Infant regurgitation is a common phenomenon in babies under one year of age. Regurgitation is the passage of stomach contents into the pharynx or mouth. Unlike vomiting, regurgitation occurs without effort or nausea.
This is something that occurs in more than 50% of babies. However, occasionally infant regurgitation can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease. In this article, we will explain what its causes and symptoms are.
Why does infant regurgitation occur?
Infant regurgitation occurs because the infant’s digestive system is not yet fully developed. The esophagus has a valve that regulates the passage of food to the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter.
In newborns, it is still immature, so the contents of the stomach tend to return to the esophagus. When the baby grows, this valve develops and the regurgitations disappear naturally.
Furthermore, another factor that favors regurgitation is the baby’s posture. Children, before 8 months of age, spend most of the day lying down. This also favors the movement of food towards the mouth.
The fact that the child’s diet is almost entirely milk-based is also an important factor in this process. When the baby starts eating solid foods, the regurgitations decrease. Likewise, the amount of food he eats influences. The more “full” the baby, the more likely this phenomenon is to occur.
When to worry about infant regurgitation?
As we’ve already said, infant regurgitation is a physiological phenomenon in most babies. However, it is advisable to consult the pediatrician if the baby:
- Does not gain weight.
- Your regurgitations are very intense.
- He is tired, sluggish or sleepy.
- Regurgitations occur with force or are accompanied by blood.
- The baby shows signs of dehydration. When this happens, the baby wets the diapers less, has sunken eyes, dry mucous, etc.
- If the liquid that regurgitates is green or brown.
When this occurs, the baby may have gastroesophageal reflux. That is, if the regurgitations persist over time or present these symptoms, it is possible that it is something more serious.
Continuous reflux can cause changes in the esophageal mucosa, since the stomach contents have an acidic pH. In fact, it can even cause anemia or air complications. The baby may have episodes of apnoea, persistent cough, or recurrent bronchitis.
To diagnose reflux, some complementary tests are requested, such as endoscopy, esophageal pHmetry and radiological exams.
What to do about regurgitation
Although this is almost always normal, regurgitation can also be uncomfortable for the child and parents. There are some measures that can help us reduce childhood regurgitation. First of all, it is advisable to keep the baby in an upright position, not completely lying down.
Especially after each meal, for half an hour, you can put pillows or diapers under the mattress to get a certain tilt. Likewise, avoid overly active play after feeding.
Second, it’s important to feed the baby calmly and prevent him from overeating. Likewise, it is recommended to encourage belching. The act of belching prevents air from accumulating in the stomach and, in addition, promotes digestion.
If you’re feeding your baby formula, it’s even more important not to give too much. Artificial milk is more difficult to digest.
When none of this helps or the baby meets the severity criteria, the doctor may recommend medications. Medications work by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach. However, you should not give your baby medicine unless your doctor prescribes it. The most commonly used medications for gastroesophageal reflux are:
- H2 blockers, which decrease acid production.
- Proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces.
In some cases, medications do not help, but there are specific surgical techniques for this condition . However, surgery is only performed when the baby has severe breathing problems or an underlying anatomical cause.
Finally, infant regurgitation is normal. However, it is important to be aware of the warning signs mentioned above and consult a doctor if you have any questions.