Baby Spit Up: Is it GER or GERD?

Posted 12.8.09 | Nutrition Specialist

Does it seem like your baby spits up all the time? Do you have to constantly change their clothes (and yours) because they have trouble keeping formula or breastmilk down? If this sounds like your little one, you might be dealing with either GER or GERD.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) a more serious form of Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), which is very common. According to the National Institutes of Health, GER occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens spontaneously, for varying periods of time, or does not close properly and stomach contents rise up into the esophagus. GER is also known more commonly as acid reflux, because digestive juices (acids) rise up with the food.

Occasional GER is common, so if this sometimes happens to your baby it doesn’t necessarily mean they have GERD. If the reflux is persistent and happens more than twice a week, then it may be considered GERD, which can lead to more serious health problems for babies including failure to gain weight, bleeding, respiratory problems or esophagitis.

So how can you tell if your child is spitting up a lot or has the more serious GERD? According to Dr. Samuel Nerko, MD, MPH from Children’s Hospital of Boston, gastroenterologists often look for the following symptoms to diagnose GERD in infants:

  • Vomiting or spitting up frequently
  • Pain associated with regurgitation
  • Back arching
  • Refusal to eat
  • Constant or sudden crying
  • Chronic hiccups
  • Irritability or fussiness

If you think that your little one might have GERD, check in with your doctor or a pediatric gastroenterologist. They will probably recommend an infant dose of medications typically used to treat reflux in adults. A hypoallergenic amino acid-based formula can often help babies with GERD, too, because infantile reflux is sometimes caused or made worse by allergies to milk or soy protein.

What treatments have helped your little ones with GERD? Are there any tricks that you rely on to manage their reflux?


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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.