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What’s the Difference Between Infant Reflux and GERD? How Babywearing Can Help

Spitting up can be very normal for infants. But before we go on, let’s define what is normal, since spitting up can be a sign of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) which is a much more serious condition. Spitting up is the easy flow of a baby's stomach contents through his or her mouth, often caused by a burp or movement after eating. Most infants will, at one time or another, spit up or experience infant reflux.

I also want to point out that regular infant reflux and silent reflux can also occur. With silent reflux, the spit-up may travel up and back down the esophagus. In these instances, parents may not see the infant spitting up frequently but will notice other symptoms.

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What is GERD?

GERD shares similar symptoms to that of regular and silent infant reflux. If an infant is spitting up frequently, daily, or after every meal, it could be a sign of this condition. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, other symptoms include:

● Arching the back

● Strange movements of the chin and neck

● Loss of appetite

● Refusal to eat

● Gagging

● Choking

● Issues with swallowing

● Vomiting

● Poor weight gain

● Wheezing

● Coughing

It’s important to note that many conditions can cause similar symptoms, so self-diagnosing GERD can be tough. It’s best to see your doctor, who may run tests to check for other conditions. For the breastfeeding mother, treating infant GERD should also be a team approach between baby’s pediatrician, pediatric gastroenterologist, and lactation consultant.

What Is Normal When It Comes to Infant Reflux?

Kellymom shares, “A few statistics (for all babies, not just breastfed babies):

● Spitting up usually occurs right after baby eats, but it may also occur 1-2 hours after a feeding.

● Half of all 0-3 month old babies spit up at least once per day.

● Spitting up usually peaks at 2-4 months.

● Many babies outgrow spitting up by 7-8 months.

● Most babies have stopped spitting up by 12 months.

If your baby is a ‘Happy Spitter’ –gaining weight well, spitting up without discomfort and content most of the time — spitting up is a laundry & social problem rather than a medical issue.”

Babywearing and Infant Reflux

There are varying degrees and causes of GERD that go beyond a food allergy. But for all of them, parents will want to start by keeping their infant upright after eating for at least 30 minutes. lt can also be helpful to feed the baby in an upright position. That’s where babywearing comes in handy.

Baby can nurse or bottle feed in the carrier and be worn throughout the day which will keep your little one in the ideal position to aid in the digestive process, which helps to limit infant reflux. Plus, the movement that your baby experiences in the carrier will help to calm them. They also get a slight massage from abdominal touch/contact, which can stimulate gastric activity and hormones responsible for digestion, ultimately aiding in the digestive process. Reflux babies also tend to struggle with sleep, but by keeping them upright and babywearing (both of which aid in digestion), your baby will settle easier and find sleep more obtainable.

If you think your baby has a more serious form of infant reflux, like GERD, please take them to be checked out by your pediatrician and a pediatric gastroenterologist. However, for most babies, spit up is a normal part of early life - and one that can be combatted with babywearing.

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