There are various baby acid reflux medications available and health care professionals are able to prescribe them to your baby if they suspect your baby has acid reflux, also known as gastro-oesophagus reflux disease (GERD).
Most parents implicitly trust health care professionals that these medications are appropriate, but we are not given much information about them. What are these medications that are being given to our babies? Here I explain the common baby acid reflux medications and the issues surrounding them.
Gaviscon is often the first medication offered to babies who present with reflux symptoms. It is an alginate which reacts with stomach contents. It creates a gel like layer and thickens the milk in the stomach to prevent it from flowing back up the oesophagus. You dissolve it in the milk if your baby is formula fed or given to baby before a feed if your baby is breast fed.
Although many parents feel that it helps reduce the amount of milk being regurgitated, it has been widely reported that it causes constipation. This is because it is more difficult for the milk to be digested due to it being thicker. Constipation itself can cause many difficulties such as wind, bloating and stomach cramps.
This is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) and is used as an acid suppressant. This reduces how much acid the stomach makes by inhibiting the enzymes that produce the stomach acid. It can help a baby who is suffering from acid reflux. This can often present as ‘silent reflux’ when the baby does not regurgitate milk but is very uncomfortable and it is believed that stomach acid is washing back up.
However, advice is not to give this to infants under the age of 12 months. Yet it is widely prescribed by health care professionals to babies under this age. It has a lot of side effects such as nausea, headaches, stomach cramps and constipation. A baby can’t tell you that they are suffering from a headache, they just cry. This is probably why many parents report that their baby continues to cry whilst taking this drug.
Also, it is worth noting that omeprazole is designed to be a short term resolution as we need stomach acid to keep bacteria and other pathogens at bay. Another of the side effects is bacteria overgrowth due to the lack of stomach acid. Unfortunately, not many parents are given advice on when and how to wean their babies off this medication.
This medication is known as a H2 blocker or a Histamine 2 Receptor. Similar to a PPI, it reduces stomach acid. This is done by stopping the histamine-2 response in the stomach which stimulates gastric acid production. You may know this medication as Zantac or Pepcid. It is now much more difficult to be prescribed this medication due to it’s recall. Tests found that it contained cancer causing chemicals, therefore there has been a move away from this drug.
Reflux is very difficult and of course you want to help your baby as much as you possibly can. This is why we turn to health care professionals to provide us with a solution. This article isn’t intended to advise you against baby acid reflux medications. It’s purpose is to educate parents on the medications that are being prescribed because knowledge is the best defence against colic and reflux.
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