Symptoms of GERD in Infants

By Heather Mark

  • Overview

    Symptoms of GERD in Infants
    Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, is commonly known as heartburn in the adult world. But for babies it can cause great discomfort accompanied by vomiting, sore throat, and sometimes more severe side effects like ear infections. For most babies, GERD remedies itself by their first birthdays. But others may need intervention from a pediatrician or gastroenterologist.
  • Symptoms

    All babies spit up, some more than others. And occasional vomiting is normal, too. But GERD in infants can also present itself in the baby's body language. If the baby coughs or gags during feedings, if she cries or screams when she should be sleeping, or if she arches her back or draws her legs up to her abdomen it might indicate she has stomach pain.
  • Causes

    Spitting up is caused by an immature sphincter muscle at the point where the esophagus and stomach meet. When it misfires, the milk that doesn't pass through to the stomach comes back up. GERD is an exaggerated malfunction of that valve. When it doesn't close, the contents of the stomach as well as stomach acid flow up the esophagus to the mouth. The gastric juices can cause irritation and pain in the baby's throat and stomach.


  • Considerations

    Babies with more serious cases of GERD can lose weight because they aren't keeping their food down long enough to digest it. Sometimes it gets so bad that the baby will refuse to eat in order to avoid the pain. When vomit enters a baby's nose, she may experience ear or sinus infections as a result. And in the worst-case scenario, when the gastric juices enter the lungs the baby may come down with pneumonia.
  • Relief

    Keeping the baby upright is one of the most important things a parent can to do to ease GERD symptoms. Feedings should be administered as upright as possible. The baby should be allowed to sleep in her bouncy seat or car seat so her stomach rests at a lower angle than her mouth. Crib mattresses can even be sloped by securing one end of the mattress on a higher setting than the other, or towels, blankets or other objects can be used to prop up one end of the mattress from beneath it. Smaller, more frequent feedings can help.
  • When to See a Doctor

    If the baby is losing weight, refusing to eat or projectile vomiting, making an appointment with the doctor is crucial. The doctor can prescribe antacids or other medications that might help improve symptoms of GERD.
  • Warning

    If your baby is projectile vomiting, this could indicate a more serious condition than GERD. See your pediatrician if this symptom occurs frequently.
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