Infant GERD: Symptoms and Solutions

You’ve brought your newborn home from the hospital and are learning all of the important things about being a new parent – feeding, burping, bathing, changing diapers, and all of the other little tasks that may be a bit messy, confusing, and – let’s admit it – stressful. 

If your little baby has begun to cry excessively, refuse feedings, and experience forceful spitting up, he may have infant GERD. But there’s no need to worry. You can help your infant feel better, and you won’t have to struggle with calming your poor baby forever. 

It may feel overwhelming, as you are already an exhausted new parent who’s getting up at night to feed, change, and comfort your baby and simply not getting the amount of rest you need. However, whether your baby has been to the doctor and diagnosed with GERD or you simply suspect that is what’s wrong, there are some things you should know about GERD that can help. Keep reading to learn about some simple changes and actions you can take.

What Is Infant GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is when the contents of the stomach pass into the esophagus. This is often, but not always, accompanied by spitting up and vomiting. American Family Physician (AFP) reports that GERD is normal in infants and that it “causes troublesome symptoms or leads to medical complications.” However, the publication also states that regurgitation (spitting up) resolves by twelve months of age and does not need to be treated. 

Does that mean that your child must suffer for twelve months while you are unable to do anything to help them feel better? Not at all.

How Is GERD Treated in Infants?

You are able to make several lifestyle changes to help your infant if you suspect GERD may be causing them pain. AFP recommends a more upright position for your child while they are awake, keeping their head raised higher than their stomach to prevent the stomach contents from easily moving into the esophagus. 

They also suggest offering less milk per feeding and thickening formula with infant cereals. Feeding them smaller amounts of milk more frequently throughout the day will help them spit up less and keep more milk in their bellies. It also prevents them from getting over-full, which can lead to more instances of spitting up. 

You can also try different formulas, such as anti-regurgitant formula, extensively hydrolyzed formulas, or amino acid formulas. If your child is breast-fed, the mother should try eliminating cow’s milk and eggs from their diet to see if that helps. Seeing a chiropractor can also help with GERD and its symptoms.

How Is Infant GERD Different?

Infant GERD is different from when adults have it. While it’s like acid reflux, it’s a little more severe. Rather than experiencing small amounts of spit up or regurgitation, infants have forceful episodes that resemble vomiting. There’s typically a large volume of spit up.

Infant GERD may be related to an underdeveloped digestive system. Even after they’re born, babies are still growing and developing. Their digestive systems are very sensitive, which is why it’s important to start them out on milk and as they age, slowly add gentle foods, like fruits and vegetables. Some infants take a little longer to develop, and their digestive systems react to new foods and even to milk alone. 

Thankfully, infant GERD is rarely serious. It may be frightening to see your baby forcefully vomit large amounts of milk, particularly as they arch their back and cry. However, there is no real danger to their overall health, and it’s just a matter of finding the right method of easing their pain. 

If your child is not gaining weight or constantly crying because of their GERD symptoms, then it is certainly time to see their pediatrician. 

What Do Chiropractors Do For Infant GERD?

While there are several lifestyle changes mentioned that help babies with GERD, taking your infant to the chiropractor may also be a good option. Chiropractic care is usually a very effective treatment for infant GERD. Pediatric chiropractors can perform gentle adjustments to the baby’s spine, which can remove spinal misalignments. 

Birthing an infant is a difficult process that sometimes puts pressure on a baby’s bones, joints, and muscles as they travel through the birth canal. This pressure can cause spinal misalignments that may affect a baby’s digestive system through the series of nerves that run from the spine throughout the body. 

Chiropractors are extremely gentle when providing adjustments to infants. They can help their nervous systems work better so that their digestive system can heal. These adjustments ultimately improve GERD symptoms and allow an infant to consume milk without as much spitting up or pain. 

Dr. Tim Swift proudly serves San Clemente, San Juan, Dana Point, and the surrounding areas of Orange County, California.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

Dr. Tim Swift

Dr. Tim Swift

Dr. Tim Swift combines his chiropractic expertise with regenerative medicine to bring a passion for restoring health, mobility, and vitality to help his community feel and function better.

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