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My Baby Is Cranky: Could He Have GERD?

My Baby Is Cranky: Could He Have GERD?

I didn’t know what was wrong with my infant son. He cried all the time, but rarely spit up even though we regularly burped him. Eventually, I thought maybe he was colicky.

Turns out he had infant acid reflux syndrome, or GERD, which stands for “gastroesophageal reflux disorder.” His pediatrician ended up putting him on a low dose of dissolvable Prevacid when he was three months old, and changing his formula to a heavier one, since the lighter formula was making things worse.  

A lot of babies are born with GERD, and new parents don’t know much about it. Dr. Lauren Mitchell, a pediatrician in Collierville, Tennessee, said it isn’t usually anything to really worry about, unless parents notice certain signs.    

“Infant reflux generally isn’t a cause for concern,” she said. “You should keep an eye out if your baby is consistently projectile vomiting, spitting up green bile, doesn’t begin spitting up until she or he is six months old, or older, or, of course, if you notice the baby is refusing breast milk or the bottle at all.”    

However, she said, for those who have babies with GERD, the hints aren’t always easy to spot, unless you know what to look for.    

The factors that contribute to infant reflux are common in babies and often can’t be avoided. These factors include: lying flat most of the time; having an almost completely liquid diet; and being born prematurely (which was the case with my son).    

Of course, explained Dr. Mitchell, most babies lie flat at times and take in only breast milk or formula. So, she said, watch out for signs such as your baby not spitting up enough, not wanting to eat when she or he should be hungry, or just generally being irritable with no real cause.  

“Infant acid reflux is sometimes treated with the same medicines adults take,” Dr. Mitchell said, mentioning Prevacid. “The dissolvable Prevacid is easily tolerated by little ones, and usually they don’t have to stay on it very long, maybe a period of three, four or five months. Sometimes, up to one year old.”
“Still, it’s not a real cause for concern,” she added. “It’s just very uncomfortable, as it is with adults.”    

Other than medication, Dr. Mitchell suggested measures such as sitting upright with the child for longer after feedingsthan just a few minutes, or trying out different sizes of bottle nipples, since a nipple that’s too large can cause your baby to swallow too much air. She also suggested trying a heavier formula or mixing small amounts of rice cereal into the formula or breast milk (although this should be done just a little, since thickening adds potentially unnecessary calories to your baby’s diet).   

“And, of course, make sure you communicate with your pediatrician at all times,” Dr. Mitchell emphasized.


By Rebekah Yearout

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