Those of us with children have, at one time or another, been on the wrong end of some spit-up. If you have a baby, there is just no way to avoid it. Spitting-up is normal but some babies may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD).
With GERD, a baby’s stomach contents, including the stomach acid, come back up out of the stomach and into the esophagus. This causes burping, heartburn and spitting up. GERD is common in premature infants. Some common signs of GERD include:
• Frequent spitting up or vomiting after feedings
• “Wet burp” or “wet hiccup” sounds
• Pain, irritability or crying after feedings
• Difficulty sleeping
• Difficulty gaining weight, or weight loss
Less common symptoms include swallowing problems, gagging, hoarse voice, sore throats, and failure to eat more than a few bites of food, which may result in an infant failing to grow and gain weight as expected.
There are a few things you can do if your health care provider has diagnosed reflux to help make feedings a more pleasant experience and reduce your baby’s discomfort:
• Feed the baby in an upright position (sitting up).
• Talk to your health care provider about thickening feedings (some have found this helpful while others notice it increases coughing fits).
• Avoid overfeeding. Give smaller feedings, but more frequently.
• Burp your baby often.
• After feeding, help your baby to remain in an upright position for at least 30 minutes.
These suggestions can be helpful for all parents, even those whose babies spit up only occasionally and do not have GERD.
If none of these steps help, or if your child seems underfed, is not gaining weight, or is losing weight, talk to your health care provider. There are prescription medications that may be beneficial. And sometimes surgery may be necessary. Rest assured however, most babies outgrow reflux after about one year.
Did your preemie or full-term baby suffer from reflux? What worked for you?