The Complete Guide to Treating Infant Reflux
What is infant reflux?
Reflux (the flow of stomach acid back up the esophagus) is one of the most common phenomena infants experience during their first year of life, plaguing nursing and formula-fed infants alike. According to the medical definition, reflux occurs when the contents of the infant’s stomach - food or stomach acid, returns up the esophagus and into the mouth, sometimes even exiting the body as spit up or vomit.
What causes infant reflux?
Malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (muscle), which remains lax for lengthy periods of time during the day and enable digesting content to return from the stomach to the esophagus. Infants ingest highly liquid food, unlike during other life stages, where food is more solid in form. What’s more, the infant spends most of the time, day and night, laying on their back (supinely), making it easier for liquid food to return from the stomach, up the esophagus and into the mouth.
How do you treat reflux in infants?
First, make sure no other illness is plaguing your child. Then, carefully go over your infant’s diet, including the type of foods they ingest (breastmilk, formula, solids), how much they eat (per meal and per day) and their rate of growth.
Subsequent treatment of reflux includes receiving guidance on the problem, its transient nature, the lack of short and long-term damage and advice on proper nutrition. Ensure that the infant is not overeating - not too much in one meal, or two many meals in a day. If your infant is nourished by dairy formula, you can also try switching over to anti-regurgitation (reflux) formula, or thickening the regular formula.
Parents should also learn to lay their infants on a 30 degree incline, where the head is held up and straight.
Reflux in nursing infants
Reflux and nursing? There no need to stop nursing, but rather to shorten feed times, to reduce the volume of ingested breastmilk at each meal and relieve the symptoms of reflux. In more severe cases of reflux, nursing mothers can try limiting their dairy intake.
What about using medication to treat infant reflux?
Antacid medications, such as infant versions of zantac or losec, are not generally necessary, as though their use does reduce the acidity of the stomach acid, it does not prevent it from rising up the esophagus and into the mouth.
Few studies point to the effectiveness of probiotics, formulas containing broken down milk protein. They are not nearly enough to create the robustness needed for us to unwaveringly recommend their use.
When should you take your infant to the doctor?
● When infant reflux causes crying and restlessness (as defined by parents)
● Causes a drop in appetite
● Leads to lack of weight gain (according to Tipat Chalav charts)
● Is accompanied by coughing and/or pneumonia
● Is accompanied by choking or bloody spit up
Should these symptoms appear together with an allergic reaction or atopic dermatitis, your infant may be allergic to cow’s milk and you should alter their diet (and yours, if you’re nursing), eliminating cow’s milk completely.
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