Most babies will regurgitate their milk at some point throughout the average day. However, when this starts to happen on a regular basis, the underlying cause could be acid reflux. This can be painful and uncomfortable for your child, and it can lead to a great deal of distress if left untreated. The first step to getting your child help involves identifying that acid reflux might be the cause of your child’s vomiting.
What are the common symptoms of acid reflux?
The most obvious symptom related to acid reflux is regular vomiting. All babies will bring up a little milk from time to time – particularly after being winded. However, when it’s happening regularly throughout the day, your baby could be suffering with chronic acid reflux. Other symptoms to look out for include a persistent cough and difficulty swallowing. Your baby may cry whilst feeding – which might be the result of swallowing problems or the burning sensation that acid reflux causes.
What causes acid reflux in babies?
Acid reflux is the upwards movement of stomach contents through the oesophagus, and there are several reasons why this can happen. It may simply be because of an immature digestive system, or it may be down to muscular or nerve problems. Some children develop the condition when they consume certain foods, while others have conditions that affect the operation of the lower oesophageal sphincter. Only a full assessment by a doctor will reveal the root cause of your child’s acid reflux.
What treatments are available for acid reflux in infants?
The simplest, and often most effective, treatments for acid reflux in infants involve small lifestyle changes. For instance, elevating your baby’s head very slightly whilst she is sleeping can help to prevent the condition occurring through gravity alone. If you find that the problem is at its worst immediately after feeding, it may be a good idea to hold her upright for at least 30 minutes afterwards. Acid reflux can also differ in severity at particular times of the day, so try experimenting with your baby’s feeding schedule. A doctor may suggest thickening milk with a type of cereal, or hastening the switch to solids.
Unfortunately, severe cases of acid reflux may require medication. Antacids to reduce stomach acid levels and reduce gas may be prescribed. If those prove ineffective, your baby may be prescribed anti-histamines or proton-pump inhibitors that reduce the amount of acid your baby’s stomach produces. While there are some side-effects associated with these medications – including diarrhoea and nausea – they are usually mild and relatively rare.
Most babies will grow out of reflux after a few months. However, there have been cases when the problem has worsened with age – due to underlying physiological problems. A procedure known as fundoplication may be required if none of the drugs and lifestyle changes you’ve tried provide your baby with relief. It involves using the upper portion of the stomach to strengthen the oesophageal sphincter, thus reducing the chances of stomach acid travelling upwards. If your baby has been unable to feed properly because of severe acid reflux, a surgeon may perform a gastrostomy at the same time, which means a feeding tube can be inserted directly into baby’s stomach.
In the vast majority of cases, just a few simple changes to routine or some relatively common medications will be enough to alleviate your child’s symptoms. The first step to ensuring your baby gets the proper baby reflux treatment is booking an appointment with your GP or local children’s hospital.
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