Is It Spit Up or Is It Reflux?

Baby reflux

Every mother knows to keep a spit up rag within reach while you are feeding your baby or just afterward. Most babies spit up some of what they just ate occasionally.

Statistics say that half of all babies under three-months old spit up at least once a day. Babies often outgrow spitting up by age 8 months or so. For most babies (and most mothers), this is not a problem, except when, with unerring aim, your kid targets your favorite blouse.

But a few babies spit up because of a problem called reflux, which in serious cases is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

Reflux occurs when a baby feeds and the contents of his or her stomach come back up the esophagus. Stomach contents contain the acids that help digest food and these acids cause discomfort. The symptoms of reflux vary a bit but, for most babies, they cause them to spit up frequently, burp a lot, have the hiccups, or have recurring red or sore throats. Other symptoms can include fussiness or chronic nasal congestion and ear infections. The spit up is a greenish or yellowish color. A baby with reflux might arch his or her back and neck, a posture that lengthens the esophagus to reduce pain. Some babies with reflux will refuse to eat while others will want more breast milk or formula, since it soothes their esophagus.

However, some babies suffer from what is called silent reflux. They don’t spit up because the stomach contents go up only as far as the lower esophagus.

One of the main ways to determine whether a baby is just spitting up or if he or she has something more serious going on is to see if he or she is gaining weight and is content most of the time. A baby who spits up without discomfort and who is growing on schedule is probably not having a problem.

If you are worried that your baby has reflux, ask your pediatrician. There are ways to help reduce or prevent reflux.

  • If you are breastfeeding your baby, keep that going because breastfeeding is associated with shorter, fewer episodes of reflux.
  • If you drink caffeine, cut back or eliminate it since this can contribute to a baby’s reflux.
  • Don’t put your baby in any outfits that are tight around the abdomen and avoid putting him or her in a slumped over or bent position.
  • Give your baby smaller, more frequent feedings.
  • Hold your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after each feeding.
  • Stop during feedings to burp your baby.
Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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