What is reflux In Babies? Know the Signs and Treatment Options
5 min. read
It’s very common for babies to spit up after feeding in the first few months. Little ones will often be blissfully unaware, and the signs of reflux in infants are nothing that a quick wipe with a cloth can’t handle. It’s usually harmless and perfectly normal, but it is worth reading up on reflux and silent reflux in babies, and how long it lasts, to help put parents’ minds at rest.
Here we’ll cover the signs of reflux in babies, the symptoms of different types of reflux, and how to help a baby with reflux. As always, seek a second professional opinion if you require further information.
What is reflux in babies?
So we know that reflux is common, but what causes reflux in babies? Because infants don’t yet have a fully developed lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that opens and closes to allow food into the stomach and keep it there – food can easily slip back up the esophagus.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is normal reflux that occurs among infants. 40-65% of infants experience this normal reflux. How do you know if a baby has acid reflux? If an infant is spitting up milk after feedings, there’s a good chance that he or she has this type of reflux. As babies mature, GER usually goes away on its own with no intervention needed.
If a baby experiences complications that go beyond just spitting up small amounts milk – such as difficulty feeding and discomfort – he or she may have GERD. The symptoms of GERD include the following: 1
Arched back during or after eating
Crying more than three hours per day with no medical cause
Gagging or difficulty swallowing
Irritability after eating
Poor eating or refusing to eat
Poor weight gain or weight loss
Forceful or frequent vomiting
GERD usually occurs when the LES muscle becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, resulting in stomach contents resurfacing into the esophagus.
‘How do I know if my baby has silent reflux’
Another type of reflux is silent reflux. Silent reflux in infants, also referred to as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), is when the contents of a baby’s stomach flows backward into the voice box, the back of the throat, and the nasal passages. This type of reflux doesn’t always cause outward symptoms, which is why it’s described as ‘silent.’
It is possible for babies to experience GERD and silent reflux at the same time, however, the two have slightly different symptoms. Below are some of the symptoms of silent reflux: 2
Poor weight gain or loss of weight
Now we’ve covered the signs of reflux in babies, we’ll move on to treating silent reflux in babies and how long it lasts, as well as how to manage GERD.
Dealing with silent reflux in infants when breastfeeding
Breastfeeding mothers may want to start reconsidering what they’re eating if there are signs of reflux in their baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that nursing mothers remove eggs and milk from their diet for two to four weeks to see if their baby’s reflux symptoms improve or go away. Acidic foods may also be worth removing from the diet. 3
Most of the time, GER and silent reflux will go away on their own. Generally, babies outgrow silent reflux and other types in their first year. If a baby appears to be showing persistent silent reflux symptoms beyond this, parents should seek treatment advice from a doctor.
If a baby experiences forceful vomiting, blood in his or her stool, or any of the above symptoms of GERD, parents should contact a healthcare professional. 4
How to help a baby with reflux or GERD
The signs of reflux in babies will usually go away on their own, however, the following tips may help relieve symptoms in the meantime: 5
1. Thicken feeds with rice cereal or special milk thickener.
2. Hold the bottle at an angle that fills the entire nipple with milk to help reduce the amount of air the baby swallows. This can help prevent colic, gas, and reflux. Check out this Anti-colic bottle that has an AirFree vent designed to reduce air swallowed during feedings.
3. Burp a baby during and after feedings. For babies drinking from a bottle, parents can burp them every one to two ounces. And if the mother is breastfeeding, she can burp her baby between changing breasts.
4. Hold the baby upright after feeding. Generally, babies are held upright for 10 to 15 minutes after feeding to help keep the milk down. But if a baby has reflux, parents can try holding him or her upright for a little longer.
These tips are designed to relieve and symptoms, but shouldn’t replace the advice of a doctor. Parents should refrain from changing their baby’s formula without speaking to a healthcare professional first.
Discover more tips regarding feedings and how to burp a baby to better alleviate gassiness!
Here’s the good news: reflux is very common in babies within the first three months and most outgrow it without any long-term effects. Although GERD is a slightly more serious condition, there are plenty of treatments and methods to manage it and help newborns.
Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor with any questions or concerns you may have.