Your baby cries during and after feedings … and is still crying despite being fed, changed, rocked and cuddled. Could reflux the culprit? Reflux in babies is hard to detect.
Here are some signs to look for to determine if you might want to explore the possibility of reflux with your child’s pediatrician:
What Is Reflux?
Reflux — gastroesophogeal reflux (GERD) — is a condition in which the contents of the stomach come up after a feeding and are acidic enough to irritate or damage the lining of the esophagus, according to Mayo Clinic. Reflux is “the most common esophageal disorder in children of all ages,” says Jo Ann Serota, a long-time pediatric nurse practitioner and a lactation consultant in Ambler, Penn.
She defines it as the “backward movement of gastric contents across the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) into the esophagus.” It occurs, she says, because “the LES may be too relaxed to keep the stomach contents in the stomach.” With babies, says Serota, “breast milk or formula escapes from the stomach, via this sphincter, up the esophagus (regurgitation), causing a painful, burning sensation.”
What Are the Symptoms?
Some common signs of reflux in babies, according to Colette Acker, a lactation consultant and the executive director of The Breastfeeding Resource Center, are:
- Your baby arches her back during feedings.
- Your baby comes on and off the breast and/or cries during feedings.
- Your baby often cries after feedings.
Your baby may also experience a dry cough after feeds or sound congested, Acker says, adding that in more extreme cases of reflux, a baby may limit his intake because it’s uncomfortable to be full, and he may start losing weight. Or, she notes, “Some babies may act like nothing is wrong, and mom gets a shock at the next pediatric weight check.”
Serota notes these additional signs:
- Your baby is irritable, especially during or after feedings.
- Your baby chokes or gags during or after feedings.
- Your baby refuses to feed.
- Your baby fails to thrive or doesn’t gain weight.
Serota adds that infants can also display signs of sleep apnea (breathing pausing during sleep), stridor (noisy breathing) or respiratory problems like lower airway disease (a respiratory problem of the lower airways caused by RSV, a virus).