Most of us have experienced gastroesophageal reflux at some point in our lives. The symptoms of heartburn and burping can occur when we eat fatty foods or drink coffee.
Babies may experience reflux too, but the causes and symptoms are usually different. Below we will discuss some of the reasons why babies experience reflux symptoms and what these symptoms may look like, as well as what you can do to help alleviate symptoms if your baby is experiencing reflux.
Why it happens
When adults experience reflux, it is usually acid reflux, but this isn’t usually the case for babies. Rather, reflux in babies is usually caused when stomach contents get into the esophagus. This happens because the esophageal sphincter relaxes more than it should. Usually, as babies grow and the esophageal sphincter strengthens, a baby will outgrow reflux symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Reflux symptoms in babies are common and easily recognizable. They include spitting up after eating, gagging or choking, and general fussiness when it is time to eat. These symptoms are normal in most cases and will subside as the baby gets older.
You should talk to your child’s doctor if you have any concerns or if your child experiences breathing difficulties.
What you can do
- Try feeding with thicker liquids: You can try thickening formula or breast milk with oatmeal, as this will help it stay in the baby’s stomach.
- Don’t overfeed your baby: It is easy to assume that your baby is hungry if he or she is crying around mealtimes, but be careful not to feed your baby too much. This can actually cause reflux and discomfort.
- Avoid treatment with medication: because reflux is usually not caused by acid in babies, most medications are not effective. In fact, medications typically used to treat acid reflux can cause negative side effects in children. If your child’s doctor does determine that medication is necessary, follow instructions closely, and keep an eye on your baby to make sure they aren’t experiencing any negative side-effects.
If your baby is experiencing reflux, know that most of the time the symptoms are normal and will begin to go away as your baby grows. But if you do have any concerns about reflux or other feeding problems, talk to your child’s pediatrician.