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Acid Reflux

By Jacqui Flint

Your baby's stomach contains acid, which helps to digest her food, but sometimes things go badly wrong and her food and the acid comes back up her throat. If you've ever had heartburn, you'll know the horrible burning feeling that acid reflux can cause.

Reflux - when does it occur?

- More than 50% of babies experience some form of reflux for at least the first 3 months.
- Those babies whose symptoms do not clear up in the first 3 months will probably outgrow reflux by 12-24 months of age.
- At around 4 months of age reflux can worsen, which also means there could possibly be more positing, however at around 7 months of age a parent can expect this to begin to subside.

Reflux - what is it?

- Reflux is as a result of an immature or weak lower oesophageal sphincter that doesn't close tightly enough, and instead of the food and/or milk remaining in the tummy, the contents together with stomach acid moves back up the oesophagus. This can cause pain or burning in the baby's oesophagus and thus a parent is left with a very unhappy and uncomfortable baby.
- Interesting to note is that there are some babies who regurgitate with little or no pain at all.

Below are some of the symptoms caused if reflux is not diagnosed and treated:

- Sour breath
- Hoarse voice as the acid starts to burn the vocal cords
- Sore throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Chest infections
- Recurring sinus infections
- Chronic ear infections

Below are some common signs of reflux:

- Back and neck arching.
- Spitting up or vomiting, however not all babies do this.
- A stuffy nose, often coughing.
- Crying or just irritable after feeds.
- A fussy feeder - they appear very hungry and suck hungrily and then all of a sudden pull away and don't take in a full feed. They therefore don't go for the right length of time between their feeds so snacking develops.
- A restless sleeper - no sooner have you put your baby down to sleep than he is tossing and turning and is awake and upset or crying. When you look at him your gut tells you he is in pain.
- Too much weight gain due to comfort feeding.
- Not enough weight gain due to continuous small feeds (snacking) and/or frequent vomiting.

Important: Reflux is best diagnosed by your paed, an Ear Nose and Throat specialist or the nurse at your baby clinic as this is their area of expertise.

Baby Love consults with many parents whose babies have been diagnosed with reflux - some more severely than others, and often as a result of reflux a baby is unable to take in full feeds, fall asleep unassisted and link his sleep cycles. This frequently leads to bad habits and sadly many parents are left still having to rock baby to sleep, or baby is still snacking even though the reflux is now being treated and the baby is no longer in pain.

Parenting is about listening to your natural intuition. If reflux has been diagnosed and is being treated, your baby is no longer in pain and in general he is a much happier baby, and you know all you are now dealing with are bad habits - i.e. he can only fall asleep if rocked, he always wakes up 45 minutes later, he never takes in a full feed and needs to feed frequently - then you can confidently implement an age-appropriate feeding programme, an age-appropriate day time routine and sleep training.

Jacqui Flint owns Baby Love, a nationwide company specialising in routine and sleep guidance programmes geared towards pregnant couples and parents of babies two years and younger. www.babylove.co.za

Today's Child