There is nothing more heart wrenching to you, as a new parent, than the sound of your baby crying. However, trying to figure out the cause can be extremely frustrating. It sometimes gets to the point where many parents long for the days when their children can just say, “I’m hungry” or “My Diaper is wet and uncomfortable.” The fear is always that there may be something wrong with the baby that is difficult for parents to diagnose. Frequently spitting up milk, shying away from the breast and crying can be signs that something is not quite right. More than half of all babies experience infant acid reflux during their first few months, but how do you know when it is a problem?
Because the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the one way valve that closes the throat, is not yet fully developed, the soft tissue allows for liquid to come back up just as easy as it went down. This explains why newborn babies have a tendency to spit up a lot. However, as the child ages this becomes less of a problem, although it is possible that he or she may have infant reflux.
Aside from being kind of gross, infant acid reflux can be a sign of GERD (a severe version of reflux resulting in awful pain, vomiting and poor weight gain) or Pyloric Stenosis (a rare condition where a narrowed valve prevents stomach contents from emptying properly into the intestines). You should seek medical advice if your baby resists feeding but seems hungry, is not gaining weight, has fewer wet diapers than normal and seems lethargic, spits up forcefully, spits up green or brown fluid, or spits up more than a few tablespoons at a time. If your baby sounds hoarse all the time, has diarrhea or difficulty breathing, then definitely ask your doctor about infant reflux.
While breastfeeding, try to keep your baby in a slightly upright position by holding, using pillows or a feeding product, such as the Pollywog Nursing Positioner. It is also possible you are simply feeding your baby too much at once. Try smaller feedings, which could reduce the incidence of regurgitation.
If you are bottle feeding, you may want to try a different bottle, such as Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Bottles, which are specially designed to reduce air bubbles that trigger burping, ear fluid and infant reflux. There are also other formulas that your baby might digest better.
For babies with merely infant reflux and no milk allergies, Enfamil AR is designed for them. However, if the milk-based formula seems to upset your baby, soy-based, lactose-free or hypoallergenic formulas are available. In fact, approximately 25% of babies in the US are on soy-based formulas. Isomil and Prosobee are two popular soy-based formulas on the market. Hypoallergenic formulas include: Alimentum, Nutramigen, Pregestimil, Neocate and Elecare.
Do not lay your baby down on his or her back after feeding. Often, babies cry when they are laid on their back after spitting up because the acid burns and causes added discomfort. Some products are available, such as “the tucker sling/wedge,” which is a soft pillow combined with a Velcro strap that allows babies to rest on their stomachs at a slight incline. Similarly, the “Amby Baby Hammock” will encourage babies to sleep in a slightly upright position, instead of laying down in a crib. Another helpful product is a “swaddling blanket,” which eases fussiness in babies and can assist babies who develop infant reflux from stress-related agitation.
When all traditional methods fail, medication can treat severe GERD symptoms. Decreased dosages of Zantac, Nexium, Prilosec and Tagamet have been prescribed for infant acid reflux. In some cases, surgery can tighten the improperly functioning esophageal muscle associated with the reflux.