5 Ways to Treat GERD in Infants by Karen Bostock, L.Ac.

ways to treat GERD

People probably ask you all the time what babies and kids need acupuncture for. It seems unthinkable that little babies need to get acupuncture but when a baby suffers from acid reflux, acupuncture can work miracles. A few acupuncture and/or non-needle treatments, along with changes to the mom's diet, can go a long way in resolving the symptoms.

That's why I'm so excited to share this guest blog post by pediatric acupuncture specialist Karen Bostock. This post started out as Karen's helpful response to another acupuncturist in the Advanced Acupuncture Pediatrics training program. It was so comprehensive and filled with excellent advice that I asked her to share it here on the blog. I'm sure you'll find her advice helpful and easy to follow.


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5 Ways to Treat GERD by Karen Bostock, L.Ac.

Parents who have a newborn with GERD or acid reflux typically seek acupuncture because Mom wants to continue nursing but the pediatrician suggests that she stop and put Baby on a special formula along with medications like Zantac (Ranitidine) or Pepsid (Famotidine).

Most of the time the parents end up choosing acupuncture care because none of the special formulas, medications, or sleep positions work for their Baby. Infants with GERD can stretch parents to the breaking point as they cope with an infant that will not eat or sleep and has gut wrenching cries of pain. Thankfully pediatric acupuncture, plus some lifestyle changes, can make a big difference for these babies and their families.  

Here are 5 ways to help a baby with GERD or Acid Reflux:

  1. Pediatric Acupuncture. This is most important because acupuncture helps the body heal itself. I use a mix of Shonishin (Japanese Pediatric Acupuncture), “taps” (regular acupuncture needles), and microcurrent with even the smallest babies. They love it and respond quickly. I often use point pairs from Wang Ju-Yi and Jason D. Robertson’s book Applied Channel Theory In Chinese Medicine. For example, if there is Stomach Heat I may use PC-7 and LU-5. A good pair for stagnation with ST Qi Xu is LI-4 and ST-43. If I want to regulate the Qi to alleviate pain I might focus on the Chong Mai with SP-4 and PC-6. CV-11 and ST-36 are a very good combination for warming and strengthening the middle jiao while CV-12 and ST-36 is better for regulating the middle jiao. For more information see the book. A child’s digestive tract is immature, so I always make sure to support the middle jiao as well. 2. Change Mom’s Diet: If mom is nursing, her diet and digestive health will impact the baby’s. Many times a woman’s digestion is weakened after giving birth so strengthening her while addressing related sensitivities is vital. Here is an example diet:

Include daily:

  • Homemade bone broth
  • Gelatin
  • Warm/nourishing foods like stews and soups

 Eliminate for 3 weeks:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Corn
  • Soy

Also consider eliminating:

  • Onions, Turnips, Cabbage, Leeks, Brussel Sprouts, Green Peppers
  • Foods with lots of fiber (brown rice, brown bread, raw vegetables)
  • White Sugar
  • Oranges
  • Spicy Foods
  • Fast Foods
  • Processed Foods

After 3 weeks add one type of food in every two days. If a particular type of food causes symptoms for Mom or Baby, eliminate that food from the diet for another 3-6 months and then reintroduce it as before.

3. Encourage relaxation during nursing. Encourage Mom to step outside and do some simple breathing exercises, stretching, or qi gong before nursing. This can make a huge difference in both the quality of milk (which may be difficult to digest if mom is stressed, anxious, or nervous) and the enjoyment of the nursing time. Make sure Baby is also calm before initiating nursing. 4. Remind Mom to rest. Rest is important for milk quality but can be very difficult if Baby has been screaming in pain rather than sleeping. Putting a system in place that allows Mom to take even a short rest in a relaxing environment is very helpful. Some of the new mothers who come to my office say that the rest they get during their acupuncture treatment makes all the difference. (I’m sure the acupuncture doesn’t hurt either!) 5. Supplement with probiotics. Eating probiotic-rich foods is ideal but sometimes probiotic supplementation is necessary. The probiotics can be given to Mom or directly to Baby by putting probiotic powder on Mom’s nipple or wiping it inside Baby’s cheek during nursing. I prefer to give prescription-level probiotics directly to Mom and Baby. Another option a pediatrician may give when the medications, sleep positions, and special formulas don’t work is to wait it out and the child will grow out of it. Here is one example of the difference acupuncture made in the life of an 11-month-old boy whose parents had “tried everything” and were still waiting for him to “grow out of it”:

“To give just one example, our son woke up 5 times the night before (the first acupuncture) treatment, and only once the night after.  He began to have more energy during the day.  One of the most wonderful changes is that he smiles and laughs all the time now!  Although we got the occasional smile before we started seeing Karen, now our little guy seems remarkably happier.  As a parent, there’s nothing greater I could hope for.”


About Karen Bostock, L.Ac.

karen Karen Bostock, L.Ac. is a pediatric acupuncturist in San Diego, CA. She loves working with little ones and their families and has post-graduate training in Shonishin, Pediatric Formulations, ADHD and Autism, Pregnancy, and Fertility. You can find her online at www.HealthyExperiences.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BostockAcupuncture, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BostockLAc.  

Acupuncture for your body, mind, and fighting spirit.

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