“I don't want to medicate my baby!” We get it, nobody does. But the truth is your baby is in pain and not treating reflux can be worse! We want you to understand that we are all for getting babies off medications as soon as possible. We even discuss a plan to do achieve that goal. But your baby is sick, is in pain and not treating your baby produces undesirable effects, some of which may be long lasting.
This page is not intended to scare you. We'd just like for you to consider the option of treatment with medications that are considered to be safe and using them for a very limited time (normally discontinuing treatment at or before one year of age) or sticking it out, letting your baby continue to have symptoms and potentially suffer the following symptoms which are both short and long term.
Symptoms that can linger: I can't tell you how many times I see posts on social media from Moms telling me that their baby who is now one year old or older and won't eat, is an extremely fussy eater, or has feeding aversions. This is probably the most devastating symptom from long term pain associated with eating at a very young age and can be difficult to control as the child gets older. These eating aversions typically last a long time. Every time I run across a finicky child I ask the Mom, "Did your child have reflux as a baby?". They are usually shocked by the question and always the reply is "YES! How did you know?". Of course, the mental association of eating and the reflux related pain at such a young age is not easily overcome.
Tissue damage is another factor. It is true that the tissue in the esophagus can heal but the persistent exposure to acid over months can lead to changes in the esophagus, that may include hiatal hernia development and cellular changes that may lead to a higher likelihood of GERD as an adult.
There are many, many other long and short term symptoms of GERD and infant reflux that you can read about here. Some of you Moms (and Dads) might be experiencing mild or severe reflux. It is not necessary to endure these symptoms as they can typically be reduced significantly by appropriate treatment.
What about the side effects of PPI medicines: Proton pump inhibitors are known as pro-drugs. This means that PPIs are not active in the bloodstream but become active at the location of the problem (in this case the acid secreting cell). This is important as it explains why PPI's have few side effects. Some side effects such as diarrhea or constipation (common with many medicines) may occur but usually just go away in a few days.
We are aware that there is some information that suggest that PPI's may be associated with undesirable effects when used for a long term. Without going into a statistics and study methodology course let us explain. It is important to note that these studies typically “look back” at previous medical records where older patients (no studies on infant or children) were treated for extended periods of time and usually had underlying diseases and were receiving other medicines. These studies conclude that there may be some associations present with PPIs in older patients on other medicines and with other disease/conditions.
The authors of these studies also conclude that the type of study being reported (looking back at medical records) cannot determine cause and effect relationship but just suggest there is an association. When the media gets ahold of this information they tend to avoid mentioning this important information. This is called sensationalization and it can scare many persons into thinking that if you give or take a PPI at all it will cause some serious side effects. The truth is, even if you took a PPI for an extended period of time (over ten years) the chances of this happening is quite rare and may not be caused by the PPI treatment at all.
That being said, it is a standard teaching of medicine that you shouldn't give your baby a medication longer than is needed, but also that if a medicine is used then it should be used at a dosage that has an effect on the symptoms/disease. As mentioned previously, we include a plan to wean your baby off a PPI when the infant acid reflux is a thing of the past. But an important question now is, "Do you want to get your baby out of the series of acid reflux symptoms (such as acid-induced pain)? Do you want to have a happy, healthy baby? Do you want to enjoy these precious times with your baby?"
Of course you do!
Don't wait to get your baby out of pain. Start enjoying these precious moments of the first year with your little one.