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Spit Up vs. Reflux

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

One of the best parts of my practice is continuing to see newborns and young families. The one thing that never changes are some of the questions that parents have, because most babies have similar behaviors in the early days. One of the common questions is about “spitting up” or the newer name of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux).

It is funny when I talk to a family about their baby’s spit up and then get a follow up phone call saying “I really think that they have reflux not spit up” so I can tell that I need to change my jargon.

Whatever you want to call it, many babies spit up, and the main thing to watch for is that a your-baby is gaining weight. It is difficult to believe that your your-baby can really gain weight when they seem to “spew” breast milk or formula all over you with each feeding. So I have parents bring the baby in so that I may examine them, check their weight out, and maybe even watch them eat while they are in the office. That way I too get some reflux experience on me!

Most babies reflux can be managed with tincture of time and reassurance, but some newborns may require a little intervention. A “happy spitter” will thrive and outgrow the reflux despite always leaving their parents covered with milk. If your baby is fussy and irritable due to reflux it may be time to add medication to see if it will help the pain associated with reflux (heartburn) but it will not correct the spit up problem as that requires time for the muscle between the tummy and esophagus to tighten as the baby grows.

If your baby is formula fed it may help to thicken the feedings. There are many different ways to manage reflux, but the problem is usually self limited and most infants have out grown this problem by five to six months of age. Keep those cute burp pads handy!

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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