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Heads up: Infant reflux Baby Care

Heads up: Infant reflux

What moms should know about GERD.

What it is
“Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is when the contents of the stomach go up into the esophagus,” explains Suzanne P. Nelson, MD, MPH, pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Gastroenterology Specialists, S.C. in Glenview, Illinois, and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “All babies have GER. However, when GER causes problems it is called gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).  Symptoms of GERD for infants can include fussiness, problems eating, sleeping and growing—and even respiratory symptoms, such as cough[ing] or problems breathing.”

When it happens
“For most infants, reflux starts at around 2 weeks of age,” Nelson says. “The peak time for irritability is 2-3 months, and the peak time for spitting up is 4 months. Most infants outgrow reflux between 6-7 months, and almost all outgrow it by 1 year.”

How to treat it
“Most reflux can be managed by lifestyle changes,” suggests Nelson, who recommends burping often, offering smaller and more frequent feedings, avoiding sitting baby in the car seat at home and holding baby upright for at least 30 minutes after meals. Other solutions include using thickened formulas, adding cereal to formula or trying hypo-allergenic formula. “For infants who don’t respond to these measures,” Nelson adds, “a trial of medication may be useful.”

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