Most adults with babies have one or two spit up stains on beloved band tees and well-worn sweatshirts. Harried moms have been covered in that icky white stuff from time to time and parents everywhere suffer the stains of their baby’s reflux. It is something quite commonplace with a newborn in the house. But what do you do when your baby’s spit up gets out of control?
GER (Gastroesophageal reflux), or the more advanced GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), is a chronic form of acid reflux in which the contents of the stomach flow into the esophagus. Infants under two years of age are at risk of developing GERD as a result of an underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter. This is a muscle that functions as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach. While the muscle is still developing, it may push food up the esophagus and result in regurgitation (spit up). Besides affecting your infant’s general temperament, GERD can cause coughing, vomiting, poor feeding, poor weight gain, poor growth and colic.
Parents can help treat this disease in a number of ways. You can read a more in depth article about GERD at Dr. Bob Sears’ blog.
Practice attachment parenting
This is one way to decrease your baby’s need to cry as crying can be a cause of reflux. GERD baby’s cries can be taxing for the baby and for parents feeling helpless or angry. Attachment parenting (AP) helps parents to produce a nurturing response to help keep baby happy.
Keep your baby semi-upright
This may help to keep food down. Carrying baby in a sling and avoiding leaving baby in a car seat for any extended period of time will help keep food from travelling back up the esophagus.
Keep your baby quiet after feeding
Avoid too much physical stimulation as to avoid upset stomach.
Offer smaller feedings more frequently
This will help to decrease the amount of food in the stomach. Dr. Sears recommends you “feed half as much food twice as often” in order to increase saliva production, which serves as a healing substance (epidermal growth factor) to help repair any damage to the esophagus.
Burp your baby
Avoid extra air that aggravates reflux.
Breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding empties the stomach faster than formula, breast milk is more easily digested, and babies that breastfeed typically feed more frequently.
Don’t leave your baby unsupervised while feeding in order to avoid gagging or choking.
Sleep in a reflux-friendly position
Help them to sleep either “on their tummies or on the left side, where the gastric inlet is higher than the outlet and gravity helps to keep food down,” as Dr. Sears informs. Stores also carry reflux wedges to sleep on or The Tucker Sling™, which was developed for GERD infants.
Minimize air swallowing
Decrease gas by ensuring that baby has a tight seal during feeding (in bottle feeding, use specific bottles and nipples to minimize air swallowing).
Don’t smoke around your baby
Nicotine stimulates gastric acid production and opens the lower esophageal sphincter.”
This will help to stimulate saliva production and soothe the baby (note that vigorous sucking may aggravate GERD in some infants due to increased air swallowing).
Avoid certain foods
Fatty foods, fried foods, stringy foods (seeds, skins, stringy fruits and vegetables), acidic foods (citrus, tomato, peppers, onions), meats with gristle, chocolate, carbonated beverages, spices, peppermint, chilies or some high sorbitol fruit juices (prune, pear, apple)
Keep a diary
This will help you to be a keen observer and monitor any episodes or symptoms. You can then more accurately report to your doctor in order to further treat your child with medication or even surgery. A laparoscopic procedure called fundoplication may be necessary, in which “a band of upper stomach muscle is wrapped either totally or partially around the lower esophagus to tighten the valve and lessen reflux,” as Dr. Bob Sears notes.
Do you have any questions or comments? Are there any tips or tricks to help struggling parents manage their baby’s reflux? Start the conversation in this blog’s comment section.
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Adults. 23 August 2013. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants. 5 September 2013. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerdinfant/#diagnosis.