Baby Reflux: What it is and How to Treat It - Baby Chick
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Baby Reflux: What it is and How to Treat It

Does your baby spit-up often after eating or seem uncomfortable after a feeding? It may be baby reflux. Here's what you need to know.

Published November 10, 2020
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Do you ever wonder why babies spit up frequently after eating? Baby reflux (or Gastroesophageal Reflux) may be to blame. Reflux means that the stomach’s contents are backing up into the esophagus. This can sometimes lead to spitting up. Reflux is a pretty common condition amongst infants that peaks when babies are around four months old and typically self-resolves around the time they’re 12-18 months old.1

Even though it’s hard to see your baby spit up all the time, don’t worry. If your little one is seemingly uncomfortable due to reflux, there are some home remedies you can try. But remember, if you think your baby could be having reflux causing discomfort or stress, please notify your doctor immediately.

What Causes Acid Reflux in Babies?

When babies are born, their digestive systems are still developing. This includes their lower esophageal sphincter. This is the little muscle responsible for opening and closing to prevent food from coming back up into your esophagus after swallowing. Since the baby’s lower esophageal sphincter is still developing, this can cause excess acid reflux to be backflowing out of the stomach.2 The good news, however, is that reflux typically self-resolves around the time baby is 12-18 months old or 24 months at the latest.

Know the difference between GER and GERD.

When my son was experiencing his crazy reflux symptoms before being diagnosed, I called his doctor for a same-day phone appointment. I could tell my poor baby was miserable. He had to spit up after every feeding. He would arch his back and let out the loudest little scream any 3-week-old could muster out. We were in a “feed, rinse & repeat” pattern all day long.

My pediatrician first said, “Well, do you know the difference between Gastroesophageal Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?” I replied, “No, I know what reflux is. But I don’t know the difference between the two.”

He proceeded to explain to me that the easiest way for parents to differentiate the two is this:3

Babies with GER:

Infants who spit up but don’t seem to make a fuss about it are called “Happy Spitters.” These babies probably have some non-irritating reflux, a normal part of baby development.

Babies with GERD:

Infants who spit up but act like they’re in discomfort by crying, fussing, arching their back, or having difficulty sleeping are known as “unhappy spitters.” These babies are showing the symptoms of having GERD.

I’ll never forget that analogy because I knew 100% I had an unhappy spitter baby.

Babies with Silent Reflux:

Our pediatrician also mentioned another term known as “silent reflux.” Unlike the two above, Silent reflux doesn’t have the classic spit-up symptom. Instead, babies with Silent Reflux don’t spit up, but they often show these symptoms:

  • sounding congested
  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty feeding
  • sometimes difficult weight gain
  • chronic coughing
  • arching of the back
  • excessive crying

Regardless of which kind of reflux your baby possibly has, it doesn’t make it any less sad for us as parents to watch our little ones become uncomfortable.

Baby Reflux Remedies

We know that the majority of babies will outgrow their reflux one day. But there are things we can do to help them find comfort until that day comes!4

  • Try feeding baby upright as much as possible.
  • Hold baby upright & burp after feedings for at least 30 minutes.
  • Practice a paced feeding approach to slow down your feedings. Make sure your baby isn’t excessively gulping down too much liquid or air at once.
  • If bottle-feeding, use an anti-colic bottle to help prevent your baby from ingesting too much air.
  • If breastfeeding, try pumping a small amount of milk FIRST to lessen the let-down and prevent your baby from coming off your breast during a fast heavy let-down.
  • Ensure baby is getting in their tummy time throughout the day to aid in strengthening their backs and neck. As your baby spends more time upright throughout the day, it lessens their chance of reflux flair-ups!

If you’ve tried every song and dance to try and help your baby find some sense of comfort from their reflux, please notify your doctor immediately. In some instances (like my son), you may need to consider medications like a proton pump inhibitor (a common medication used to help decrease the amount of acid in your stomach and help with baby’s reflux).

Just remember, reflux is a common condition that many babies experience and outgrow. It’s when those signs and symptoms worsen or are causing your baby obvious discomfort that needs to be addressed right away.

Did your baby have reflux? What baby reflux remedies did you try?

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  • Author

Karissa is a boy mama who resides in sunny San Diego, California with her family - including their two big doggies! After facing many postpartum struggles with minimal support after… Read more

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