Do you have an infant that simply will not stop crying? Everything that you do to comfort your baby leads to even more frantic outbursts? Most people will tell you that your child is suffering from colic but it may actually be something other than that. Something that is easily treatable. And with proper treatment your baby will be soothed and happy in just a short time.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER or GERD), or acid reflux as it is more commonly called, is a digestive disorder that is primarily associated with adults. However, infants suffer from this painful ailment too. Contrary to popular belief, the baby does not necessarily spit up with reflux. This is referred to as silent reflux. Silent reflux can be just as painful as if spitting up did occur because stomach acid is still burning the lining of the infant’s esophagus. This happens because the lower esophageal sphincter muscle that normally creates a flap between the stomach and the esophagus does not close completely and stomach contents, including stomach acid, can get pushed back into the esophagus. This is especially painful just after eating.
Since infants eat around the clock this creates a never ending cycle of pain and tears for the baby with GER and the baby’s parents. Lots of parents are led to believe that their child just has a horrific case of the colic and do not seek further medical attention for fear of being turned away. They look to classic colic “cures” such as driving around in the car or gripe water. When none of these routines typically work they are forced back to square one and spend much of the first few months of the baby’s life in misery because they are unable help their child feel better. “It’s just colic and you have to wait it out,” they are told repeatedly.
Incessant crying is a common symptom for both colic and GER so how do you know that your baby has reflux instead of colic, especially if they are not spitting up? One of the tell-tell signs is that they refuse to eat or fight it each time they try to. Arching the back during feeding is a sign of discomfort. Sometimes the baby will take a few sips and scream in pain repeatedly for a few moments. If you sit the infant upright you might be able to get him or her to eat, otherwise weight gain will eventually be affected. Since most babies go to sleep after a feeding this complicates the problem further in that it is prime position for the stomach contents to come back up into the esophagus. You will need to try to place the baby in an upright position for about thirty minutes after each feeding. Sleep patterns will be interrupted because of the pain. In general, the baby will be inconsolable.
Fortunately there is help for this. There are a number of prescription medications on the market that are safe for babies. Zantac syrup is one that is commonly prescribed by doctors and is very effective. It works by reducing the amount of stomach acid the body produces. Your child’s pediatrician will probably want to do some tests on your child if the problem continues for several months. Some will opt to do the tests sooner if the case is severe or other complications are suspected. Most babies eventually outgrow the condition by the time they become toddlers.
Of course there are other things that you can do to try to keep your baby comfortable when he or she is suffering from gastroesophageal reflux. Keep him or her upright for about thirty minutes after feeding. Sometimes thickening the formula with a tiny amount of baby rice will help them keep the food down. There are some baby formulas especially formulated for this purpose. Enfamil A.R. is one such formula. Another thing to try is to avoid a large feeding and give the baby smaller more frequent bottles.
There is hope for your sleepless nights and crying filled days. If it is in fact reflux that your baby is suffering from, you should see relief within a couple of days after they begin taking medication. Remember that a doctor is the only one that can diagnose this disorder for certain and the only one that can prescribe appropriate medicine and dosage. Don’t delay in getting your infant to the pediatrician’s office and voicing your suspicions about reflux. You will probably see a world of difference in your baby after treatment begins.
Not only can reflux be “silent” in infants, it is also common in adults. The symptoms are different than they are for classic acid reflux. For information on how adults can be affected by silent reflux or GERD please click here.