Infant Heartburn

Parents have been bringing up lots of questions lately about infant heartburn that may result from their baby spitting up a lot. This week, Ill try to keep down their concerns and provide some information on this topic.

First of all, its completely normal for babies to spit up or vomit small amounts of formula or breast milk after a feeding, especially after being burped or during periods of movement. Usually it peaks when a child is three to four months of age, and it generally is gone before the first birthday.

Infant heartburn, though, may start to be a problem if the spitting up starts happening more often than normal. When stomach acid repeatedly goes up the food pipe, the esophagus becomes irritated, and infant heartburn develops. This can make feedings quite painful for infants, and it may result in poor weight gain, bloody vomiting, and inconsolable crying. It can also cause chronic coughing, wheezing, and even pneumonia if the spit-up gets into the lungs; the top of the windpipe sits right next to the top of the esophagus, allowing spit-up to spill over into the respiratory system.

In older children and adults, heartburn can, if it goes untreated, permanently damage the esophagus and increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

The good news is that this problem can be treated in a number of ways. It could be as simple as stopping the feeding as soon as the spit-up starts, which prevents over-feeding. You can also try thickening the breast milk or formula by adding one tablespoon of rice cereal per one ounce of liquid. This, though, may require widening the bottles nipple a bit. Try to keep babies upright for at least 30 minutes after meals, try not to put diapers on too tightly, since they can press on stomach contents. Also, keep babies away from tobacco smoke, which can worsen the problem of spitting up. For older children, encourage smaller, more frequent meals. Discourage eating before bed, and limit carbonated drinks, high-fat foods, and foods that contain a lot of acid.

If you still have concerns, there are medications that the pediatrician can recommend, such as over-the-counter or prescription antacids.

Hopefully tips like this will burn brightly in your mind when it comes to knowing what to do if your baby or child has heartburn.

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