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What is GERD?

GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease or reflux) is a condition in which contents from the stomach moves into the esophagus (swallowing tube). Stomach contents can also move into the mouth and nose.

How common is GERD?

In infants, GERD is normal and often frequent. This is because the esophageal sphincter (connection between the esophagus and stomach) opens on its own several times a day. If the stomach has food or liquid in it at that time, it will most likely come up into the esophagus. Most cases of GERD stop on their own over time between 6-12 months of age.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

For the most part, GERD affects all babies differently. Some babies have few symptoms. Others have symptoms after every feed.

In babies, common symptoms of GERD include:

  • Burping or hiccups
  • Pulling away from feeds or feed refusal
  • Coughing often, especially at night or while laying on their back
  • Fussiness around mealtimes

How is GERD different from vomiting?

Vomiting is caused by strong contractions of abdominal (belly area) muscles, causing stomach contents to move up through the esophagus and out of the body. With GERD, stomach contents move on their own with no forceful muscle contractions, but are often seen coming through the mouth and nose.

Rev. 10/2019. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.