The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. If your baby has reflux, his or her stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. Another name for reflux is gastroesophageal reflux (GER).
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is a more serious and long-lasting type of reflux. Babies may have GERD if their symptoms prevent them from feeding or if the reflux lasts more than 12 to 14 months.
There is a muscle (the lower esophageal sphincter) that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach. When your baby swallows, this muscle relaxes to let food pass from the esophagus to the stomach. This muscle normally stays closed, so the stomach contents don't flow back into the esophagus.
In babies who have reflux, the lower esophageal sphincter muscle is not fully developed and lets the stomach contents back up the esophagus. This causes your baby to spit up (regurgitate). Once his or her sphincter muscle fully develops, your baby should no longer spit up.
In babies who have GERD, the sphincter muscle becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn't.
Reflux is very common in babies. About half all babies spit up many times a day in the first 3 months of their lives. They usually stop spitting up between the ages of 12 and 14 months.
GERD is also common in younger infants. Many 4-month-olds have it. But by their first birthday, only 10 percent of babies still have GERD.
In babies, the main symptom of reflux and GERD is spitting up. GERD may also cause symptoms such as
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
In most cases, a doctor diagnoses reflux by reviewing your baby's symptoms and medical history. If the symptoms do not get better with feeding changes and anti-reflux medicines, your baby may need testing.
Several tests can help a doctor diagnose GERD. Sometimes doctors order more than one test to get a diagnosis. Common tests include
Feeding changes may help your baby's reflux and GERD:
If feeding changes do not help enough, the doctor may recommend medicines to treat GERD. The medicines work by lowering the amount of acid in your baby's stomach. The doctor will only suggest medicine if your baby still has regular GERD symptoms and
The doctor will often prescribe a medicine on a trial basis and will explain any possible complications. You shouldn't give your baby any medicines unless the doctor tells you to.
Medicines for GERD in babies include
If these don't help and your baby still has severe symptoms, then surgery might be an option. Pediatric gastroenterologists only use surgery to treat GERD in babies in rare cases. They may suggest surgery when babies have severe breathing problems or have a physical problem that causes GERD symptoms.