Treating Infant GERD: Medication is not an easy choice
I sometimes feel like this should be my opening line, an apology to the world for using medicine in my infant:
Hi, my name is Jennifer Rackley and I treated my child's GERD with medications.
In fact, just last week someone made a snide comment about how young my daughter Ella is to be on these types of medicines. Truthfully, most of us do not want to put our children on medications. I certainly did not want to put either of my GERD babies on medications. That having been said, I firmly believe that not putting them on medicines would have been more harmful in the long run.
As a nutritionist I knew exactly what to eat and what not to eat to help my breastfed babies' tummies. For my girls those "rules" did not apply. We tried all of the non-pharmacological ways to treat our children such as smaller more frequent feeding, keeping them upright after meals, elevating the head of the bed, thickening feedings, frequent burping and many other things. Those things did not solve the horrendous pain, food refusal and other complications so we resorted to medications. It was not a decision that we took lightly by any stretch! I actually cried the first few days we gave my oldest medication for her GERD.
Stories like my youngest daughter Ella's story are seldom told. You can't wrap her story with a bow the end and call it "done". She still deals with GERD at three years old. Her GERD was so bad that it caused her to be failure to thrive, to aspirate and to stop breathing. To not treat that kind of GERD could have had dire consequences. It's important to remember that even the less severe cases can cause serious damage if not properly treated.
Two of my children also have asthma and yet no one has ever said to me that I am making a bad choice by treating their asthma with medications. Truth be told, the GERD has been harder on my children than the asthma so I don't understand why there is such a stigma for treating GERD.
The bottom line is that we are trying to do what is best for our children. Sometimes the worst part of having a child with these kinds of medical issues is the lack of understanding and compassion for how difficult this can be for the parents. Even to spend one day with your child in pain is hard on the family... so imagine what 6 months, 1 year or 3 years can feel like. It can be utterly devastating.
I am, after all we have been through, not an advocate for medication per se. I am an advocate for my children and what they need to live healthy lives. My children needed the medication. There are always risks to using medicines. Sometimes the benefits have to be weighed against those risks and that is what we had to do with our GERD babies.
Some children may do well with behavioral, dietary or positioning changes. That is wonderful! I wish we could have gone that route as well. Luckily when those things did not work there were medications available to treat my children. We used those medicines in conjunction with the non-pharmacological and behavioral techniques to provide the most effective relief. There is no "one size fits all" treatment plan but I believe we did exactly what we had to do for our girls and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Related Topics: Is Acid Reflux Overtreated and Overdiagnosed?
For more help treating you GERD baby check out our Parent's Guide to GERD.
Read about a surgical treatment for GERD in children in a post by another mother of a GERD child.
The Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Assocation gives insight about appropriate medications for children with GERD. Read for information here.