Baby Nutrition

GERD: Is Your Infant Suffering from Acid Reflux?

Infant With Gerd (Acid Reflux)

Acid reflux, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), in infants can be worrisome for you and uncomfortable for your baby. Although GERD is rarely serious in infants and will typically resolve on its own by age 1, it’s important to know how you can help your baby and what the treatment options are. Here’s what you need to know about acid reflux in infants.

What Causes GERD in Infants?

Acid reflux in infants is caused by food and acid in the stomach traveling back up the esophagus into the mouth. The reflux may cause irritation to the esophagus and cause your baby to spit up excessively or vomit. GERD is usually the result of a digestive system that has not yet fully matured. Because of this, once the digestive system is fully developed around one year of age, your baby’s symptoms should resolve on their own. Typically, infants who suffer from acid reflux are otherwise healthy.

Symptoms of GERD in Infants:

While spitting up is a normal daily occurrence in infants up to and even occasionally beyond six months, these symptoms may suggest your infant is suffering from acid reflux:

  • Spitting up or vomiting excessively and often throughout the day
  • Crying during or immediately after feedings
  • Frequent gas/belly pains
  • Fussiness at the breast or bottle
  • Gagging or choking while eating
  • Persistent Coughing

How Do Doctors Diagnose GERD in Infants?

More often than not, your baby’s pediatrician will be able to diagnose acid reflux based upon the symptoms alone. Typically, any further testing will not be necessary. If the pediatrician is concerned that the issue may extend beyond an immature digestive tract, he or she may recommend further testing.

Testing may include:

  • X-rays of the digestive tract: Your baby may be given barium in a bottle to highlight possible obstructions to the digestive tract on the X-ray images.
  • Ultrasound: to rule out pyloric stenosis.
  • Blood and urine samples: to rule out the possibility of infections that may cause vomiting.
  • Esophageal PH monitoring: This is a procedure in which a small tube is inserted into baby’s esophagus through the nose or mouth to monitor acidity levels. This may require hospitalization.
  • Upper endoscopy: This procedure is typically done under general anesthesia and involves placing a small tube with a camera lens into baby’s esophagus, stomach and small intestine to rule out the presence of obstructions or other complications.

Most babies will not require the above testing and a diagnosis should be possible based on symptoms alone.

How Can I Help My Baby Feel Better?

Having a baby who suffers from acid reflux can make a parent feel helpless. There’s nothing worse than seeing your baby in pain and not being able to solve the problem. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to help reduce your baby’s GERD symptoms. These include:

  • Slightly elevating baby’s head: Instead of lying baby flat to sleep, place a wedge under the crib or basinet mattress to give his head a slight boost. Many moms and dads love the Fisher Price Rock N Play Sleeper for keeping a baby with acid reflux slightly propped. Baby should always be placed on his back to sleep.
  • If bottle feeding, offer more frequent but smaller meals.
  • Burp baby often during feedings.
  • Keep baby upright for 30 minutes following a feeding.
  • Some pediatricians may recommend adding one teaspoon of rice cereal to baby’s bottle if bottle feeding. There are conflicting opinions on this approach before six months of age so be sure to consult your pediatrician and do your research before trying this option.
  • If you are breastfeeding, try adjusting your diet by strategically eliminating things like dairy, caffeine, beef, eggs, etc., that might be contributing to your baby’s reflux.
  • If formula feeding, try experimenting with different formulas. Consult your pediatrician for recommendations.
  • Use bottles that eliminate baby’s air intake such as Dr. Brown's.
  • If your baby is still experiencing a considerable amount of discomfort despite the above changes, your pediatrician may prescribe simethicone or a calcium carbonate antacid to further reduce his symptoms.

In extreme, but rare cases, GERD may cause breathing problems and even pneumonia. There is a surgical option available in which the surgeon wraps the top part of the stomach around the esophagus to form a block that prevents reflux from occurring due to stomach acidity. This, however, is a very uncommon and rarely necessary procedure for infants.

If you have questions about acid reflux in infants or would like information about natural birth, pregnancy and postpartum services or women’s care, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you through your pregnancy and beyond.

Does What I Eat During Pregnancy Matter?

Pregnancy Nutrition

In honor of March being National Nutrition Month, we thought it was a great opportunity to explore the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy. If you’re currently expecting, you’ve probably heard the expression, “eating for two,” more than once! But does that actually mean you need double the calories? And does what you eat really affect your baby to be? These are great questions and ones you might be contemplating if this is your first pregnancy. Here are 7 reasons it’s crucial to eat a balanced and nutritious diet while you are pregnant. 

  1. When you are pregnant, you need more protein, iron, folic acid, amino acids, calcium and other nutrients to meet your increased needs and the demands of your growing baby. While a prenatal vitamin is a great way to bridge nutritional gaps and should be part of your daily regimen, a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is a necessary component of a healthy pregnancy.
  2. Although the saying is, “eating for two,” you actually only need an extra 300 nutrient rich calories per day while pregnant, not twice as many. Weight gain should be gradual throughout pregnancy with the majority being gained in the third trimester. 
  3. Your diet during pregnancy can impact major factors such as your baby’s birth weight, overall health and the incidence of disease later in life. For example, a diet rich in folic acid can reduce the risk of serious complications such as Spina Bifida and vitamin D is crucial for the development of your baby’s bones and teeth.
  4. Your weight gain during pregnancy can impact your health and the health of your unborn baby. Excess weight gain during pregnancy can lead to serious complications such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, postpartum hemorrhage and heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. Being undernourished during pregnancy can lead to problems for baby such as low birth weight, mental deficiencies and increased risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease.
  5. There is some evidence that suggests that your diet during pregnancy may impact your future child’s food preferences. The flavors in your food can actually alter the flavor of the amniotic fluid which can be detected by your baby. If you eat a diet that is high in sugar and fat, your child may be more likely to prefer these unhealthy foods. And conversely, if you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other essentials, your child may be more likely to favor these healthy options.
  6. Eating a fiber-rich diet during pregnancy can help combat the inevitable constipation caused by your increasing hormone levels. Fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables are also dense in essential vitamins and nutrients for your growing babe.
  7. An excessive amount of sugar and fat during pregnancy can put your baby at a higher risk for obesity later in life, mental disorders and impaired social and cognitive abilities. 

Most importantly, remember that what you eat during pregnancy becomes the primary source of nutrition for your baby. If you have questions about your nutritional needs or how much weight you should gain during pregnancy, talking to your care provider is a great place to start. They can advise you on the best prenatal vitamins and any additional supplements that may be needed in addition to helping you devise a healthy diet and exercise plan. For questions about healthy eating during pregnancy or for all inquiries related to natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Our goal is to help you and your baby enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led Weaning

If you have a baby who is nearing the age of starting solids, you’ve probably had conversations with other moms about various approaches to introducing baby’s first foods. While rice cereal and purees may be the go-to options often recommended by pediatricians, more and more moms are choosing to bypass the mush and head straight to finger foods. This approach is called baby-led weaning.

Benefits:

Baby-led weaning, a term coined by British public health nurse Gill Rapley, has become a popular method of introducing solids that allows baby to learn to self-feed, self-regulate and explore different tastes and textures. Supporters of baby-led weaning identify a host of benefits with the practice including:

  • Allowing baby to eat when he is hungry versus spoon feeding 
  • Developing the ability to self-regulate and stop eating when full
  • Exposure to a wide array of tastes and textures which may ultimately lead to a child who is more apt to eat a variety of healthy and different foods
  • Development of hand-eye coordination, the pincer grasp and manual dexterity
  • Possible reduced risk of the development of allergies due to introduction to a variety of foods
  • Reduced risk of being overweight due to the ability to stop when they are full and not overeat
  • Learning to mash and chew which ultimately aids in the digestive process
  • Baby eats what the rest of the family eats. There’s no need to prepare separate purees; just offer baby some of what you are having.
  • Continuing the practice of feeding on demand like with breastfeeding by now allowing baby to choose what and how much he puts in his mouth
  • Teaching baby to enjoy healthy foods.

Is My Baby Ready For BLW?

While some pediatricians give the OK to begin solids as early as 4 months of age, it is not recommended that you start baby-led weaning until your baby is 6 months old. By 6 months of age, baby’s intestines have developed enough to digest solid foods. Your baby should also be able to sit unassisted and grab objects with their hands. And similar to beginning any solids regimen, your baby should have dropped the tongue thrust reflex which causes them to push foreign objects out of their mouth. When in doubt, check with your pediatrician to see if she feels baby-led weaning will be a good option for your child.

What Are Good Foods for BLW?

Any food that is nutritious, can be served in fistful size portions and can be easily mashed with the gums is appropriate for baby-led weaning. Just a few of these include:

  • Banana
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Steamed carrots 
  • Steamed green beans
  • Boiled chicken and beef
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Eggs
  • Grilled fish
  • Pasteurized cheese
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Pears
  • Peaches 
  • Mangos

How to Get Started:

Getting started with baby-led weaning is easy as you will often be feeding your baby nutritious foods that you already have in your home. Here are some tips for a successful experience:

  • Cut food into thick, fistful length strips that baby can hold on to and eat from the top down
  • Start by offering just one or two foods on baby’s tray
  • Have baby eat at the same time as the rest of your family so that they can mimic your behavior
  • Allow baby to try foods of different tastes and textures. You can even add spices but adding salt and sugar is not necessary or advisable.
  • Encourage baby to explore the food through touch, taste and smell and allow him to have fun with the process
  • Show baby how to guide the food to his mouth but let him be in control of what he chooses to eat
  • If baby seems uninterested in eating the foods offered, stop and try again another day
  • If your baby shows interest in something you are eating and it’s a safe food for his age, offer him a taste
  • Continue to offer breastmilk or formula as often as you did prior to beginning solids. Your baby will eventually begin eating more real food and consuming less milk as he gets older.
  • Make sure baby has on a big, waterproof bib. Baby-led weaning is messy!

Safety and Precautions with BLW:

A common concern when considering baby-led weaning is, ‘Won’t they choke?’ While gagging is not uncommon when introducing solid foods, choking can be avoided by steering clear of hazardous foods such as nuts, apples with skin, popcorn, grapes, cherries and other small round foods and fruits. It is important to know the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a natural mechanism that allows food to be moved from the throat forward by coughing and actually prevents baby from choking. Choking, however, is when an object or food becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe rendering the child unable to breathe or speak.

In addition to offering safe food options to your baby, always make sure he is supervised and sitting in an upright position when trying baby-led weaning. Also, always monitor your baby for any allergic reactions following the introduction of new foods. Educating yourself and your baby’s caregivers on safe baby-led weaning will help prevent instances of choking and increase the likelihood of a having positive experience with food for your little one. 

Baby-led weaning offers a different and fun approach to solids for you and baby that may increase the likelihood of raising an adventurous and healthy eater. It can be done exclusively or in unison with offering more traditional first foods like purees and cereals to see which method works best for your baby. As with mosst aspects of parenting, the most important thing is to find what works best for your family and follow that path. As long as your baby is receiving vital nutrients from breastmilk or formula and you have begun the process of introducing solids by 6 to 8 months, you are on the right track. For questions about infant nutrition or for any and all topics related to natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.