Fortunately, intervention is usually not necessary. “What commonly happens is that families start thinking this is an allergy or related to reflux and want to go on medications for it,” explains American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson and pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Porto. “Most of the time it happens in the setting of normal growth and happiness with feeding.”
How to Soothe Baby Indigestion
- Wait it Out: Sometimes what seems like indigestion is spit up or gas related to the way a a baby’s body is naturally growing. It will end soon enough.
- Look for Pain: A child that is happy before, during and after feeding is likely fine. A child that archer their back, cries or refuses to eat may have more going on.
- Look at Weight: Children who are gaining weight appropriately are likely fine. Children who seem in pain and are not gaining weight may have medical issues.
- See the Pediatrician: Before giving a child any medication, talk to a pediatrician. They can prescribe a medication that works or give guidance on over-the-counter remedies.
In any case, before parents even think about potential interventions, they need to understand what’s going inside their kid’s digestive system. Turns out the answer is “a lot.” During the first couple of weeks of life, a baby’s body is actually still figuring out how to get things done: tubes are shorter and sphincters are looser. There’s the possibility of reflux, spit up, and colic, all happening around the same time. But, as long as the baby is latching normally, eating happily and gaining weight appropriately, there’s seldom cause for concern. “Even if they’re spitting up 7, 8, 9, times a day and they’re growing well, parents should be reassured,” Porto says.
Concerns come, however, with signs of pain. “We think about disease if they are turning away from, arching their back or unhappy or crying during our after feeds,” Porto says. “In those cases, if there is poor weight gain, or they’re not getting enough volume in, then we may think of putting them on some antacids.”
In most cases, the antacid pediatricians will prescribe are liquids that coat the stomach and contain calcium or magnesium bases that neutralize acids. In rare circumstances, doctors may prescribe what are called proton-pump inhibitors. But these medications can have serious side effects, so they are only used in for the worst cases of indigestion.
It’s important that parents not attempt to diagnose and treat indigestion on their own with over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies. “Speak to your pediatrician just make sure your talking about dosing and whether or not there have been recalls and side effects in kids,” Porto says. “A lot of these medicines can be safe, but we don’t have adequate knowledge of dosing for children.” As a rule, Porto adds, parents should avoid preemptively medicating their kids.
“Infancy is a tough time for moms and dads,” he says. “Sometimes we want to do something to help when it’s just a normal developmental thing they’ll outgrow on their own.”