Spitting up, or reflux, is very common in younger infants and can result from:
- weak abdominal muscles
- an immature or weak lower esophageal sphincter
- a slow digestive system
In some rare cases, reflux in older infants is due to food allergies. In older children, it can also be a result of lactose intolerance. This is when the body is unable to process lactose, a sugar found in milk.
Most babies grow out of it by the time they’re 12 months old and don’t require treatment other than simple home remedies.
Babies who have more severe symptoms may receive a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These symptoms may include:
- poor weight gain
- vomiting consistently
Babies with these symptoms may need to take medication or even have surgery.
GERD can be painful for babies, causing irritability and discomfort. This can make it difficult for them to fall or stay asleep. If you’re having trouble getting your infant with GERD to sleep, here are some suggestions that may help.
Because acid reflux occurs after meals, don’t put your infant to bed immediately after a feeding.
Instead, burp them and wait 30 minutes before lying your baby down for a nap or for the evening. This will help make sure their body digested the meal.
Similar to acid reflux in adults, acid reflux in infants can be made worse by their position, especially after eating.
Because very young infants can’t sit up by themselves, make sure your baby remains upright for 30 minutes after eating. This will help aid digestion before your child sleeps.
Many parents may have received the advice that raising the head of your baby’s crib can help relieve acid reflux symptoms.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that the practice has not been found to be effective, and it actually increases the likelihood that your child could shift into an unsafe position while sleeping.
The AAP calls for infants to always sleep on their backs on a flat, firm surface. Only a fitted sheet should be used.
Blankets, pillows, and other soft objects like toys should be kept away from the area where your child sleeps. This reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The group also recommends sleeping in the same room as your child for the first 6 to 12 months after birth. However, your baby should sleep on a separate surface placed near but not on your bed. This can help prevent suffocation and strangulation.
Sometimes acid reflux causes babies to throw up everything they’ve eaten. A baby who hasn’t had enough to eat will likely have trouble getting to sleep.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician if you think acid reflux is causing your baby to have difficulty sleeping. They can help you find a solution.
Your infant may need medication, a change in formula, or — in rare cases — surgery. Your pediatrician can also recommend ways to help your baby sleep.
If your baby has GERD and is taking medication, make sure you give them the medication exactly as prescribed by a pediatrician. Be aware of any side effects and when to call your doctor in an emergency.
Sleep is important, both for infants and for their parents and caregivers. Make sure to establish a consistent bedtime routine, then follow it nightly.
Rocking your infant in an upright position until they’re drowsy and almost asleep can help soothe them and may lessen symptoms of GERD or acid reflux.
Getting a baby to sleep can be tricky for anyone, but acid reflux may add yet another challenge. Talk with your child’s pediatrician about how acid reflux may be affecting your baby’s sleep and how you can help them sleep better.
The doctor can suggest tips and tricks that will help your baby feel more comfortable. You should also take notes on any triggers you see affecting your baby’s condition and speak with your child’s pediatrician about them.