Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) in Children

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What is Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in children?

Gastroesophageal reflux, also called acid reflux or heartburn, is a digestive disorder that can affect babies, children and adults alike. “Gastroesophageal” refers to the stomach and esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach). “Reflux” means to flow back or return. Gastroesophageal reflux is the return of acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids, back up into the esophagus.

Reflux in children is common. One symptom of GER is “spitting up,” but GER can present itself in many different ways. When symptoms become bothersome, GER becomes GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. It may be a temporary condition, or it may become a long-term physical problem, often called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).


Most babies with GER have no symptoms other than frequently spitting up. As long as these children are growing well and not developing other problems associated with GER, such as breathing difficulties, the condition needs no treatment and will resolve on its own with time.

 

How does Boston Children's Hospital treat GER in kids?

Boston Children’s Hospital is the #1 ranked pediatric gastroenterology department (U.S. News & World Report, 2014-15), and our team includes the best doctors and clinicians for children. Our expansive care team can help parents struggling with a diagnosis to find a solution by providing individualized treatment plans and access to more specialized care than any other hospital. 

At Boston Children’s our first step in treating GER is to look for natural solutions that do not require the use of medication. On your first visit, you will meet with a gastroenterology specialist from the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition who may recommend trying different ways of positioning and feeding your infant. Some infants may need medicine. If your infant has frequent “spit ups” but appears comfortable and is growing well, no treatment may be needed.

A few ways to avoid or reduce acid reflux for your baby include:

  • Over-feeding (giving more formula/breast milk than the stomach can hold) may cause an increase in reflux. (Your provider can help you figure out the right amount of formula your child needs on a daily basis.) Hold your baby semi-upright during feedings (not flat). Keep the bottle nipple filled with formula/milk, so your child doesn’t swallow too much air.
  • Do not prop your infant’s bottle, as it may cause your baby to choke or take formula into their lungs.
  • Do not add cereal or other thickeners into the bottle unless your provider tells you to.
  • Burp your baby many times during feedings.
  • After feedings, hold your child upright for at least 30 minutes. Try to keep your baby quiet and relaxed after feedings.
  • For sleep, you may place rolled towels under the mattress to raise the head of the bed or crib 30°. Do not use pillows or other soft sleep positioners in the crib.

Your doctor also may offer advice about diet and lifestyle changes that can help manage reflux in your child.

Contact Us to Make an Appointment for GER:

Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Ave
Boston MA 02115

617-355-6058617-355-6058

Related Resources

Treating gastroesophageal reflux in kids: Fact vs. sensationalism

Trial and error: Solving a rare, hard-to-diagnose GI disease

One family's story: Raising multiple children with complex medical issues


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