What You Need to Know About GERD in Infants

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Spitting up, or gastroesophageal reflux, is common in infants. This type of gastric reflux occurs during the first few months of age in more than half of all infants. When parents burp their babies, sometimes "wet burps" occur, which means some formula is refluxed. This spitting up is normal, and gradually decreases over the first year of life. It generally requires no evaluation unless there is evidence of additional problems, such as esophagitis or failure to thrive.

For a small number of babies, however, symptoms of reflux are severe or don't decrease as the infant grows older, and medical evaluation is needed.

Acid reflux can occur when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) either doesn't close properly or opens when it shouldn't open.

Symptoms of GERD in Infants

Symptoms of GERD in infants includes those that are common, such as frequent spitting up and "wet burps" where a small amount of liquid is regurgitated as an infant burps, to less common symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing and respiratory problems.

If your baby experiences frequent or severe spitting up or vomiting, or shows any signs of failure to thrive, you should have your baby evaluated by a physician.

More on GERD symptoms in infants.

Diagnosing GERD in Infants

If your baby is healthy and growing well, the doctor may make a diagnosis of reflux on a parent's description of symptoms and feeding history, and a physical exam alone.

Many, if not most, cases of reflux in infants are diagnosed without the need for any testing. However, your baby's doctor may order tests if he suspects a more serious condition, such as GERD. In these cases, diagnostic tests may be ordered.

These diagnostic tests can include an upper endoscopy, lab tests, or esophageal pH monitoring test.

More on diagnosing GERD in infants.

Treating GERD in Infants

Treatment of infant reflux depends on the severity of the problem. Your baby's doctor may decide no treatment is needed, that the reflux will disappear on its own as your baby grows older. For most babies, reflux will resolve itself during the first year of life. If your baby is otherwise healthy, happy, and growing, your doctor may recommend a few lifestyle changes for your baby in order to ease her reflux problem.

If the reflux is more serious, or if your baby has been diagnosed with GERD, the doctor may prescribe a prescription medication or over-the-counter remedy to help treat the reflux. These include acid suppressors and acid blockers.

More on treating GERD in infants.