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Are Too Many Babies Getting Acid Reflux Drugs?

Pediatrician Suggests Many Healthy Infants Are Prescribed GERD Drugs Unnecessarily

Spitting Up in Babies

We like to say that "spit happens" in babies, says Esther Israel, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. "Gastroesophageal reflux is not a disease in infants. It's a normal physiological response that babies often outgrow."

Israel admits there is a lot we don't know about why babies are irritable. Still, she notices that more and more kids are coming in to see her who are already on acid-suppressing drugs. And there is a concern that we are overmedicating these infants.

She says that before turning to medications, there are a lot of things that can be done from a behavioral perspective. These include soothing-type activities, such as rocking or patting the newborn in a quiet place. Dietary approaches such as switching from a milk protein-containing formula to a soy-based or hydrolyzed one may also make a difference. If a mother is breastfeeding, she can try eliminating milk products from her diet to see how her baby responds.

If colic is a concern, infants usually outgrow it in their first three to four months of life. And "there is no proof that unexplained crying in otherwise healthy infants is caused by pain in the abdomen or any other body part," Hassall writes in his commentary.

"The use of acid-suppressing medications in infants should be reserved for those children for whom behavioral methods and changes in formula don't work," Israel tells WebMD. And when those drugs are tried, she'll begin with a two-week trial to see if it calms a baby down.

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