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Q+A: Does Baby Need Anti-Reflux Medication?

Q. My infant frequently spits up. Does she need anti-reflux medication?

A. All infants spit up to some degree, because they're on an all-liquid diet and liquids back up more easily. Also, babies spend a lot of time on their back, and the opening between their esophagus and stomach hasn't fully matured, so food can splash back.

If you're concerned about how much your baby spits up, the key thing to look for is whether he's gaining weight properly, says Vikram Khoshoo, MD, PhD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at West Jefferson Medical Center, in New Orleans. He recently evaluated 44 infants for reflux and found that while 42 of the babies were already on anti-reflux medication, only eight actually had gastroesophogeal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD symptoms include frequent spitting up plus poor weight gain, refusal to eat, crying while feeding, irritability, and breathing problems.

"If a child is gaining weight appropriately, that means he's absorbing more milk than he's losing," Dr. Khoshoo says, "and the spitting up is within normal limits and doesn't require treatment."

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.

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