Gastroesophageal Reflux is the medical term for spit up. Babies spit up when reflux brings the content of the stomach up through the esophagus (the tube in the throat that carries food down to the stomach) and out through the mouth or the nose. Reflux is common among babies and adults, and generally not a sign of concern. However, gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD for short) is more serious and can cause babies to become irritable, gain weight slowly, develop pneumonia, or even spit up blood.
Babies that have higher risk of getting GERD include babies that have cerebral palsy. Symptoms may include refusing to eat, crying and squirming, choking on regurgitated food, vomiting, and gaining weight slower than expected. If you think your child may be suffering from GERD, the first step is to go see a doctor! The doctor will perform a complete medical history review and physical examination. The doctor may then also order additional tests, like x-rays, blood or urine tests, or an upper endoscopy to check the baby’s esophagus.
Moms and Dads, you may need to treat your child with lifestyle changes. Here are some things that can help:
- Avoid overfeeding
- Avoid tobacco smoke
- Avoid milk
- Avoid thickening baby formula or expressed breast milk
- Continue breastfeeding if you have been breastfeeding already
- Try keeping your baby upright for 20-30 minutes after feeding by holding your baby on your shoulder (do not place the baby in an infant seat)
- Allow your baby to stop feeding when your baby loses interest
- Position your baby on its back to sleep
As always, if you are concerned about your baby, the best step is to seek help from a medical provider.