We often think of heartburn as an old man’s problem. But if your child tends to have frequent tummy troubles, it could be a sign of pediatric gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD occurs when stomach contents travel back up into the esophagus during or after a meal. Reflux is common in babies: more than half of all infants experience the problem (but it usually stops when the spitting up period ends, between 12 and 18 months). Older kids, especially those who are overweight or eat lots of greasy, fatty or spicy foods, also suffer.
Signs of GERD include spitting up, vomiting, coughing, irritability, poor eating and bloody bowel movements. How can you prevent your child from developing GERD?
Tame tummy troubles with these tips:
- Reduce spitting up. Don’t overfeed your baby or feed again after he or she spits up. Wait until the next feeding before offering him or her anything else to eat.
- Sit up. Keep young children upright for at least 30 minutes after meals to encourage food to stay down and digest properly. Don’t allow your son or daughter to eat right before bed.
- Keep it loose. Skip tight clothes. Squeezing the stomach muscles can cause restriction that can keep food from traveling downward.
- Sleep stacked. Elevating the head of the bed by six inches helps keep the stomach lower than the esophagus, so stomach contents won’t head back north.
Most children with GERD will find relief with these tips. If your child’s symptoms become severe or they persist, check with your pediatrician about other solutions, such as medicine.