What is GER?

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. Infants-babies younger than 2 years-with GER spit up liquid mostly made of saliva and stomach acid. Stomach acid that touches the lining of the infant's esophagus can cause heartburn, also called acid indigestion.

Does GER have another name?

Doctors also refer to GER as

  • acid indigestion
  • acid reflux
  • acid regurgitation
  • heartburn
  • reflux

How common is GER in infants?

GER is common in infants. About half of all infants spit up, or regurgitate, many times a day in the first 3 months of their lives. In most cases, infants stop spitting up between the ages of 12 and 14 months.1

What is GERD?

GERD is a more serious and long-lasting form of GER in which acid reflux irritates the esophagus.

What is the difference between GER and GERD?

Infants with symptoms that prevent them from feeding or those with GER that lasts more than 12 to 14 months may actually have GERD.

How common is GERD in infants?

GERD is common in infants. Two-thirds of 4-month-olds have symptoms of GERD. By 1 year old, up to 10 percent of infants have symptoms of GERD.1

Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of GERD in infants?

The main symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in infants is spitting up more than they normally do. Infants with GERD can also have some or all of the following recurring symptoms:

  • arching of the back, often during or right after feeding
  • colic-crying that lasts for more than 3 hours a day with no medical cause
  • coughing
  • gagging or trouble swallowing
  • irritability, particularly after feeding
  • pneumonia-an infection in one or both of the lungs
  • poor feeding or refusal to feed
  • poor growth and malnutrition
  • poor weight gain
  • trouble breathing
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • wheezing-a high-pitched whistling sound that happens while breathing

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when an infant's lower esophageal sphincter is not fully developed, and the muscle lets the stomach contents back up the esophagus. Once the stomach contents move up into the esophagus, the infant will regurgitate, or spit up. Once an infant's sphincter muscle fully develops, he or she should no longer spit up.

GERD happens when an infant's lower esophageal sphincter muscle becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn't. This weakness or relaxation lets the stomach contents come back up into the esophagus.