What is baby reflux? Symptoms and treatments for reflux in babies

If your little one is spitting up a lot, or crying while laying down, they could be discomforted by excess acid reflux.

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Acid reflux is very common in infants and can often go undiagnosed. If your baby keeps crying and you've ruled out all the other problems, then they may be experiencing reflux, which can be treated with a variety of solutions.

Reflux happens in babies because the muscular valve at the base of their food pipe isn't developed enough to keep milk and stomach acid down, which causes discomfort and heartburn. While it's normal for babies under 14 months to spit up milk, it can make your baby uncomfortable so it's worth trying to ease the issue.

If your baby seems to cry more during feeding or when lying on its back, they could be struggling with excessive reflux. It's unusual for a baby to still have reflux after 14 months, which is when the muscles of their food canal strengthen and they can keep milk down.

Symptoms of reflux include:

  • Bringing up a lot of milk after a feed

  • Coughing after feeding

  • Excessively spitting up milk

  • Starting a feed eagerly, but soon breaking off or crying

  • If your baby is vomiting violently, or reflux symptoms occur often, make an appointment with your GP and health visitor, especially if the following symptoms occur:
  • Coughing, gagging or trouble swallowing

  • Frequent projectile vomiting

  • Persistent crying and being irritable

  • Wheezing

  • Bad breath

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Arching their back whilst feeding or after a feed

  • Drawing their legs up to their stomach after feeding

  • Refusing to feed, but wanting to suck on a dummy

  • Not gaining weight, or losing weight

  • These symptoms could indicate GORD (a serious and long-term reflux issue), a cow or formula milk allergy, or a blockage. A visit to your GP should determine what the issue is at hand.
    The following things can help avoid or ease reflux:
  • Burp your baby regularly throughout feeding

  • Avoid overfeeding your baby and don’t force them to drink more milk than they want

  • Check that the hole in teat of the bottle is not too big – giving too much milk too quickly can cause vomiting

  • Hold your baby upright for a little while after feeding

  • If your baby is bringing up a lot of milk, they might get hungry again quickly.
    You can also avoid reflux while they are sleeping by raising the end of their crib using books under the legs. A pillow under one end of the mattress can also raise their bodies up at the head end slightly, meaning that stomach acid and milk is less able to travel up their food pipe.
    Sharon Trotter, midwife, parenting author and founder of tipslimited.com suggests more things to help sooth a baby with reflux:
  • White noise can be soothing - try sitting a baby next to the tumble dryer

  • A warm bath can help calm your baby, the Tummy Tub is ideal as it keeps baby in an upright position

  • If you can, breast milk is best as it's easier and quicker to digest and less acidic than bottle milk

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