Could Medication Help Your Baby’s Reflux?

A few weeks ago, I took my 5-year-old to a GI specialist for some abdominal pain that she had been having on and off for almost a year. Although I had merely chalked it up to a sensitive tummy and tried probiotics for a while, it seemed to be getting worse, and I knew it was time for more answers. 

To my surprise, the first question the doctor asked was if my daughter had been a colicky baby or if she spit up a lot. 

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“Yes!” I practically shouted, wide-eyed. “How did you know?”

He explained to me that he suspected that my daughter was actually suffering from acid reflux. Most infants who have reflux, he said, present themselves as babies with colic, children with stomach pains, and eventually will develop classic heartburn symptoms as teenagers or adults. 

I was shocked, actually. I never really thought that stomach pain could be a sign of acid reflux. And then the guilt set in: if she had this as a baby, did that mean I had missed the signs? What should we have done for her as a baby? Would medications have helped my baby's reflux?

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Image via Flickr/ kennymatic

The doctor recommended that we start my daughter on Prilosec, an acid reflux medication, but I was hesitant. There is some evidence that medications are over-prescribed to children, and I wanted a sure diagnosis before we turned to medication. 

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While we're still deciding, I've been researching and found the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for managing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in infants and children. The AAP describes that five main medications are used in managing GERD:

  • PPIs
  • H2RAs
  • Antacids
  • Acid suppressants
  • Prokinetic agents

Overall, the AAP cautions that “happy” children who aren't showing physical signs of their GERD may not need medication and that medication in babies and children should be used with caution. Other changes, such as positioning, changing up diet, and, for older children, even chewing gum after meals, can be helpful. 

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But for some parents, reflux medications made all the difference for their children. “She just cried all day long,” said one mother about her daughter who had reflux. “I didn't even know what to do. She nursed for three hours straight that day because that's the only thing that made her happy, and there wasn't even milk. … They kept telling me ‘Oh, Hunny, babies spit up.' I knew it was more than that, though. We had to have a special pharmacy make her Prilosec because they didn't make it for babies, and nothing else helped. She was like a different baby after it was all figured out.”

After having a baby with colic, I can say with confidence that I think the benefits of medication might outweigh some of the risks when you have a baby that is that miserable. And part of me wonders if we would have treated her reflux as a baby if she would still be hurting today.

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What do you think? Should be babies with reflux be treated with medication?

What do you think?

Could Medication Help Your Baby’s Reflux?

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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2 comments

  1. Adah says:

    My baby had colic and was also throwing a lot with non-stop fussiness. I tried different remedies but babies magic tea was the last one that worked and relieved my baby from severe reflux.

  2. Trish says:

    My daughter is on Nizatidine for acid reflux. She’s 9 months old but has been taking it since about 3 months. It is a life saver! She was in so much pain, wouldn’t stop crying, spit up, it was a very difficult time. Once she started the medication she was the happiest and calmest baby, slept thru the night. We love our pediatrician, she is not ever eager to medicate but this med was necessary.

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