Gastro oesophageal reflux (GER) is the term used for the backflow of stomach contents into the oesophagus or food pipe. If the contents of the stomach come up to the top of the oesophagus, they may come out as regurgitation (posset) or a vomit.
This is normal. Most babies experience some degree of uncomplicated GER. When does it become a problem? When the possetting is more forceful or projectile, of large quantities and/or accompanied by other symptoms, then the condition is termed gastro oesophag-eal reflux disease (GERD) or simply ‘reflux’. A baby may suffer ‘silent reflux’ when there is no obvious regurgitation, but the backflow causes considerable discomfort and possibly problems with feeding. There seems to be a family tendency towards reflux. Premature babies and babies with other health issues are more susceptible to suffering the condition. Symptoms usually ease by 12-24 months of age.
Vomiting, regurgitation or posseting – frequent, projectile, large quantities – can be straight after feeds or any time between feeds. Oesophagitis – reflux of acid can damage the oesophagus, leading to discomfort and pain. Sleep disturbances- poor sleep patterns, day and night.
Respiratory symptoms – nasal congestion – coughing – wheezing – snuffles – hoarseness – cyanosis – recurrent pneumonia – apnoea Inconsolable crying and irritability – due to hunger and/or pain. Feeding difficulties – breast/bottle refusal – over eating for comfort (mother’s milk is a natural antacid & sucking tends to keep stomach contents down). – under eating due to pain; either it hurts to swallow or baby associates feeding with the pain after). Wind – frequent wind – uncomfortable hiccups – choking – burping – gurgling – bad breath Stools – can be watery, explosive. Poor weight gain, weight loss, failure to thrive. Arching of the torso
It is important that you consult your healthcare professional if you suspect your baby suffers with GERD. Diagnosis may be made based on what a mother has told the doctor. A trial of medication may be an option. It is important that some other conditions are ruled out before diagnosing gastro oesophageal reflux.
If necessary certain tests can be performed. These include an oesophag-eal pH study (24 hour pH probe) to study the acidity in the baby’s oesophagus.
A baby may be given a barium swallow or an endoscopy.
These include drugs such as antacids and H2 receptor antagonists. In severe cases, surgery may be a last resort.
Cranial osteopathy Osteopaths look at the relationship between the structure and function of the body. Rather than treat conditions and symptoms, during an osteopathic session, they consider what is restricting a person’s health. Cranial osteopaths focus on releasing these restrictions, by using very gentle, effective techniques to release tensions and to balance the body’s whole framework, which also improves the workings of the internal organs and helps to relieve many conditions and restore health and well being.
It can be especially draining to care for a baby with GERD. Many mothers lose confidence in their breastfeeding and mothering skills when caring for a baby who never seems happy. It can be a great comfort to find help and support, either from face to face groups or from online forums.