What are Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux and Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), and how can you know if one of these could be what is unsettling your baby?  What are some things you can do to help?  Find out what you need to know in this article on dealing with reflux.

Causes of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

At the top of your baby’s stomach, there is a ring of muscle (valve), which should close when your baby has finished feeding.  When a baby has Gastric Reflux this valve doesn’t close properly, and the contents of the baby’s stomach come up the oesophagus and may be vomited or spill out through the baby’s mouth.  Gastric reflux or Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux (GOR) in infants is common, and most infants have some degree of reflux at birth with it affecting more than 50% of infants.  Babies often spill a little after feeding and this is quite normal.

The baby with GOR may be a bit unsettled and may have periods of crying.  Crying in a normal infant with Gastric Reflux will usually peak in the second month and settle around three to four months.  They may have short bouts of painful crying associated with a spill, but this is not prolonged.  Spilling may also disturb sleep.

Gastric Reflux (GOR) does not need to be treated with conventional medication.  As the child matures so does the valve/ring of muscle at the top of the stomach.  Generally speaking, the more upright the baby is the more reflux decreases.  By the time the baby is walking reflux will often have disappeared.  In some cases, it will improve over a longer period of time.

Causes of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

In Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), Gastric Reflux causes some sort of complication usually including pain due to the refluxed stomach contents containing acid.  Some babies may also have feeding difficulties or not grow well due to the amount of spilling or other conditions associated with GORD.

GORD can be managed in a variety of ways including diet, upright positioning, parenting techniques and as a last resort medications.  Not all cases of GORD will need medical treatment and there is a move away from prescribing for GORD by some health professionals unless there appears to be significant pain, severe complications, growth issues or difficulties feeding.

You need to take your baby to a doctor if you think they have GORD and it is a problem.

Things You Can Do if Your Baby has GOR / GORD

Have you tried*…

  • Using loose clothing for less pressure on baby’s stomach?
  • Avoiding ‘bouncing’?
  • Breastfeeding mums may like to try a ‘dairy free’ diet; bottle-feeding mums may like to try alternative formulas?  Talk to your health professional before making any changes.  (More information is on the website www.cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz)
  • Raising the head of baby’s bassinet/cot and changing surface to 30 degrees?  Raise the whole cot/bassinet rather than putting something under the mattress.  Put feet at the end of the bed or use safe-t-sleep to keep face clear of covers.
  • Baking soda for removing vomit stains from carpet, clothing etc.?  If the patch is still damp, simply sprinkle on a thick layer of baking soda, wait a couple of hours and vacuum it off.  If it is an old stain, dampen the stain first and then proceed as above.  The good thing about baking soda is that it is cheap, readily available, and it will also take the smell away!
  • Placing baby in a  bouncinette or front pack/backpack?
  • Taking some time out for yourself?
  • Walking with baby in a front pack or baby sling?
  • Turning on a bit of ‘white noise’ in the room?

*These are only a few of the things you can do.  There are many more tips here.  Question marks appear after some points as not every suggestion will apply to or work for every family.

If you need support, consider joining Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ for access to their newsletters and Private Local and National Support Networks.  Membership is free, and this gives you opportunities to discuss gastric reflux related issues with others in a safe and confidential setting.

http://healthinfo.org.nz/  (search “reflux”)

Don’t forget, you need to take your baby to a doctor if you think they have GORD and it is a problem.

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Roslyn Ballantyne is a registered nurse and mother of three girls aged 14, 19 and 22 years. Her youngest daughter is the reason she has an interest in gastric reflux in infants and children. Roslyn has been involved with the Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust as the Regional Coordinator and Website Manager since 2003, and since September 2013 has been the National Coordinator.

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