Is Medication Needed? reports that many babies are being overtreated for what parents assume is acid reflux. Acid reflux, technically called gastroesophageal reflux, is a very real condition that some babies do in fact experience.

Baby crying in mother's arms

Irritability and/or crying during or after feedings, spitting up, problems sleeping, not wanting to eat and coughing are all symptoms of acid reflux, but they can also be behaviors or symptoms of other issues. According to commentary given recently by Dr. Eric Hassall in The Journal of Pediatrics, too many parents and pediatricians assume that many of these common infant behaviors are a sign of acid reflux disease. Hassall further notes that far too many babies receive prescription drugs to treat acid reflux when it's not always necessary. The doctor cites a large study that found a 16-fold increase in the number of acid reflux prescriptions for babies between 1999 and 2004. Hassall blames drug company marketing along with parents and doctors who are eager to treat common baby conditions with prescriptions for the rise in unnecessary treatments. Most experts, including Hassall, consider spitting up a normal baby problem, not an issue that needs drug treatment. Furthermore, many of the drugs being prescribed aren't safe or even approved for infants. The Mayo Clinic notes that drugs used to treat acid reflux may result in an increased risk of certain intestinal and respiratory infections. Also, taking these drugs is linked to an increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist and spine in adults.

What should you do?

If you have a baby with symptoms of acid reflux, you shouldn't go right to medication.

Many of the symptoms can be treated by

  • Keeping babies upright after feeding and during feedings if possible
  • Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding
  • Not switching formulas over and over
  • Patting your baby's back to help relieve gas pressure
  • Playing the bicycle leg game: rotate baby's legs to work excess air out
  • Massaging your baby
  • Feeding your baby before he's very hungry; a ravenous baby eats too fast and gulps more air
  • Making sure your baby is latched on well when breastfeeding

Also, be aware that a fussy baby is common. It may be something totally unrelated to gas.

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