Infant reflux is common during your baby’s first year. Sometimes it’s more of an inconvenience for you rather than a discomfort for your baby, as you find yourself cleaning up repeated messes. However, some babies can experience considerable pain and distress. This is your guide to understanding and dealing with infant reflux.
What is reflux?
Gastro-oesophageal reflux, or plain old ‘reflux’, describes what happens when the contents of your baby’s stomach passes back up into the oesophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. A ring of muscle at the end of your oseophagus, called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), acts like a valve to let food pass into your stomach. In babies, the digestive tract is still developing, and sometimes this valve isn’t strong enough to do its job, which is why some food escapes back into the oesophagus. Your baby may spit or vomit this reflux out, causing discomfort and fussiness. When the contents of your baby’s stomach are acidic enough, this will irritate your baby’s oesophagus, causing pain and distress.
As your baby develops, the LOS strengthens. Your tot will also spend more time upright and eating solid foods, so reflux usually corrects itself. Your baby should grow out of reflux by his first birthday.
How do I know if my baby has reflux?
If your baby vomits frequently throughout the day, particularly during or after feeding, this can be a sign of reflux. However, some babies do not vomit at all, and this is called silent reflux (rather confusingly, because babies with silent reflux are often in pain and not silent at all). Other signs of reflux are feeding issues, such as difficulty with feeding or fear of feeding, causing bub to cry, pull away or arch his back. Babies with reflux can also have sleeping and settling issues.
If you baby has mild reflux and is not in pain and is otherwise healthy and feeding well, there is no need to seek medical advice.
However, if your baby is distressed or is not gaining weight due to reflux, there are medications that can help. Your doctor may recommend an infant reflux suppressant, such as Gaviscon Infant Powder for Oral Suspension. There are stronger medications available, depending on the severity of your child’s reflux. In some cases, reflux symptoms may be related to other health conditions, so always speak to your GP for advice.
Is it possible to avoid reflux?
There is nothing you can do to prevent your little one getting reflux, but there are some things you can do to reduce the impact of reflux on your baby.
- Don’t overfeed Too much food too quickly can exacerbate reflux. Try smaller, more frequent feeds, stopping to burp bub regularly. Adjusting your feeding position so you are feeding almost upright can help. This can be as tricky as it sounds if you are breastfeeding, so ask your doctor or a lactation consultant for help if you need it.
- Sit baby upright Help your baby to sit upright in a rocker or in your lap after every meal. Do this for around 30 minutes, so his food has time to settle inside his stomach.
- Delay drives Try to time meals so that you are not strapping baby into a capsule immediately after a feed. The combination of a full tummy and a horizontal position is not ideal for reflux.
- Think ahead Reflux can get messy, with multiple clean-up operations throughout the day. If you’re out and about, come prepared with some spare clothes for both of you, as well as washcloths or wipes.
LIVE WELL RECOMMENDS
Gaviscon Infant Powder for Oral Suspension
Gaviscon Infant contains sodium alginate and magnesium alginate, which belong to a group of medicines called reflux suppressants. Gaviscon Infant prevents reflux by stabilising the stomach contents, reducing the incidence of reflux and bringing up of feeds (posseting). Only use Gaviscon Infant on the advice of your doctor. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional.