It’s always easy to blame the pollen for my baby’s (as well as everyone else’s) irritability, but nothing seems to improve his condition. If it’s not an allergy issue, what else should I be considering?
A. It’s never the pollen! Pollen allergies actually take several years to affect babies. One of the most common causes of irritability are digestive issues such as reflux. Every baby has some amount of reflux. When you burp your baby, the “stuff” that comes up and out of the baby’s stomach is reflux. If your baby is throwing up (and not just burping), this is a sign of the condition. Parents should note that this is different from projectile vomiting, which could be a symptom of something more serious that requires immediate medical attention.
Babies breathe through their noses for the first few months of their life. Therefore, the most common symptoms of reflux in babies are respiratory symptoms—noisy breathing, runny nose, nasal congestion, arching after eating or choking during meals. If your baby is refluxing in the nose causing congestion, it’s hard for them to breathe, particularly when they are eating. If feeding time is difficult and noisy, and your child can’t breathe and eat at the same time, reflux is very likely the answer.
If you notice these symptoms, think about what your child is eating. Some babies might have a sensitivity to their formula and need an alternative, amino acid-based formula. Reflux is less common in babies who are breastfed. If you are breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that your child is eating what you are eating. Anything that causes discomfort in your body will also affect your baby. While diet is key, you also want your baby sitting up as much as possible. As soon as they are able to sit upright, purchase a baby seat and have them nap vertically during the day.
So, before you diagnose your baby with allergies or a chronic cold, remember that reflux is likely a culprit and the great masquerader of our time!
—DR. JAMIE KOUFMAN, M.D., F.A.C.S, founder and director of the Voice Institute of New York and author of Acid Reflux in Children.