Infant GERD Symptoms

Infant GERD symptoms range from mild to life threatening and in some case can go undetected as in silent reflux. Because the only way a baby can tell us something is wrong is by crying trying to find out why is a process of elimination. So how do you tell if they are crying because of infant reflux? We explain some signs to look for on this page.

Mommy Holding Baby with GERD

Most babies will have some reflux in the first year of life. Some worse than others. It is a condition that is more prominent in pre-mature infants because of the lack of development of their esophageal sphincter muscle. Although most babies outgrow reflux, other babies the condition can become chronic and can affect you and your child in many ways. From sleepless nights to more critical issues such as failure to thrive at a normal rate. That’s when it’s considered GERD..

GERD stands for Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease where as GER is not considered a disease (D). GER is the occasional spitting up or reflux of the stomach contents and is almost universal in infants and has no significant associated problems. GERD occurs when GER is chronic and creates significant symptoms or conditions that require medical attention, such as the infant GERD symptoms listed below. Those of you caring for infants showing signs of GERD should read this page in its entirety.

  • Infant Acid Reflux (A Physiological Condition, Not a Disease)
  • Infant GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease) - Infant acid reflux that causes infant GERD symptoms
  • Infant NERD (None Erosive Reflux Disease)
  • Infant EERD (Erosive Esophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Infant LPR (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease)

Infant Acid Reflux Flow Chart

Silent GERD is also discussed here. If you feel you child is suffering from Infant Silent GERD, we request that you read the information contained the Silent GERD page, before proceeding.

Some Mild to Moderate GERD Infant Symptoms:

Although these infant GERD symptoms listed can be combined or independent and may not even be a result of infant acid reflux it is important to look for any of these infant GERD symptoms of being indicative of infant acid reflux or infant GERD.

It is clear to us that any one of these infant GERD symptoms may not seem mild to you as the one caring for a baby that is suffering. Also, there may be different levels of each symptom listed here. So although it is listed as "mild infant GERD symptom", if that symptom is extreme it could be considered a more severe symptom. But for the sake of providing information this is how we have classified this list.

  • Abundant salivation
  • Acidic spit up with vomit smelling odor or sour odor
  • Back arching or arching of the back
  • Biting of their hands
  • Chronic coughing
  • Clawing during feeding
  • Congestion and/or loud breathing
  • Constant crying
  • Consistent fussiness, irritability and restlessness
  • Constantly rubbing nose or hitting nose and face
  • Continual hiccups
  • Crying during or directly after eating
  • Crying when laying flat
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping unless inclined
  • Excessive gas
  • Excessive nursing or comfort feedings
  • Ear Infections
  • Food intolerance
  • Gas
  • Gagging and choking
  • General Malaise (listlessness)
  • Grunting: Can be
  • Gulping and/or swallowing hard
  • Inability to sleep
  • Irritable after eating
  • Not interested in eating
  • Obstructive sleep or sleep apnea (snoring)
  • Shaking head back and forth and up and down.
  • Sneezing regularly without presence of colds
  • Spitting up
  • Spitting up through the nose
  • Recurring or consistent rash
  • Twisting of body on a regular basis. Especially after feeding
  • Unusually fussy and irritable and restless
  • Recurring or abundance of hiccups
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Recurring nasal infections
  • Wet burping
  • Wheezing or Whistling Sounds while Breathing

Symptoms can be non-specific but if you pay attention to when they occur and document them (take our infant acid reflux questionnaire), such as during or after feedings, it is a good indication that the relation is due to feeding or GERD and can also mean that there is gas and/or acid upset occurring.

During feeding you are filling  your babies belly up with milk or formula. The acid sitting in the stomach is risen to the top of the stomach where the esophagus meets, it irritates the esophagus because the cells do not have the capacity to endure the strong effects of stomach acid and causes rawness or damage that is further irritated by more acid. This can attribute to grunting noises, gagging, choking, hard swallowing, clawing during feeding, rubbing or hitting their nose and face and coughing.

Hint: In the case of grunting, if your baby doesn't poop right after the noise the most common reason is because of gas and the gas is due to acid reflux or gas build up to the esophagus.

More Serious to Severe Infant GERD Symptoms:

little reflux baby holding thumb

Although these more severe infant GERD symptoms or infant acid reflux are not the norm they are very real possibilities. They are not intended to scare you or intimidate you but they are real issues that have occurred in infants with acid reflux or GERD.

Read Cecilia's story!

  • Asthma or other Respiratory Infections and Diseases
  • Bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate)
  • Blue Baby Syndrome/Purple Baby Syndrom or ALTE (Apparent Life Threatening Event) or (Life Threatening Apnea)
  • Chronic Crying or Inconsolable Crying
  • Chronic Cough
  • Choking
  • Dehydration
  • Ear Infections that may later develop into a level of Hearing Loss
  • Failure to Thrive (Caused by loss of appetite due to pain associated with eating)
  • Gagging
  • Interruption in breathing
  • Lung Infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Sandifer's Syndrome (Seizure Like Symptoms)
  • Sinusitis
  • Sudden infant Death
  • Swollen throat
  • Projectile vomiting

Infant GERD Symptoms on the Family

The Infant Acid Reflux Solutions team has had the pleasure of working with the Mom's and the Dad's caring for infants with infant acid reflux for many years. Our team has seen first had the impact that this condition and/or disease has affected the parents and the siblings in addition to the substantial emotional, financial, social and mental impact of having a child with infant acid reflux can do.

This is a subject rarely address but we know that this is a very real symptom and one that can drastically change a family dynamic.

Consider all the infant GERD symptoms listed above and imagine how any one of them could change your life and the perception of your family dynamic.

Many of these stories are written here on "your feedback page". These stories are from the Mom's and Dad's that have experienced these symptoms first hand. Some of you will be able to relate to these parents from your own experiences and others the stories will touch your hearts.

We personally want to thank each and every one who contributed and shared their stories.

Infant GERD Symptoms; More Important Information:

Here is some additional information that may be helpful in understanding why certain infant GERD symptoms in infants can be harmful.

Reduced Salivation: Saliva contains a natural buffer (bicarbonate) that neutralizes acid in the esophagus. If the production saliva is reduced it is not able to protect the esophagus and that allows damage from the stomach acid to occur.

Impaired Peristalsis of the Esophagus: The esophagus is a muscular tube that squeezes food towards the stomach (just like you would squeeze your tube of toothpaste). This action is called peristalsis. It keeps what we eat moving in the right direction.

Impaired peristalsis allows what ever is in your baby's stomach to move in the wrong direction. It allows the "refluxing" of the contents back into the esophagus.

Failed Natural Lines of Self-Defense within the Tissue: Each part of the gastrointestinal tract has its own defense system to protect itself from stomach acid (as well as other irritants). If these defenses are compromised, the tissues lining these organs become vulnerable to injury from the stomach acid.

Problems of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES): Reflux is especially present in infants because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not reach its full maturity until eighteen months of age.

There is also a condition called Transient LES (TLESR) which are brief moments when the esophageal sphincter opens, giving way to the pressure of the stomach and allowing its contents to reflux into the esophagus.

Many problems are due to a weak resting tone of the esophageal sphincter muscles, in which LES cannot maintain a strong seal.

Delayed Gastric Emptying (DGE): The muscular walls of the stomach have coordinated contractions to keep stomach contents moving through it. If the stomach doesn't allow itself to empty as regularly as it should, pressure builds up within the stomach and the contents of the stomach begin pushing on the LES, making reflux much more likely. Pyloric stenosis is one cause of delayed gastric emptying.

This condition is a pathological, or diseased, narrowing of the lowest part of the stomach, or pylorus. This narrowing slows the rate at which food can leave thee stomach, allowing pressure to build up in the stomach.

Acid Production Issues: Reflux disorders don't always mean that there is an excess of acid that is being produced. Acid production still plays the major role, especially for patients who have already developed damage in their esophagus or stomach.

Acid production fluctuates during the day, but can flare up depending on diet, stress or conditions such as teething. This tendency has a great variable among infants.

The University of Missouri, Dr. Jeffrey Phillips, Dr. Marcella Bothwell and an eager intern that was assisting Dr. Phillips and Dr. Bothwell (Lauren Stephens) took the time to interview many of the Mom's and Dad's that participated in the treatments for infant acid reflux offered by Dr. Phillips.

Lauren compiled extensive information regarding infant GERD symptoms in infants. Here are some of her findings in addition to a graph that exhibits her research.

Infant acid reflux symptom statisticsThis was a controlled study and may not be representative of a National average.

As you can see from the chart above that many of the symptoms, mild or severe, are listed here. It is true that many babies show these signs at one time during their infancy and it is possible that there is nothing to worry about.

The important thing is to look for recurring signs and symptoms that seem to be uncontrollable or treatable.

If you feel your baby is not developing normally or you are seeing any of the GERD symptoms in your child it is very important to consult your care provider team. We feel it is very important you review and discuss all infant acid reflux treatment intentions with your doctor before making your decision.

We're also here for you to answer questions and to offer support. Please use our contact us page to get in touch with us and we assure you, your emails will be answered within 24 hours if not sooner.

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