Around 20% of babies are affected by acid reflux, also known as GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), during the first nine months of life. The most common and visible symptom is spitting up after all or most meals in excessive volumes.
Almost all babies who suffer from GERD will get better by the time they are one year old. However until they grow out of this they are very difficult to care for and the condition will impact on the entire family; particularly because when the baby is up all night screaming mum, dad, other children and possibly neighbours won’t get much sleep either. There are treatments which can help but you should always consult your doctor or paediatrician before trying any of them.
The lower oesophageal sphincter is a muscle located at the bottom of the oesophagus where it meets the stomach. Once fully developed, the lower oesophageal sphincter will open to allow swallowing, vomiting and burping and close fully afterwards. Acid reflux is caused by this muscle being underdeveloped and relaxing too often, allowing stomach contents to go back up the throat. Gravity in particular can help with this problem and so if you believe your baby is suffering from GERD you should aim to keep his/her head at least 30% higher than their stomach.
The symptoms and severity of baby acid reflux vary from child to child. The most common visible symptom is spit up or vomit, however even this is not present in babies suffering from silent acid reflux. If your baby is suffering from acid reflux he/she may also try to avoid feeding by arching their back and neck, crying and screaming. This, accompanied with spitting up, can often lead to weight loss or poor weight gain. Babies with silent reflux, on the other hand, an often gain weight. This is because they will overfeed to temporarily soothe their throat and because they do not spit up. Babies with acid reflux will also cry or scream in pain for no apparent reason, frequently and for excessive periods of time; usually this will be during or soon after feeds.
GERD infants often flail their arm around erratically, this is due to the severe pain they experience across their chest or upper abdomen. Almost all babies with acid reflux will wake up constantly throughout the night, generally they will also cry out in pain. The easiest way to help you baby in getting a good nights sleep is to angle their crib or bed by at least 30% so that their head is higher than their stomach, this is in order to allow gravity to help keep their stomach contents down.
Acid reflux babies should be diagnosed by a doctor as soon as possible. Diagnosing GERD can often be difficult and so you should be prepared to explain the symptoms you have identified along with when they normally appear.
Steve Phillips is someone who has had to care for babies with acid reflux. He would recommend seeking medical assistance to diagnose the condition properly. If you are looking for parent to parent help, then the website Survive Baby Reflux is a very good resource. It has useful hints, tips and tricks to help you get through your difficult months.