A pure liquid diet and body position during and/or immediately after feeding exacerbates the physiological phenomenon called gastro-esophageal reflux (GER) or acid reflux. Acid reflux is common in children under one year of age according to the Journal of Ped Child Health. Children younger than one year of age experience a backflow of food or stomach content into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) because their sphincter muscle (a muscle that lies above the stomach) is underdeveloped.

Typically, the sphincter muscle allows food to flow in one direction only; but in children, it may flow in two directions resulting in acid reflux. If this condition persists beyond one year of age, it may be a more serious issue called GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) and you should seek the advice of a medical professional as it is often associated with an allergic reaction to dairy, soy, or gluten.

The GER condition affects 70 percent of children younger than four months of age according to the Journal of Pediatrics. As an infant turns one old, the sphincter muscle strengthens the percentage of children diagnosed with GER reduces to 10 percent, according to the National Institute of Health. It is a common condition in all age groups. If you have ever burped and felt a burn at the back of your throat and could taste bitter bile, then you just experienced reflux.

Dr. Latanya Nixon, a pediatrician in Texas, stated that there are a few questions asked to each parent during a child’s examination related to GER: does the child arch his or her back while feeding, and how long does the child feed.

“As long as the child is meeting their weight gain milestones, we aren’t concerned with acid reflux. If the child refuses to eat or is not gaining weight, then we look to see if the child has GERD,” Nixon said.

Measures to reduce the effects of acid reflux include feeding the child more frequent smaller meals, burping the child more often during feedings, positioning the child so that its head is above its stomach when feeding; and keeping the child upright for at least 30 minutes after each feeding.

Parents may overfeed their child who exhibits signs of acid reflux

After spitting up, a child may want to feed again, and the parent may believe that the child has expelled most of their meal. This is not the case. The amount of food spat up is actually minimal. The child wants to relieve the burning sensation that results from having acid reflux. The issue with allowing the child to feed is that it does not soothe the burning sensation but causes more reflux.

Salencia Johnson, mother of a 12-week-old, explained that her daughter did not arch her back or spit up after feedings at first, leading her to believe her daughter had colic.

The symptoms are very similar but differs in timing. GER only occurs around or shortly after feeding, where colic occurs throughout the day.

“My daughter was diagnosed with GER because of how long she was breastfeeding – an average of 1.5 hours. I watched YouTube videos of other parents who were experiencing the same problem. One YouTuber mentioned that she eliminated dairy and caffeine from her diet, which helped her son with his GER.,” Johnson told The Informer.

Nixon agrees. Mothers who breastfeed can eliminate dairy or eggs from their diet as it may help with a child’s GER.

Johnson reduced her dairy intake to one serving weekly and saw a drastic improvement in her daughter’s GER. Mrs. Johnson also utilized other methods to reduce GER symptoms such as the position in which she fed her daughter and keeping her daughter upright for a period of time after each feeding.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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