Your baby May Have Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER)
Author: Melissa Lahti
August 29, 2013
More than half of all babies have a disease we call Gastroesophageal Reflux, or GER for short, during their first three months of life. There is a ring of muscles at the base of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. The LES opens and closes to allow the food to go into the stomach and to stop it from coming back up. Sometimes this muscle is weak and it allows food mixed with the acids of the stomach to spill back into the esophagus, causing the baby to spit up or vomit. The acids from the stomach burn the back of the throat causing pain for the baby. There are a small number of babies that have symptoms severe enough that you would need to contact a doctor.
Common signs and symptoms of GER include: spitting up more than normal, vomiting, coughing, irritability, poor feeding, and bad breath. Complications can arise from the GER and develop into GERD if the baby starts having problems gaining weight, respiratory problems, esophagitis, or spitting up or vomiting blood (The blood is caused from the esophagus bleeding when it gets burned by the stomach acid). GERD is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and is a little more complicated since GER will normally go away on its own by the time the child is about 18 months. If your baby starts showing signs and symptoms similar to GERD, you should probably take them to the doctor.
Most babies do not need to see a doctor for GER as the symptoms can usually be managed by a few simple changes in feeding habits.
• Try feeding smaller more frequent meals, to avoid overfilling the stomach and preventing the food from coming back up.
• Keep the baby in an upright position before and after feeding, this will also help to keep the food in the stomach.
• Stop in the middle of the feeding to burp the baby.
Sometimes GER can be a sign of an allergy to the protein in milk. If you suspect this, you can try eliminating dairy completely from the baby’s diet for two weeks and see if all the symptoms go away. To read more about this see my article: How I found out about my baby’s milk protein allergy.
The first two years are hard with all the ailments and problems that will arise with a baby. When in doubt, always contact your doctor. Good luck and happy health to you all!