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Spitting Up (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease/GERD)

Spitting Up (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease/GERD)

McKenzie Pediatrics (May 2000)

What is Regurgitation?

Regurgitation is the effortless spitting up of 1 or 2 mouthfuls of stomach contents, usually within 15-30 minutes after a feed.  It often begins between 2-6 weeks of age, and occurs in more than half of infants regardless of breast or bottle feeding.  It usually resolves by 6 to 9 months of age, though occasionally longer.

While parents often are impressed with the amount their healthy baby can regurgitate, usually the actual amount is far less than parents guess.  Try this experiment:  fill a 5-ml (1 teaspoon) syringe with water and squirt the water onto a piece of cotton fabric (like a T-shirt).  The size of the "spill" as it spreads looks quite large compared to the relatively small volume of 1 teaspoon!  A single ounce of milk contains 6 teaspoons!  Babies who simply just regurgitate frequently grow just fine.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) implies regurgitation of sufficiency volume and frequency to cause symptoms for the infant.  Babies may not even have  to actually "spit up" very much to have GERD.  The symptoms include:  arching, crying, & stiffening with or without spitting up.  These symptoms may precede, occur during, or occur every up to 1-2 hours after a feeding.  The adult equivalent of GERD is commonly known as "heartburn".

GERD occurs more often in bottle feeding babies, but does occur in those breast feeding.  Often symptoms occur with regularity during a certain period of time during the day.  This is due to the fact that the acid level of our stomach juices varies throughout the day, higher sometimes and lower at other times.  GERD is one of the most frustrating conditions any parent could encounter with their young infant.

What Do I Do If My Baby Has GERD?

What If All This Doesn't Help?