Acid Reflux in babies

What is Acid Reflux?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as acid reflux, is a chronic condition that causes dreadful discomfort and pain by allowing stomach acids to rise from the stomach into the oesophagus causing symptoms that are very similar to heartburn.

What causes Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is usually caused by problems with the lower oesophageal sphincter, which is a bit like a barrier or flap between the stomach and the oesophagus that usually prevents excess acid escaping.  Infants that experience acid reflux suffer in this way because they cannot stand or even sit up straight, and because the oesophageal sphincter hasn’t yet fully developed it makes it easier for the acid to rise into the oesophagus when they are lying down.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux in infants include:

  • Vomiting
  • Burping (more often than usual)
  • Effortless spitting up
  • Coughing
  • Refusal of food
  • Crying inconsolably
  • Bad breath

These should just be used as a guideline; there may well be other symptoms.  The main test for acid reflux will be in how your baby sleeps at night.  If you and your baby are suffering a very disturbed night with many of the symptoms listed above then you are almost certainly dealing with acid reflux.  Symptoms are usually worse in the night because your baby will have a full stomach and they will be expected to lie down for a prolonged period of time.

How can you cure Acid Reflux?

There is no real recommended cure for acid reflux in babies simply because they will usually grow out of it before their first birthday.  Not only is this a condition that is usually cured by time, it also has a lot to do with your baby becoming more active too; because your baby will be able to sit up straight and eventually stand, less stomach acid will be allowed into the oesophagus and this will greatly alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux.  If symptoms persist after your child has reached the one year mark and beyond then it becomes essential for further diagnosis and perhaps more expert advice.

Relief from Acid Reflux

  • Medication. There are several types of medicine that can help enormously with the symptoms of acid reflux, however you will have to see your doctor for advice about which to use.
  • Avoid tight clothing.  This can make acid reflux worse.  When tight clothing puts pressure on the abdomen stomach acids can actually be forced to rise into the oesophagus.
  • Diet.  Although there is no significant evidence based research into a connection with food, some parents may find that keeping their child away from certain foods, such as acidic fruit, may help alleviate their baby’s acid.  Some breastfeeding women also claim that they alleviate their baby’s acid if they stay away from particularly spicy foods, and sometimes avoid drinking tea and coffee.
  • Sleeping. Obviously it goes without saying that your baby needs sleep.  However, if your child is suffering with acid reflux you will be well aware that this isn’t always very easy to achieve, and it’s even harder to get your child to sleep at the right time of day.  Sometimes, as soon as they lie down the acid begins rising and makes them feeling uncomfortable.

The only real solution for this is to ensure that they are sleeping with the top half of their body raised, in order to alleviate the acid.  It is important to make sure that the entire top half of the body is raised and not just the head, because this will only result in a stiff neck.  There are products on the market today called baby sleep positioners that can make this much easier to attain and actually position your baby within their cot so the top half of their body is elevated; thus allowing them to sleep safely and more comfortably.  By using a positioner, this technique, often in conjunction with some recommended or prescribed medication, will allow a reasonably restful night.

Seek Medical Assistance

If you feel that your baby is suffering with acid reflux or anything you’re uncertain of, you should seek medical advice.  Before you consider taking steps to alleviate symptoms, a correct diagnosis from a trained professional is strongly recommended.

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