Before becoming a mama, reflux was something I was familiar with, as it related to adults. But it was never something that I was worried about when it came to having kiddos. I was more concerned about those early months of sleep deprivation and the middle of the night feedings. This all changed after my daughter was born, and suddenly, it seemed like acid reflux (or, in our case, silent reflux) was something that started to consume our lives. It seemed like there wasn’t anything it didn’t affect during the first year, from its effect on feedings to sleeping and eventually to introducing solids.
It took longer to diagnose with my first child since she wasn’t actively spitting up — something that may be more obviously linked to reflux. And as a first-time mom, I honestly didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. In my gut, I just knew something was wrong. Fast forward to my second baby. With dozens of specialist visits under my belt and plenty of lactation appointments to add to the mix, I felt like I finally had a grasp on this whole silent reflux issue that, unfortunately, affected both of my children.
Having had two babies born with severe silent reflux (both of whom also had Laryngomalacia and my son who had “failure to thrive” early on), it’s now a topic I’m passionate about. It’s also something that I don’t think is talked about enough. While maybe once labeled as just “colic,” as a reflux mama, I knew there was more going on than just a fussy baby.
What is Silent Reflux?
Silent reflux, often referred to as LPR or laryngopharyngeal reflux disease, is thought to affect 1 in 5 children. Research suggests that it can be found in both infants as well as younger children. According to a report published by Pediatric Clinic of North America, LPR is “defined by the reflux of either gastric acid or refluxate (containing pepsin) into the larynx, oropharynx, and/or nasopharynx.” Depending on age, researchers have stated that it may come with different symptoms.
Symptoms of Silent Reflux
LPR in infants often presents itself with some of the following symptoms:
- Feeding issues
- Failure to thrive
- Respiratory issues that are chronic
When it comes to LPR in older, school-age children, this is when it is believed to come with other symptoms such as sore throat, globus sensation, and a chronic cough.
What Causes Reflux in Babies?
An underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter muscle often causes reflux in babies. This is the sphincter that helps keep food contents from backflowing into the esophagus. Once this sphincter develops is usually when you hear about babies outgrowing their reflux.
When Do Babies Outgrow Reflux?
While every baby is different, most babies outgrow their reflux by 12 months of age, but some do take longer to outgrow it.
Does Your Baby Have Silent Reflux?
As you can tell, silent reflux comes with a list of potential symptoms and even complications, such as feeding difficulties. Both my kiddos struggled with silent reflux and feeding difficulties. It wasn’t until we worked closely with a pediatric GI doctor that we could get that diagnosis of silent reflux and work on a treatment plan.
If you think your baby may have silent reflux, the very first thing to do is to talk with your pediatrician. Having a newborn can come with stress. Especially during the early months with the lack of sleep and just adjusting to this phase of parenthood. But having a newborn with silent reflux and just not getting a diagnosis of what’s going on adds a whole new layer of stress. Speak with your pediatrician. Raise your concerns, and work with your baby’s provider on coming up with a plan.
Don’t Go it Alone
And, while you’re reaching out to your pediatrician, don’t forget to reach out for support for yourself too. Having a baby with silent reflux can leave us, mamas, feeling isolated. Talk with other mamas who have or are going through a similar experience. Lean on your support group so that you can find time for self-care, even if it’s just a shower or enjoying a nourishing, warm meal. From a mama who has gone through this reflux journey two times over — you got this!