If your baby is in pain, you want to fix it...now. Up to half of babies under 3 months of age are affected by reflux and in some babies, it can be painful. What is reflux and how do you know when to see a doctor?
Reflux happens when food does not stay in the stomach and moves back into the esophagus. Sometimes it continues to move up and causes a baby to spit up some of its food. When milk mixes with stomach acid and then washes back up, it can be painful. Adults are not the only ones who deal with gastrointestinal reflux, or heartburn. It is common for babies to spit up and it is usually due to the immaturity of the esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a valve-like structure that opens and closes to allow food into the stomach. Since babies cannot sit up on their own it is easier for the food to come back up through the sphincter instead of digesting properly.
There are things you can try at home to relieve your baby’s discomfort. These include keeping the baby upright after feedings for at least 20-30 minutes, giving him smaller, more frequent meals, burping him more frequently, and addressing any constipation issues. Sometimes, changing bottles or nipple type may help.
As long as your baby is gaining weight and growing with no other medical problems, then there really is not a problem. The reflux usually goes away on its own when the baby is 12-18 months old. Did you know that there is a medical specialty for pediatric gastroenterology? These specialists step in when the reflux is not responding to standard treatment, seems especially painful, occurs with excessive vomiting, or a failure to thrive. There are some conservative treatments you can talk to your gastroenterologist about trying. Be sure to let your gastroenterologist know if your baby is not gaining weight appropriately or if other medical conditions develop. They can let you know what treatments or precautions you can take to help get rid of the problem.