If you thought that heartburn is an issue that only adults have to face, it’s time to rethink that assumption. Because even children, especially infants, are prone to heartburn. And what’s worse is that unlike adults, who can actually figure out it’s heartburn and can look for a cure, with babies, that’s not possible. All they can do is cry and whine – and continue to helplessly suffer from the pangs of heartburn and indigestion.
But not if you can help your child…
And that’s only possible when you dig deeper about heartburn in babies and kids.
So starting with the basics—
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is the symptom for GERD, where the stomach acid production is inadequate to digest the food completely. This results in the acid and the food refluxing into the esophagus via the Lower Esophageal Sphincter – which becomes weak due to prolonged GERD and is unable to keep the acid and food from refluxing like it is supposed to.
The same thing happens in little babies – they also suffer from GERD and their LES is still not developed enough to keep all the acid down – and this results in heartburn.
Moving on to…
How to figure out whether your child is suffering from heartburn?
With older children, they are able to tell you that they are feeling sick, or suffering from indigestion. But with really small children and with infants, it is you who will have to keep an eye out for the symptoms of heartburn—
- The baby will arch its back during feeding
- Chest pain – the baby will keep rubbing at its chest
- The child will be fussy and cranky
- Poor appetite
- Vomiting immediately after feeding
- Wheezing, spitting while feeding
- Refuses food but will suckle a dummy or a toy
Children with heartburn and GERD also do not gain weight – and in severe cases, sores can develop on the wall of the esophagus. This can lead to or be accompanied by bleeding in the esophagus as well as breathing complications.
If your child displays any of the abovementioned symptoms, then you should ideally take him to the pediatrician at the soonest. The doctor will be able to diagnose for sure if your child is indeed suffering from GERD and heartburn or not— there are several tests that he will perform on your child.
Once the diagnosis and the prognosis is complete, he will probably give your child medications depending on the age of the infant/child and the severity of the condition.
Apart from what the doctor prescribes, there are a few things that you as a parent can do for your child to ease the heartburn…
What you can do to help:
- For a baby, feeding while keeping him in an upright position will help.
- Hold the baby upright for at least 20 minutes to half an hour after every feed to ensure proper digestion is possible.
- Give your child – and this is true even of bigger kids and toddlers – smaller but more frequent meals.
- Burp your child during his feed.
- If your child is older and has a specific bedtime, make sure he doesn’t have his meals in close proximity to the bedtime. There should be at least a 1-2 hour gap in between the two.
- Raise the head of your kid’s bed – by at least 5-8 inches to ensure his head is at an elevated state compared to the rest of his body.
As you can see, your child might not be able to communicate well even he is suffering from heartburn. But it is up to you to know about heartburn in babies and kids, so that if your child shows any symptom of heartburn, you will not be at a loss for what to do and how to cope. The pediatrician will help with the rest.