Q: I have a 10-month-old baby who was just diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). He was put on Apo-Ranitidine and while he’s doing a bit better on the medication, he still wakes up in pain every couple of hours and hates being put down. The only thing that works is nursing him to sleep. How can I help him sleep better — without me?
A: GERD is very common in babies and doctors suspect it’s caused by a malfunction of the valve between the stomach and esophagus, which allows food and stomach contents to move back into the esophagus, resulting in spitting up or even vomiting. GERD can cause pain and irritability at any time, especially just after and during feedings. Usually the condition is pretty mild and disappears as the valve gets stronger, sometime before baby’s first birthday. In such cases, no treatment is needed other than trying to keep baby calm and in an upright position after feedings. Doctors also recommend thickening the child’s formula by adding rice cereal to it — though this is obviously not an option for babies who are only breastfed.
If your son is gaining weight and growing normally in every other way (with no wheezing or pneumonia), I think it is time to change medicines. It doesn’t sound like enough has been done to relieve his pain and that’s resulting in some unfortunate habits. Not only is nursing to sleep bad for his teeth, but it bodes badly for his ability to self-soothe in the future. There are other safe medications for this condition and it sounds as though your son may need something more.