There’s nothing quite like being a parent. It’s a role that comes with so many experiences — many of them happy, some of them sad, and quite a few just plain gross. One of the rites of passage for new parents? Baby vomit. It’s a natural part of the parenting process, and something that's impossible to avoid. That being said, it’s important to know what’s normal when it comes to baby vomit, and when it might be signaling something more serious.
As you probably already know, babies and infants tend to do a little spit up after being fed — this is completely normal and healthy! This gastroesophageal reflux is called GER and is most commonly known as acid reflux (also normal!)In some cases, though, there are babies and infants who experience more severe reflux which leads to pain, discomfort, and feeding difficulties. While uncommon, these symptoms are indicative of GERD, and some babies and infants do suffer from it.
While not serious in children, recognizing the symptoms of GERD in infants can help reduce their discomfort during and after eating. Treatment for GERD in babies and infants is possible and can improve their overall health.
Oftentimes, GERD in babies and infants is caused by an underdeveloped or immature gastrointestinal tract. As the baby ages, so does their gastrointestinal tract, which oftentimes allows the child to outgrow the issue by the end of their first year.
The symptoms of GERD in infants usually consist of:
Frequent or recurrent vomiting
Frequent or persistent cough or wheezing
Refusing to eat or difficulty eating (choking or gagging with feeding)
Heartburn, gas, abdominal pain, or colicky behavior (frequent crying and fussiness) associated with feeding or immediately after
Regurgitation and re-swallowing
Frequent projectile vomiting
Because babies and infants do not have strong stomach acids, the symptoms of GERD are not serious, though they may cause some discomfort. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, trying some of the following lifestyle changes could help.
Elevate the head of the baby's crib or bassinet.
Hold the baby upright for 30 minutes after a feeding.
Thicken bottle feedings with cereal or oatmeal (do not do this without your doctor's approval).
Feed your baby smaller amounts of food more often.
Try solid food (with your doctor's approval).
For older children:
Elevate the head of the child's bed.
Keep the child upright for at least two hours after eating.
Serve several small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
Make sure your child is not overeating.
Limit foods and beverages that seem to worsen your child's reflux such as high fat, fried or spicy foods, carbonation, and caffeine.
Encourage your child to get regular exercise.
While only a very small percentage of babies and toddler do not to outgrow GERD, the disease is highly treatable. If the symptoms cannot be managed with lifestyle changes or if they are very serious, your doctor may recommend surgery. If you suspect that your baby or infant may be suffering from GERD, contact us for more information or to book an appointment.