Everything you Need to Know About Reflux in your Baby
Topics covered in this article:
- How to deal with reflux in your baby.
- Why is your baby experiencing reflux?
- How to prevent mild reflux.
- Tips for mums whose babies are experiencing reflux.
- Dairy free recipes for breast feeding mums
- What is silent reflux?
How to deal with acid reflux in your baby:
Going through the stage of reflux or ‘GER’ (Gastroesophageal reflux), with your baby can be exhausting and stressful for both mum and baby. Even the tiniest bit of spit up can cause quite a large mess and requires both patience and knowledge about reflux for this developmental stage to go smoothly and with as few hiccups as possible.
Figuring out whether your baby’s reflux is normal or not can be a daunting task for any new mum or dad. Here’s your ultimate baby reflux survival guide, where we cover all the need to know basics about normal reflux and not-so-normal reflux in your baby.
Things to know about reflux before starting to worry:
- Reflux in babies is common:
Reflux can occur several times during the day for babies. It is common for reflux to occur after feeds, but can also happen 1 – 2 hours after feeding time.
Reflux is typically most prevalent during the baby’s first month.
- Your baby will outgrow reflux.
It is very likely for your baby to have grown out of reflux completely by 12 months of age.
- What are the different types of reflux?
- ‘Gastroesophageal reflux’ (GER)
- ‘Gastroesophageal reflux disease’ (GERD)
- Silent Reflux
The majority of infants spit up frequently, and this activity is known as ‘reflux’ or ‘gastroesophageal reflux’ (GER). Normal reflux is a common result of the contents of your little one’s tummy washing back into the food pipe. This is caused by the muscle in the lower end of their food pipe not contracting properly. Usually, this muscle, the ‘lower oesophageal sphincter’, relaxes to let food in and contracts to keep food.
Usually, reflux is not something to spend nights without sleep about and tends to resolve itself by 12 months. Normal reflux is common amongst infants and babies, and those who experience this type of reflux are referred to as ‘happy spitters’, even though it might not seem like they are all too happy about it at the time. Infants with reflux can experience vomiting, irritability, prolonged feeding and sometime back-arching. However, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about if your baby still experiences normal weight gain, normal respiratory symptoms, easy feeding and no neurobehavioral symptoms. Even though there are a few tips to avoid reflux in your baby, there are certain factors that make GER inevitable or hard to avoid. These risk factors usually include large-volume feedings, a short food pipe of babies or the amount of time they spend lying down.
Why is your baby experiencing reflux?
Because your baby’s diet is mostly liquids, it is much easier for the contents of their stomachs to come back up the oesophagus. Up until 3 – 6 months, the length of your baby’s oesophagus is still relatively short, and his stomach is small. So, with regular feeds, milk is often regurgitated back up. As your baby grows, their oesophagus lengthens, and the stomach capacity increases and the reflux resolves. Because their oesophagus is much shorter in the first year, their stomach fluids and ‘spit-up’, need not travel far to make a mess. Other factors that can lead to reflux may include your baby drinking too much milk or drinking too quickly. Babies swallowing air while breastfeeding also contributes to your baby having reflux. It is also important to realise that your baby’s stomach is still extremely tiny, so they may not be able to have so much milk without some of it coming back up. When they’re newborn, their stomach will only be about the size of a hazelnut. Premmie babies have even smaller stomachs. New born premmie babies sometimes have a stomach smaller than a marble.
Generally, reflux merely requires you to become more efficient in cleaning spit-up on various occasions until your baby matures. To make the task easier and avoid as many spit-ups’ as possible, there are a few things you can try that might help out if your baby’s reflux is mild.
How to prevent mild reflux?
Here are six tips to avoid mild reflux:
Tip one to prevent mild reflux: Hold your baby in an upright position when feeding. Continue to hold your baby upright for 20 – 30 minutes after feeding time.
Tip two to prevent mild reflux: When possible, try feeding your baby in smaller, but more frequent sessions. This limits the amount of air that is swallowed while breastfeeding and helps stop your baby from overfeeding. According to the research we’ve done, this is a tip mums can implement when breastfeeding
Tip three to prevent mild reflux: If you are breastfeeding, try and modify your diet slightly. Certain foods such as caffeine, chocolate, and garlic – can promote reflux. Consider cutting these things out of your diet if you are breastfeeding your infant. Some of these foods can leave traces in your breastmilk and have a negative impact on the severity of your baby’s reflux.
Tip four to prevent mild reflux: Frequently burp your baby for a few minutes during feeds. If your baby is bottle fed, ensure that the bottle is small enough and the hole in the bottle teat does not allow too much milk through.
Tip five to prevent mild reflux: Dressing your baby in loose clothing with their nappy fastened loosely around her tummy.
Tip six to prevent mild reflux: Handling your baby gently and trying to refrain from jiggling him/her, especially after feeds.
What about preventing more severe reflux?
Even though your baby might not be suffering from GERD, reflux can still get pretty severe in any normal, healthy baby. Need help handling those hectic hiccups? Your doctor might advise you to consider some of the following:
Tip to prevent more severe reflux: Cut out cow’s milk.
Babies who suffer from dairy intolerance or cow’s milk allergy, experience extremely similar symptoms than those of GERD. Cutting out cow’s milk could decrease some of the severe symptoms that your baby may be experiencing and would relieve the stress of assuming it is GERD. Also, try to avoid dairy products if you are breastfeeding, to avoid any traces of it in your breastmilk. If you are feeding your baby with formula, ask your doctor for a hypoallergenic formula for a couple of weeks to see if it helps.
What is infant antacid?
Antacid is used to neutralise the acid in your baby’s stomach. The antacid decreases the discomfort and pain when your baby brings up. Alternatively, it could also be added to cooled down, boiled water, mixed in with formula or added to expressed breastmilk. It’s important, however, that you check with your GP about what the best way forward is for your baby.
Your doctor will refer you to a paediatrician if your baby’s reflux looks troublesome or is leaning more towards symptoms of GERD.
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
There is a chance for reflux to develop into or be the cause of ‘Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease’, GERD for short. This condition can have more serious symptoms and require medical advice from your paediatrician. Keep an eye out for symptoms that may suggest your baby has GERD.
Symptoms of GERD include:
- very poor weight gain
- discomfort after eating
- frequent vomiting
- blood in spit-up or the spit-up is green or yellow
- stomach pain, chest pain and other abdominal pains
- long-term coughing, wheezing or hoarseness
If you are worried about your baby, the severity of the reflux and whether it is GER or GERD, it might be helpful to document your baby’s behavior. Track when and for how long your baby feeds, how frequently and how much they bring-up and the level of discomfort they experience. All this information can be helpful when visiting the paediatrician when you are unsure. If your baby is suffering from GERD, it is important to consult your nearest doctor or paediatrician to establish the best way forward for you and your baby.
Practical Tips for Mums whose Babies are Experiencing Reflux:
Even if the reflux your baby is experiencing is nothing to worry about, it can still feel like an all-consuming task. Although you might have tried all the spit-up prevention tips, hacks and remedies, it’s still inevitable that you are going to experience the mess and suddenness of your baby’s reflux. You might not be able to stop it – but you prepare yourself for when the next one hits.
Here are 4 tips for mums with reflux babies:
Tip one for mums with reflux babies: Pack in some spare clothes for you and your baby.
It always helps to carry around some back-ups in case of an emergency. Keep an outfit change for you both as well as extra plastic bags to keep the dirty clothes in until you can wash it.
Tip two for mums with reflux babies: Dress your baby in onesies or vests.
If they are prone to frequent spit-ups on a particular day, these are easier to manage. They are easy to wash and quick to remove when dirty. When changing a onesie, it is also easier to pull the dirty onesie down over the baby’s legs, instead of getting spit up over the baby’s body and hair.
Tip three for mums with reflux babies: Wear plenty of white.
Whites won’t show milk stains as harshly and are a clever way to prevent spit-up from standing out like a red flag.
Tip four for mums with reflux babies: Use cloths and BabyLove Wipes
Cloths and wipes are your new best friend. Cover your shoulder, baby-seat and anything else in spit-up range with a cloth to make cleaning up as easy as it can be. If you happen to mess, use BabyLove Wipes to wipe the surface effortlessly.
What is silent reflux?
Silent reflux refers to the pressure of stomach fluids building, but only travelling as far as the oesophagus. In simpler terms, this means that instead of spitting up, it’s swallowed back down. This causes extreme discomfort for your baby and results in painful pressure without throwing up. Silent reflux can be hard to become aware of immediately, as there is little spit-up. However, some common symptoms of babies who suffer from silent reflux are; Choking, gagging, frequent hiccupping or burping and bad breath.
To clear the air about reflux in babies:
There are many myths and stories about reflux and GERD that do the rounds with new mums. Every baby reacts to stimulii uniquely and experiences different symptoms or variations in severity of reflux. Some people say that only babies who are breastfed can get reflux. However, reflux has little to do with the way or the substance that you feed your baby, but is caused by the lack of contraction in their oesophagus valve. That being said, reflux can occur either while breastfeeding your baby or when using formula. Reflux simply refers to the content of your baby’s stomach travelling back up the throat.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that most of these things are normal and part of the glamour of being a new mum or dad. If your baby does suffer from GERD, keep in mind that your doctor or paediatrician have remedies and treatments to soothe your baby’s symptoms and ease discomfort.
To clear the air about reflux in babies:
What’s to know about acid reflux in infants?
Spitting Up & Reflux in the Breastfed Baby
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants or Children
Spitting Up & Reflux in the Breastfed Baby
Preventing Infant Acid Reflux or GERD
Reflux In Babies – 10 Common Questions Answered
How to cope with your baby’s acid reflux
5 things you should know about caring for a baby with acid reflux