Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Infant Heartburn Remedies Don't Work

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Feb. 27, 2002 -- Fussiness and spitting up after eating is a common problem for infants, but for some babies these painful episodes may be caused by gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) -- a problem their heartburn-suffering parents can relate to. But new research shows many of the treatments frequently recommended by doctors to ease GERD in infants without drugs or surgery may be of little help.

When an infant has GERD, the contents of his stomach backs up into the esophagus, and he may vomit, have breathing problems, and fail to gain weight. Most infants grow out of the condition once their digestive systems mature by age 1, and many doctors are reluctant to prescribe medications or surgical procedures to correct the problem.

Instead, pediatricians commonly rely on conservative measures to reduce the symptoms of GERD such as adjusting the position of the infant, altering pacifier use, or changing baby formulas. But a review of studies on these methods now shows that few are proven to be effective.

The review, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, found no clinical evidence that placing an infant upright in an infant seat reduced the amount of reflux. In addition, one study found that positioning the child at a 60-degree incline, as often recommended, increased the problem.

Other measures the review found have not been shown to reduce GERD include:

  • Elevating the head of the infant while sleeping
  • Changing pacifier use
  • Changing the composition of formula

Several studies examined in the review looked at whether thickening baby formulas with rice flour or carob bean gum had any effect on GERD. Although neither method was found to significantly reduce reflux, researchers say thickening formula did reduce the frequency of vomiting.

Another measure shown to have at least some benefit was using a more dilute fluid. The review found that a drink containing 5% dextrose (a sugar) in water resulted in less reflux than one containing 10% dextrose.

Researchers say many medical textbooks continue to recommend these treatments even though they have not been shown to be effective, but the reasons may be psychological more than practical.

"Many pediatricians and pediatric gastroenterologists prescribe these therapies despite their lack

of evidence, often as a means of including parents in the treatment plan when reassurances seem insufficient," write the authors.

If the GERD becomes persists, pediatricians may prescribe Zantac or similar medications, such as Tagamet. These drugs, available in an infant-strength liquid, block the production of the irritating stomach acids that may be regurgitated into the esophagus, thus relieving baby's heartburn-like symptoms.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Woman looking at pregnancy test
calendar and baby buggy
dark chocolate squares