It can be nearly impossible to determine what is causing a baby to be fussy. Outside of the usual complaints of having a dirty diaper, being hungry or being too hot or too cold, some babies have issues with their stomachs that cause them to experience very real pain. Others are simply diagnosed with colic, a seemingly catch-all term for unexplained fussiness in infants. It takes a pediatrician with plenty of experience to give an accurate diagnosis to parents along with a treatment plan that will make life more bearable for everyone involved.
Acid reflux is typically associated with spitting up. While some spitting up can be normal especially for infants who were not allowed to burp as often as they needed, an increased amount of spit-up following a feeding is termed gastroesophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux or GER. However, when GER becomes more severe and is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as poor weight gain and vomiting, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Even older children and adults can be diagnosed with GERD.
Most cases of infant GERD are caused by poorly formed or immature digestive tracts. The sphincter, or small trap door, that is supposed to close over the opening to the stomach is typically not totally formed at birth in these infants, and it allows the stomach’s contents to slide into the esophagus. However, with some time, nearly all of these cases clear up on their own. Most infants have grown out of GERD by the time they reach one year of age.
Many babies can be treated for GERD with a few simple remedies at home. Babies should be fed in an upright position and should be held upright for at least 30 minutes following the feeding. These babies should still be placed on their backs to sleep but may have the head of the crib mattress placed on a slight incline. Some doctors may allow parents to try natural gripe water, which could help older infants. Others may require prescription medication, such as cimetidine or ranitidine. In rare instances, a surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged sphincter.