Preemies and Reflux
Reflux normally occurs during the first three months of age in more than half of all preemies and infants. Since most preemies have an immature digestive system, they are more likely to have reflux. However, for a small number of babies, symptoms of reflux are severe, and medical evaluation and treatment is needed. Reflux is not a disease.
Reflux is short for Gastroesophageal reflux, or (GERD), affects up to half of premature babies. Reflux is similar to the heartburn that some adults have. In gastroesophageal reflux, stomach contents come back up the esophagus and the baby will spit up. GERD can be miserably uncomfortable and, in some severe cases, if it has not been diagnosed and treated, the baby's esophagus can develop painful ulcerated patches from the stomach acids. Reflux can also make it difficult for a baby to feed happily or to keep milk in the stomach afterwards.
Symptoms of Reflux
The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Spitting up, coughing and respiratory problems are all symptoms of a baby with reflux.
Your baby may show signs of incontrollable crying and screaming and rching of their back due to the pain in their stomach.
If your preemie has GERD, it helps to keep him as upright as possible most of the time. Feed your baby with him sitting upright or at least semi-upright and make sure he stays upright for about half an hour after each feeding. Feed slowly, taking several breaks or feed him less milk at a time, but more often. Burping your infant several times during feedings is also helpful.
Raise up the head end of your baby's crib or cradle so it is at about a 30 degree angle. If possible, adjust the sleeping position of your stroller also.
If your baby is bottle-fed check, to see whether the formula you are using is based on casein.
Most infants grow out of reflux by the time they reach their first birthday. Still, you should talk to your child's doctor if the problem occurs regularly and causes discomfort.
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