Acid Reflux in Babies

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Have you ever dealt with that achy heartburn-like feeling from acid reflux? As an adult, you may grab some antacids and continue on with your day – taking note of what caused the issue so you can avoid it in the future. 

Unfortunately, babies don’t have the same luxuries adults do with being able to solve their achy problems. Instead, they cry. And they cry some more. Being a parent, you are at a loss as to what is causing your baby so much discomfort. 

You begin the problem-solving process and believe that your baby has an acid reflux problem, so what do you do next? If your baby is formula fed, there are special formulas to help you on your journey. And even if they are breastfeeding, some mothers will supplement with AR formulas to help ease their baby’s AR problems. This article discusses the steps a parent can make, and all things related to AR – to help you down this path.

Causes of Acid Reflux in Babies

The most common cause of acid reflux in babies has to deal with their esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) isn’t fully developed in some babies when they are born, and although this continues to develop throughout those first few months, it can cause issues. As many babies are born with their LES functioning properly (closing after each intake), the contents of the stomach are prevented from coming back up. 

For babies that are struggling with their LES, the contents of the stomach may easily come back up again. This leads to acid reflux suffering, as the acid in the tummy is meant to digest all those foods and can be very uncomfortable if not kept there.

What can cause these flare ups of AR in your baby?

  • Lying flat – as the LES is unable to close, the acid easily passes out of the stomach in this position
  • Liquid diet – of course you can’t avoid this in the first 6 months of your baby’s life. But the lack of solids means the contents can more easily flow back up.
  • Being born premature – As mentioned, the underdeveloped LES is the root of the cause. It’s more likely that babies born premature will have underdeveloped systems throughout their body, to include the LES.

Signs of Acid Reflux in Babies

First things first, you may wonder what are the signs of acid reflux in your baby? There are a few different symptoms you should be on the lookout for:

  • Crying and discomfort: The most common sign and can easily be confused with other issues
  • Vomiting: A little bit of spit-up is common, but if more than a small amount is coming up, this could be connected to the acid reflux issue. 
  • Coughing during feeding: Your baby may cough more simply because they are getting the food coming back up during the feeding. As such, they may try coughing to relieve the uncomfortable feeling.
  • Gas: This may be a strange symptom, but the excessive crying can create excessive gas with all the air intake. Moreover, the esophageal tube not closing properly may lead to extra air intake during feedings.

Relief for Babies with Acid Reflux

Most of the relief you can give your baby has to deal with recognizing when they struggle the most. Many babies have a much harder time during and after feedings, and this is where you can provide some type of control. 

Tips to help baby:

  • Upright Position: After feeding, make sure you don’t lay baby on their backs. Keep them in an upright position (sitting in your lap or elevated like in a car seat) for about 30 minutes. This helps prevent the food from coming back up.
  • Try AR formula: There are many different brands of formula specifically designed for babies with acid reflux. They add thickeners to help the formula stay down. Our favorite choice is HiPP AR, as it has organic locust bean gum and prebiotics/probiotics to help aid in digestion.

Conclusion

It is very difficult dealing with a baby that is suffering from acid reflux. But the good news is that there are ways as a parent that you can provide temporary relief. And the best news is that most babies outgrow acid reflux issues by 18 months old. So, keep doing all you can for your precious little one, speaking with your pediatrician about any concerns, and know this too will pass!