Which baby doesn't spit up their food! This is usually not a reason to worry, but if this spitting up is chronic and is accompanied by other symptoms it is known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Severe GERD can cause weight loss and breathing problems and thus, should not be ignored.
Reflux occurs when food is pushed out of the stomach and back up the esophagus. This is usually because the digestive system in babies is not yet fully developed. Vomiting often during the day is one of the most common symptoms of GERD. Other symptoms include:
- A persistent cough
- Choking or gagging while eating
- Refusing to eat
- Crying while feeding
- Pain in the stomach
Most cases of GERD can be diagnosed by its symptoms and a look at the baby's medical history. In some cases, additional tests may be required, such as:
- Barium swallow: The child is given a chalky substance to drink. This highlights the esophagus, stomach and upper part of the small intestines in a special X-ray. It is used to check if there are any blockages in the digestive system.
- pH probe: A long, thin tube with a probe at one end is put down the child's throat. This is kept in the esophagus for 24 hours. The probe measures the levels of acidity in the stomach. This test is usually done when the child complains of breathing problems along with reflux.
- Upper GI endoscopy: Here the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube down the child's throat. At one end of the tube is a camera that allows the doctor to look into the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
- Gastric emptying study: One of the causes of reflux is the slow emptying of the stomach. To check this, the doctor will mix a radioactive chemical with the baby's milk that allows a special camera to follow its path down the digestive system.
In most cases, GERD can be treated by making a few lifestyle changes. Some of these are:
- Raise the head of the baby's crib
- After feeding the baby, do not let him lie down, but hold him upright for half an hour or so.
- Change his feeding schedule
- Ask your doctor if you can try giving him solid food. Else, check if you can thicken his feed with cereal.
- Make the baby burp after feeding
Most infants outgrow this condition within a year, so do not stress yourself and enjoy life with your baby.