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Mayo Clinic on Infant Acid Reflux

By Mayo Clinic staff

Definition of Infant Reflux

How infant acid reflux occurs:

Infant acid reflux, more accurately known as gastroesophageal reflux, is a very common problem. Infant acid reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach go back up into the esophagus.

Although infant acid reflux most often occurs after a feeding, it can happen anytime your baby coughs, cries or strains. Most babies who have infant acid reflux are healthy. Infant acid reflux typically resolves on its own when your baby is around 12 to 18 months old. In the meantime, changes in feeding technique — such as smaller, more frequent feedings, changing position or interrupting feedings to burp; can help keep reflux under control. In a few cases, medication or other treatments may be recommended.

Signs and symptoms of infant acid reflux may include:

  • Constant Crying
  • Breath smells of sour milk
  • Hoarse Cry
  • Stuffy nose
  • Spitting up
  • Irritability during or after feedings
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Refusing to eat
  • Crying when placed on his or her back, especially after a feedingIn severe cases, your baby may arch his or her back while crying and this may look like your baby is having a seizure.

When to see a doctor

Normal infant acid reflux doesn't interfere with a baby's growth or well-being. Contact your baby's doctor if your baby:

  • Isn't gaining weight
  • Spits up forcefully, causing stomach contents to shoot out of his or her mouth
  • Spits up green or yellow fluid
  • Spits up blood or a material that looks like coffee grounds
  • Resists feedings
  • Has blood in his or her stool
  • Has other signs of illness, such as fever, diarrhea or difficulty breathing
  • Begins vomiting at age 6 months or older

Some of these signs may indicate more-serious conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or pyloric stenosis. GERD is a severe version of reflux that can cause pain, vomiting and poor weight gain.

Pyloric stenosis is a rare condition in which a narrowed valve between the stomach and the small intestine prevents stomach contents from emptying into the small intestine.

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