Are you dealing with a GERDling?!
Exhausted parents, sleepless nights and an irritable baby… Does that sound like your current family situation? Parenting is not always an easy job, it becomes even more difficult when dealing with a baby who has gastrointestinal discomfort and trouble sleeping.
Casual spit up, also known as Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) can happen to 50% of infants from birth to three months of age. It is common for infants to spit up after their meal but frequent vomiting and discomfort usually signals something more serious such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which impacts as many as 20 % of infants.
Some Common Symptoms of GERD
· Refusing to eat when hungry
· Vomiting more than three times per day
· Crying after feeding
· Developing asthma or pneumonia
· Diarrhea or spots of blood in diapers
· Growing slowly and looking tired
How is GERD diagnosed?
Usually a physical exam and a quick revision of the baby’s medical history is enough to confirm GERD. More tests may be needed such as blood/urine sample testing, an x-ray swallowing test or a procedure called endoscopy in which a tiny camera is used to view the lining of the stomach.
Often the best solution to baby’s sensitive stomach is managing the mother’s diet! Cow’s milk protein found in dairy products can be problematic for some babies. Studies have shown that 15-40% of infants suffer with GERD because of cow’s milk protein intolerance!! Other proteins that might cause a similar reaction are soy, egg and wheat protein. Moms can follow elimination diets in which these proteins are removed from meals to determine which foods are causing baby’s symptoms. Research has shown that improvements can already be seen within two weeks of removing dairy products from the mother’s diet. An elimination diet should only be followed under the supervision of a registered dietitian.
Tweaking Baby’s Feeding Methods
The position of the baby during feeding can make a huge difference! They should be fed slightly upright to prevent them from spitting up the milk and kept calm for 20 to 30 minutes afterwards. The best way to do that is to carry baby on a shoulder rather than placing them in infant seats right away. Parents should also avoid overfeeding and trust their baby’s hunger and fullness cues. This encourages baby to understand their own instincts when eating, which can benefit them in the future.
The use of hydrolyzed Formulas
Recent studies have shown that dairy allergy and intolerance can mimic the symptoms of GERD in babies. Using hydrolyzed infant formulas may help some children. Amino acid based formulas such as Alimentum and Nutramigen may ease symptoms for formula fed babies.
Antacids, such as Zantac and Prevacid, are commonly prescribed by doctors to resolve GERD in babies. These proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists decrease symptoms by strengthening the upper part of the stomach and lowering the acidity levels. Some babies experienceside effects from these medications and if food sensitivities are the underlying cause of the symptoms then medications don’t always provide relief. Evidence suggests long term use of antacids may alter the healthy bacteria found in the gut. This can lead to community-acquired pneumonia and gut infections.
If you require more information on how diet can help your child with GERD, contact Naureen for a free discovery call!
Naureen Hunani, RD, Nutritionist and Feeding Therapist
co-written by Nadeen Mekhael (Nutrition Student)