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Home Remedies For Acid Reflux In Babies

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Acid reflux in babies is quite a natural occurrence. It is estimated that regurgitation or acid reflux can be witnessed daily in around 70% of babies [1] that are 4 months old. At least 25% of their parents consider their regurgitation to be "a problem".

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a term used to refer to the involuntary movement of the gastric contents into the oesophagus, often reaching the throat as well. It is when GER causes complications, either with or without other problematic symptoms, that the term gastroesophageal disease or GERD [2] is used.

Acid Reflux In Babies

Here, it is important to understand the difference between reflux and vomiting [3] . While in reflux, the food rises back up towards the oesophagus, with often a small amount of it reaching the throat as well, in vomiting, the muscles of the oesophagus contract along with the diaphragm, causing the food to be thrown out of the stomach with force.

While the backflow of gastric contents into the oesophagus is a normal phenomenon in people of all ages, in infants, various factors contribute to making the condition worse. These conditions that are specific to neonates include remaining in a lying position for most of the time, the immaturity of the gastro-oesophageal junction as well as being on a liquid milk diet. [2]

Especially in western countries, excessive crying in the initial months of a baby's life is the primary reason for parents seeking medical intervention [4] . Also, commonly known as infantile colic, reflux is often the reason behind excessive crying. While crying is to be expected in an infant, "excessive crying" can lead to a lot of distress in the caregivers.

Infants can cry for many reasons, but for an infant to be diagnosed as suffering from colic, the Rule of Three [5] devised by Wessel is followed, which states that colic can be suspected when there are bouts of excessive crying in an otherwise healthy baby that last beyond 3 hours each day, occurring more than 3 days in a week, and continuing in the same manner for at least 3 weeks at a time.

Many times, excessive crying in infants has been known to adversely affect the parents and immediate caregivers, often leading to issues of maternal depression [4] and even child abuse.

For treating GER in an infant, a doctor might prescribe anticholinergic [6] drugs or antifoaming agents. Nevertheless, owing to the side-effects like apnoea, coma, drowsiness associated with anticholinergic drugs, they are usually not advisable for very young children, and are specifically not recommended for infants below six months.

On the other hand, the efficacy of administering gripe water or antifoaming agents has also not been proven. Another medical aid for treating colic in infants is by using a Proton Pump Inhibitors [PPI], but as such a pump might increase the risk of infection, even a PPI is not advisable as such. Moreover, there have also been concerns regarding the overprescription of PPIs for treating colicky infants [7] .

With medication proving to be either ineffective or causing side-effects, it is much better to treat acid reflux in infants the natural way. There are certain home remedies for effectively treating acid reflux in infants.

1. Probiotics

Acid reflux in babies can be caused by the absence of good bacteria in the gut or intestines. In clinical trials, it has been seen that instances of acid reflux were less in colicky babies who were treated with probiotics [8] . A lack of good bacteria in the gut can easily be treated by feeding a spoonful of curd to your baby.

Many infant formulas are available that contain probiotics. It also comes in the form of a powdery substance that can be administered to your baby after mixing with water. For a breastfed baby, a small amount of the powder can be applied directly on to the nipple prior to the baby being latched onto it.

2. Left Side Positioning

A proven non-pharmacological way to effectively treat acid reflux in infants is by making them lie on their left side after feeding. The left side positioning [9] of a colicky baby after feeding has been found to greatly reduce acid reflux in both preterm as well as full term infants that are 0-6 months old.

A word of caution is needed here. Never leave your child unattended while he is sleeping on his left side. As sleeping in a prone or left lateral position has been commonly associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) [10] , make sure that you turn your baby to sleep in the supine position after some time.

3. Nursing In A More Upright Position

As the baby usually lies down for the better part of the day, this supine position causes the acid to rise up. Nursing your baby in a position that is as upright as possible will ensure that what goes down stays down. Studies have revealed that babies whose mothers positioned them upright while feeding [11] , holding or sleeping had lesser instances of acid reflux.

4. One Breast Per Feeding

Feeding on both breasts each time can cause your baby to be overfed. Ensuring that you only feed on one breast in each feeding will let your baby get both the thinner and watery foremilk along with the thicker and more nourishing hindmilk.

5. Frequent And Shorter Feedings

Many times, acid reflux in babies can be because of the baby consuming large amounts of milk in a short span of time. Instead of feeding your baby for a longer period in each feeding to keep him satiated, try switching over to smaller and more frequent feedings [12] . As your baby comes to realize that he will be fed soon after, there is a lesser chance of him overfeeding deliberately, thereby reducing the occurrence of acid reflux.

6. Elimination Diet For The Mother

In cases where the baby is exclusively breastfed, the acid reflux might be caused as an allergic reaction to something in the mother's diet. It is for this reason that mothers are usually advised to avoid certain foods such as, eggs, dairy products, soy, wheat from the diet so as to not cause any inadvertent reaction in their breastfed babies.

7. Fennel Seeds Or Saunf

In addition to easing the build-up of gas in the baby's stomach, fennel seeds also have an antispasmodic effect on the intestines as well.

Acid Reflux In Babies

8. Cumin Seeds Or Jeera

Cumin seeds can safely be given to babies for promoting digestion. Simply boil a teaspoonful of cumin seeds in water for a few minutes. Let it cool down to room temperature. Strain. This cumin seed water can be given to the baby in small doses throughout the day to remove acidity and bloating.

9. Peppermint

Peppermint, with its cooling effect on the digestive system, eases the symptoms associated with acid reflux and also provides relief from inflammation. There are two ways of using peppermint for easing acid reflux symptoms, that is, by either massaging your baby's abdomen gently with a few drops of peppermint mixed with a tablespoonful of olive oil, or by the mother drinking peppermint tea two to three times a day. The mother can also consult with her doctor regarding the advisability of her consuming peppermint capsules.

10. Coconut Oil

Containing lauric acid, coconut oil also helps in reducing the inflammation caused by acid reflux. Coconut oil helps babies to digest better. In addition to rubbing a mixture of ginger oil and coconut oil on your baby's stomach, you can also add half-a-teaspoonful of extra virgin coconut oil to the cereal that you might be preparing for your baby. A pregnant woman is also advised to regularly consume extra-virgin coconut oil in a bid to boost the immunity of the baby in her womb.

11. Massage

Massaging your baby regularly can greatly improve the functioning of his respiratory and digestive organs. Studies have revealed that massage therapy can control acid reflux in infants primarily due to the release of cortisol from the brain. Massage makes the baby feel better and relieves stress. This, in turn, alleviates the symptoms associated with acid reflux. Often, where it comes to treating infant colic, massage therapy is found to be more effective than rocking [13] the baby.

Massage your baby with warm coconut oil or olive oil. Always ensure that you massage your baby's stomach with clockwise strokes. Never use anti-clockwise motions on your baby's stomach as that will cause more harm than good. Also, never massage your baby just after feeding. Make sure to keep at least an hour's interval between the last feeding and the massaging session.

12. Exercise

Gentle exercises, such as pushing the knees towards the stomach or moving the legs simultaneously in a circular motion as if riding a bicycle, have been known to relieve acid reflux in infants by the expulsion of trapped gases. However, you must make sure that you do not feed your baby just after an exercise session.

13. Fresh Air

Colicky babies can be soothed by taking them out in the fresh air. With the uneasiness caused by regurgitation and bloating, simply being outdoors for some time can settle a baby by offering him a distraction from the discomfort that he is facing.

14. Apple Cider Vinegar

In addition to being a good remedy for infants that suffer from acid reflux, apple cider vinegar or ACV as it is more popularly called, is also known to boost immunity. Add some amount of ACV in a glass of lukewarm water. Feed this to your baby at regular intervals to treat acid reflux. Though you might add organic honey as a taste enhancer, do not give honey to your baby if he is less than one year old.

15. Chamomile

Another excellent herbal to effectively treat acid reflux, chamomile has sedative properties that provide relief from colic pain as well as aid in digestion. Mix about half a teaspoonful of dry chamomile flowers in hot water, strain, and let it cool down. Once cooled to room temperature, give your baby a spoonful of this chamomile tea throughout the day to relieve acid reflux.

16. Burping Your Baby

Putting down your baby soon after feeding greatly increases the risk of colic. Ideally, the baby should be burped after each feeding. As a burp signifies that the food has made its way to the stomach, there is reduced the chance of it making its way up again in the oesophagus as well as the throat.

Do make sure that you take the time to properly burp your baby before you make him lie down. After every feeding, hold your baby on your shoulder, gently stroking his back in downwards motion. Keep doing this till your baby burps.

17. Holding The Baby Vertically After Feeding

Studies have also revealed that holding the baby in a vertical position for around 30-45 [14] minutes after each feeding, can greatly reduce the probability of acid reflux.

By adopting the above-mentioned natural methods, you can see for yourself the positive changes in your colicky baby. As unnecessary or avoidable medications are generally not recommended for infants, the best course of action would indeed be to go all natural.

View Article References
  1. [1] Vandenplas Y. (1999). Diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease in infants and children. World journal of gastroenterology, 5(5), 375-382.
  2. [2] Rybak, A., Pesce, M., Thapar, N., & Borrelli, O. (2017). Gastro-Esophageal Reflux in Children. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(8), 1671
  3. [3] Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Pregnancy and birth: Reflux in babies. 2008
  4. [4] Smith, C. H., Israel, D. M., Schreiber, R., & Goldman, R. D. (2013). Proton pump inhibitors for irritable infants. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 59(2), 153-156.
  5. [5] Kheir A. E. (2012). Infantile colic, facts and fiction. Italian journal of pediatrics, 38, 34.
  6. [6] Sung V. (2018). Infantile colic. Australian prescriber, 41(4), 105-110.
  7. [7] Khoshoo, V., Edell, D., Thompson, A., & Rubin, M. (2007). Are we overprescribing antireflux medications for infants with regurgitation?. Pediatrics, 120(5), 946-949.
  8. [8] Koonce, T., Mounsey, A., & Rowland, K. (2011). Colicky baby? Here's a surprising remedy. The Journal of family practice, 60(1), 34-36.
  9. [9] Omari, T. (2008). Gastroesophageal reflux in infants: can a simple left side positioning strategy help this diagnostic and therapeutic conundrum?. Minerva pediatrica, 60(2), 193-200.
  10. [10] Sarvananthan R. (2015). GORD in infants and children. BMJ Clinical Evidence, 2015, 0310.
  11. [11] Neu, M., Schmiege, S. J., Pan, Z., Fehringer, K., Workman, R., Marcheggianni-Howard, C., & Furuta, G. T. (2014). Interactions during feeding with mothers and their infants with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(6), 493-499.
  12. [12] Indrio, F., Riezzo, G., Raimondi, F., Cavallo, L., & Francavilla, R. (2009). Regurgitation in healthy and non healthy infants. Italian journal of pediatrics, 35(1), 39.
  13. [13] Sheidaei, A., Abadi, A., Zayeri, F., Nahidi, F., Gazerani, N., & Mansouri, A. (2016). The effectiveness of massage therapy in the treatment of infantile colic symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Medical journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 30, 351.
  14. [14] Hegar, B., Satari, D. H., Sjarif, D. R., & Vandenplas, Y. (2013). Regurgitation and gastroesophageal reflux disease in six to nine months old indonesian infants. Pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology & nutrition, 16(4), 240-247.

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