There are a couple of ways to treat acid reflux in your infant, depending on their age and the extent of the acid reflux. One of the easiest is with lifestyle changes or simple home remedies that don't require any medication.
Acid Reflux Wedge Pillow
Using a wedge pillow to modify your baby's sleeping position can help combat acid reflux. Gravity helps keep the contents of the stomach from refluxing into the esophagus when your baby's upper body is elevated.
Natural Gripe Water
Gripe water is often used to soothe colicky babies, but it can be used to treat acid reflux as well. Ingredients vary depending on the manufacturer. However, most versions of gripe water may include fennel, ginger, peppermint, lemon balm, and chamomile.
You should avoid gripe water that includes sodium bicarbonate, sucrose, fructose, or alcohol (which was called for in the original recipe). Use a dropper or medicine syringe to administer gripe water to your infant. Alternately, you can mix it with formula or use a special pacifier that is designed to dispense it.
More Frequent, Smaller Feedings
Feeding your infant less formula more often can help prevent reflux if you bottle-feed them. Cutting back on the amount of time you spend nursing can also help prevent reflux if you breastfeed. More pressure is put on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle that allows food into the stomach, when your baby's stomach is too full. This can cause your infant to spit up.
Try a different brand of formula if you’re bottle-feeding. Eliminate certain foods, such as dairy products, from the diet in older infants. Avoid feeding them two hours before bedtime.
Keep Your Infant Upright
Make sure you keep your baby in an upright position when feeding and keep them in a sitting position for 15 to 30 minutes after feeding. Bouncing your baby while the food or milk is settling in the stomach can cause reflux.
Check Nipple Size
Your infant may gulp air while feeding if the nipple on your baby’s bottle is too small. However, the milk will flow too fast if it’s too large. Using the right nipple size allows the right amount of milk to flow without allowing your baby to swallow air at the same time.
Thicken Breast Milk or Formula
With your pediatrician’s approval, add a small amount of rice cereal to formula or breast milk to help prevent acid reflux. Thickening the food stops stomach contents from sloshing into the esophagus. You may need to change the size of the hole in the bottle nipple to accommodate the thickened liquid, as well as to ensure that neither too much nor too little is flowing at once.
Change Sleeping Position
Experts recommend that infants sleep on their backs to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, for babies with acid reflux, this position may obstruct the airways. Your doctor may recommend that infants with acid reflux sleep on their stomachs instead. The mattress should be firm, with the head turned so that the mouth and nose are not obstructed. Keep the head elevated to relieve acid reflux.
More Frequent Burping
Burping helps relieve gastric pressure. Waiting until your baby has a full stomach increases the chances of regurgitation. Burping your infant every one to two hours after feeding may help prevent acid reflux. Bottle-fed infants should be burped as often as every one to two ounces and breastfed babies should be burped anytime they pull off the nipple.
A physician may want to use certain drugs to treat your infant's acid reflux if lifestyle changes don't help. These can include infant doses of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec or Prevacid, or H2 blockers such as Tagamet or Zantac.
The lower esophageal sphincter may need to be surgically tightened so that less acid is allowed to flow back into the esophagus. However, this is rare. The procedure, called fundoplication, is usually reserved for babies whose reflux causes severe breathing problems or prevents growth. In most cases, simply making a few changes to the way you feed your baby should be enough to treat their reflux without having to use medications or surgery.