It Happened to My Baby: Infant Reflux

baby crying
Image via Mindi Stavish

My first two children were great eaters and rarely spit up.  In fact, I hardly ever used any of the burp cloths for cleaning spit-up  Instead, they were used as wash cloths during bath and mealtime.  Needless to say, I didn't purchase any burp cloths for baby number three.   My third child Ryker, who is now 5 months, was a completely different story.

Around three weeks of age, Ryker began to spit up at almost every feeding.  He even spit up during the middle of a feeding, while being burped.   At first, I just brushed it off as typical baby spit up.  I even forgot to mention it to the pediatrician at Ryker's first month baby well appointment. As time went on, Ryker appeared to be more and more fussy during and after feedings.  The volume of spit up had also increased.  At this point, I did some research online and learned that a forceful letdown during nursing can led to excessive spit up. I also learned that food sensitivities can lead to symptoms of reflux.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one half of babies under three months experience infant acid reflux.

Reflux in an infant is caused from an immature lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve between the esophagus (food pipe) and the stomach.  Infant reflux is most often normal and your baby will  begin to outgrow it around 6 to 9 months, when they start sitting up.

The most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in infants are persistent vomiting, a chronic cough, choking/gagging, poor growth, breathing problems, and recurrent pneumonia.   Babies with one or more of these symptoms may require behavioral or medication interventions to decrease the incidence of spitting up and help with weight gain.   

After speaking with a lactation consultant about my concerns in relationship to nursing and reflux, I implemented a plan to change one behavior at a time, to see if I noticed any decrease in spitting up.  First I altered my nursing habits, pumping for a few minutes before starting to nurse to eliminate a forceful let down.  Prior to doing this, Ryker would frequently choke a couple of minutes into nursing.  I immediately noticed that he no longer had incidences of choking when I pumped before putting him to breast.  

About a week later, I started to eliminate foods from my diet.  Since cows' milk products are often a food that babies have an intolerance to, I cut this out first. I also started a food journal, detailing the foods I ate and Ryker's general disposition after nursing sessions. In general, if a baby has a food intolerance symptoms should improve between 2 to 6 weeks.  Four weeks into this self imposed elimination diet, Ryker was still vomiting after almost every nursing session, so I made an appointment with my pediatrician to address my concerns.  

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In order to provide the pediatrician with the most accurate information, I brought my food journal with me to the appointment.  He briefly looked the journal over and listened to my concerns.  He then weighed and examined Ryker.  Thankfully Ryker was not losing weight, although he was gaining rather slowly.  My pediatrician felt that my baby boy was showing mild signs of gastroesophageal reflux.  We then discussed a course of treatment, which first included behavioral interventions.  

At this point, we are two months past our initial appointment with the pediatrician and have a follow up  in a few weeks.  Ryker is much happier after nursing, sleeping better, and appears to be gaining weight.  He also is becoming stronger and working on sitting up with support.  I am happy that he is doing much better with his feedings and am looking forward to hearing what the pediatrician says.  

Over the past few months I have learned that no matter how many children you have, each one is different, even as babies.  I have also learned that it's okay to feel scared.  There are many great professionals that care about children's health that are available to help you and your baby be as healthy as possible.  

Does your baby have any feeding problems?  

{ MORE: How a Tongue or Lip Tie May Be Having a Negative Effect on Your Breastfeeding Relationship }

What do you think?

It Happened to My Baby: Infant Reflux

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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9 comments

  1. Aubrey says:

    My friend’s son had horrible reflux. What finally worked for him was propping him, and his bottle in either the carseat or the swing while eating, and not moving him for 45 minutes after a feed (plus the liquid prevacid before every feeding) I was his babysitter while she worked and it was so hard not to move him, no burping, no wiggling etc, and having him sitting so upright at such a young age.

  2. nichole says:

    My son has reflux. He was diagnosed at around 1 1/2 to 2 months. I have to give him liquid zantac and rice cereal in his bottle(almost 5 months old now) and the doctor said that some do it until they are 2 years old! my son does it so bad it comes out his nose! he also tries to swallow it sometimes and the waiting 30 mins to lay him down doesnt work half the time lol but the doc said that it should ease up with the more solids we give him(started on baby food last month!) and slowly move to less formula. and so far the few bowls of rice and baby food mixed he has eaten he didnt spit up! so i think we are moving in the right direction!!

  3. LRRILEY08 says:

    My baby has acid reflux, one the doctor said there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s pretty scary I have to make sure she burps really well after feeding & I don’t lay her down until after 20-30 min of feeding her. That help control it more.

  4. Ian says:

    I can’t really comment yet, but I can’t wait till our baby is born!

  5. Stephanie says:

    My daughter had severe acid reflux from the day she was born. Getting anyone to listen to you when you tell them something is not right was the hardest part. She was my first and I knew something wasn’t right the day she was born but everyone kept pushing it off and telling me “well babies spit up sometimes”. Ugh. So frustrating. I knew what I was talking about. Anyway, she was born at 7lbs1oz and could hardly keep ANYTHING down. At 3 weeks she was admitted into the hospital at 7lbs under failure to thrive. After 3 days they put her on liquid Prevacid once a day and it made a huge difference! Here’s what I learned in the year that I dealt with the acid reflux, hold them as upright as possible during feedings and don’t lay them on their back for 45 mins after feeding. I thought starting her on solids would be terrible for her so I didn’t do it until she was 6 mos, turns out I should of started baby food WAY sooner. She did way better on the solids. Thickening her bottle with rice helped. And bibs and cloth diapers were my saviors for clean up. They put her on Zantac at 2 weeks and it didn’t help at all. I’m not trying to be a know it all, just speaking from experience. 🙂

  6. JakesMom says:

    My son just turned 11 months old and he has reflux. He was diagnosed at 2 months. I noted excessive forceful spit-up that resulted in screaming for minutes after. I scheduled an appointment for him out of concern and he had an episode in the doctor’s office, so she immediately recognized it as reflux. He was put on Zantac twice a day which has helped him greatly. He also cannot have milk or soy products so when I stopped breast feeding and switched to formula he had to go on a formula called nutrimagen.

  7. Dario says:

    Hope this doesn’t happen

  8. tiffanysue22 says:

    My almost 9 month old has reflux. She doesn’t spit up but instead tries to swallow it back down. Very frustrating to watch her try to catch her breath while trying to swallow the reflux!

    • Mary says:

      I wish that my son had as mild of a case as you are describing. He is our third child and was born prematurely. We were not surprised when he had difficulty gaining weight but when he was 7 weeks old (Easter early morning), he had just finished nursing and he projectile vomited blood from his refux. He was still not at his birth weight and was diagnosed as failure to thrive. He was in the hospital for 6 days and readmitted 36 hours later for another 10 days. He now has been admitted for another 7 times each for at least a week. He takes 3 medications to control his reflux. In August, after exhausting all other options, we had a feeding tube placed. He now is 10 months old, and still vomits 3-4 times each meal and no longer is willing to take anything that is a liquid by mouth because it aggrevates his reflux. He has gained 1.5 pounds since August and have been to bad places because of this.

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