Parents' decision-making about medicating infants (Jul-13)

Imagine that you are the parent of a 1-month-old infant. Your infant spits up a lot. Often there is so much spit-up that you are amazed that there is anything left in your infant’s stomach.  After spitting-up, your infant cries a lot. The crying and spitting seems especially bad after eating. But sometimes it seems like she is uncomfortable most of the time. It seems like there is nothing that you can do to stop the crying or to soothe your infant. You are worried that an infant who is this uncomfortable, and that spits up this much, might not be healthy. So, you decided to take your infant to the doctor to be checked.

After listening to your story and examining your infant, your doctor says, “You infant has something called GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. GERD happens when infants have a weak valve at the entrance to their stomach and, as a result, food and acid from the stomach can travel back up toward the infant’s mouth. When this happens, the infant may spit-up, and the acid in the spit-up may make her uncomfortable, and cause her to cry. Some doctors prescribe a medication that is often used to treat infants with GERD. Most infants grow out of GERD on their own, but medication is an option if you want it. However, studies have shown that this medicine probably doesn’t do anything to help improve symptoms in babies with GERD. This is the same medication that is taken by adults who have bothersome heartburn. This medication is generally considered safe for infants, and rarely causes serious side effects. I’ll give you this prescription and leave it up to you to decide whether or not you want to give it to your infant.”