. With some gerd infants, other tests will be needed so don’t be surprised if your doctor orders some.
If your doctor does suspect that your baby has gastro-esophageal reflux, he may recommend that you start by making some lifestyle changes. First he will suggest smaller feedings more frequently as overfeeding the baby can make symptoms worse. The baby will need to be burped frequently, even mid-feeding, and you will need to keep him or her upright for a minimum of 30 minutes after a bottle. Don’t put your baby in the car seat after eating either as it tends to scrunch their little body up which causes they symptoms to appear. Some doctors recommend that you add rice cereal or oatmeal to formula, but that can lead to gas or other digestive issues. Only do this if your paediatrician recommends it.
With gerd infants, clothing needs to be kept loose around the abdomen. It is also a good idea to raise the top of the crib mattress to keep your baby at an angle while sleeping. Only use a wedge that fits the crib properly. Most cribs will allow you to raise and lower the mattress as your child grows. Set the bottom of the crib at the lowest setting and the top of the crib at a higher one. This will keep your baby propped up and safe at the same time. An added benefit is that ears will drain better so your baby will be less susceptible to an ear infection.
For gerd infants with severe cases, your paediatrician may give you a prescription medication. Many are available to choose from so he may even give you a combination of two or more. Be sure to use these just as he directs to help your baby as much as possible. We don’t want to see our little ones suffer and this will help to avoid pain for your baby.
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