Breastfeeding is probably one of the most extended topics you have read when you were expecting your baby. It’s an intimate moment between a mother and her baby as they bond from the word go—the recommendation of breastfeeding your baby exclusively to the best breastfeeding styles and habits.
As you take your baby for her wellness visits to the pediatrician, she suggests that your baby’s milk is going to her lungs. Well, that’s a new thing for you, but how does it even happen? What are the causes? The process of your baby’s milk getting into the lungs is known as aspiration. Let’s look at a dipper meaning of aspiration, causes, and treatment.
Aspiration in Babies
Aspiration in babies is when the milk accidentally enters the airway into the lungs. It can happen to older children too. When milk gets into the baby’s lungs, it causes health problems like pneumonia. Aspiration mostoccursens is when your baby has trouble swallowing or she has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
When your baby feeds, the milk passes from the mouth to the throat then downs to the esophagus, a long tube to the stomach. Mucus found in this area enables the journey. When your baby is suffering from GERD, she will have difficulty swallowing. When your baby breathes, the air gets through her mouth down through the trachea in the lungs. There is a tissue that blocks food from entering the lungs.
In some cases, your baby may swallow her milk, and then it comes back from the stomach and, in the process, get into your lungs. Babies with GERD are more like aspirates, babies with other health problems, and a healthy baby may have respiration. If the amount of milk respired is small, it will not be harmful, but it can be life-threatening if it is large.
Causes of Aspiration in Babies
The common cause of aspiration is dysphagia. The muscles in the throat are not working well, and your baby gets swallowing problems. Other conditions are cleft palate and difficulty in swallowing. Others are Down syndrome, delayed growth, and a baby born prematurely.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) will cause aspiration when the stomach content goes up the throat. Brain damage, canal nerve problems can make it hard to swallow, and disease such as spinal muscular atrophy.
Signs of Aspiration in Babies
If you suspect your baby’s milk is getting into her lungs, these are the signs to look out for: Whenever your baby sucks, she gets choked or coughs while feeding, and she is also a low feeder. Choking can be vital for babies, as some have choked to death from breast milk. You may notice your baby breaths faster while feeding and stops breathing for seconds. To note, your baby is having problems while feeding. They may have a red face, watery eyes, or she may show facial grimaces.
Does your baby have lung infections that keep recurring? Aspiration is the leading cause of lung infections. Breathing problems or wheezing and a slight fever after every feed happen when your baby is feeding or after. These symptoms vary according to your baby’s age. Some babies may not show any symptoms even though they are aspirating. This process is known as silent aspiration.
If your baby has symptoms of aspirations, your pediatrician can recommend some tests—babies with GERD and those with health problems that may help how they swallow their food. The doctor will ask about your baby’s health history, signs of aspiration, and watch when your baby is feeding. Other tests done are X-ray of the chest or CT scan, modified barium swallow test, and fiber optic endoscopic swallowing. These tests are for checking if there is milk going to her lungs.
Aspiration treatment differs from one baby to the other. Therapies Used include changing feeding positions, adding thick liquids, and changing the type of food you are feeding your baby. Your baby will get medicines to cure GERD. To reduce reflux, your baby may go through surgery. Suppose your baby goes through the treatment and still seems at high risk of getting aspiration. She may be given a feeding tube to help ease her feeding until she gets healthier and her risk of aspiration subsides.
When your baby’s milk gets to her lungs, it may harm the tissues there. Sometimes the damage can be mild or severe according to the amount of milk getting in the lungs. It can cause pneumonia, which they treat with antibiotics and can be fatal, especially to small children. If you seem like your baby’s milk is getting to her lungs, seek medical advice from your pediatrician right away.