Infant reflux or pediatric GERD occurs in nearly 50 percent newborns. The risk of infant reflux is greatest in premature babies. Nearly 85 percent premature babies are born with some degree of pediatric GERD.
Usually the symptoms of GERD subside naturally with proper development of the gastrointestinal tract of the infant, within a few months after birth.
Symptoms of infant reflux
Constant crying, vomiting, arching the body and throwing the neck backward during eating or after eating, frequent hiccups, irritation, poor sleep and frequent sinus or ear infections are common symptoms of infant reflux. However, the exact symptoms of infant reflux vary from infant to infant. The symptoms of infant reflux, especially silent reflux are often mistaken for colic. Infants suffering from silent reflux do not vomit. But they cry and scream inconsolably after every feed.
What causes infant reflux?
Reflux develops when the valve that controls the movement of contents between the esophagus and the stomach could not work properly. This is a common condition in infants born with underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter. The underdeveloped esophageal sphincter fails to close after liquid or food enters the infant’s stomach.
During the digestion process when the stomach contracts to push the contents in the stomach into the intestines, a portion of the stomach content blended with stomach acid moves upward into the esophagus through the relaxed lower esophageal sphincter.
The acid irritates the lining of the esophagus, causing intense pain. A part or the entire stomach content might move upwards into the esophagus and the child would vomit after each feed.
Infant reflux treatment
In most cases, infants outgrow this condition naturally after the complete development of the lower esophageal sphincter. Modification in lifestyle of the nursing mother could help to reduce the painful symptoms of infant reflux. Diary products tend to worsen the symptoms of acid reflux.
Breastfeeding mothers with babies suffering from acid reflux should avoid cow milk and dairy products. They should boost their calcium intake with leafy green vegetables and nuts.
While feeding your baby, position the child at an upright angle. After feeding, keep your baby propped up at least for 20 minutes to prevent acid reflux.