As a parent, it can be difficult to know what is and isn't normal for infant behavior and growth. According to Children's Health Partners, one of the primary ways doctors detect that an infant has a problem is to monitor the child's height and weight as he gets older. Gastroesophageal reflux causes food to leak back into the esophagus from the stomach. According to Medline Plus, more than half of all babies will have some type of reflux during their first three months. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease occurs when the spitting up causes additional symptoms or complications from the stomach's contents coming back up through the esophagus.
Basic or Benign Reflux
It is normal for babies to spit up. According to Children's Health Partners, some babies will grow, gain weight and seem content but spit up frequently and in large quantities. This type of reflux isn't a cause for concern, and most likely your baby will grow out of it.
Babies who have GERD tend to be uncomfortable and will push the bottle or breast away or arch their backs while feeding. Instead of consuming more formula or breastmilk as they get older, infants with GERD will start to eat less and less. At times, the food comes back up and then is swallowed again, which causes the infant to stop gaining weight.
Colic Versus GERD
The symptoms of colic and GERD can appear to be very similar.The two conditions often appear together, which can make it difficult to distinguish which one your infant has. Colic tends to start around 2 weeks of age and is unrelated to feeding. The fussiness tends to be at the same time of day. It generally subsides around 4 to 6 months of age, states Childrens's Health Partners. GERD is likely if the fussiness occurs around feeding time, and it can persist through the first year and might get worse at 4 to 6 months, instead of improving.
Speaking to the Doctor
If you suspect that your infant might have GERD, you should schedule an appointment with her pediatrician. He can look at your infant's physical symptoms and make a diagnosis. He might also order X-rays or monitor the pH of the esophagus to determine whether something else is the culprit.
There are a number of things you can do to help relieve your infant's symptoms if you suspect GERD is the cause of his fussiness. Burp him after every 1 to 2 ounces of formula or after feeding on each side if breastfeeding. According to Medline Plus, placing your infant on your chest in a semi-reclined position after feeding can reduce the incidence of spitting up. Some infants tend to handle frequent, smaller feedings instead of large ones spaced out more. Your pediatrician might also advise adding a teaspoon of rice cereal to the bottle, which thickens the formula and helps it stay in the stomach better. If these changes are ineffective, your pediatrician might prescribe an acid-reducing medication.