Reflux explained

What are the signs of reflux? And how do you deal with a reflux baby?

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What is reflux?

Gastroo-esophageal reflux disease, or reflux as it’s more commonly called, is what happens when your baby’s stomach contents flow back up into his food pipe (called the oesophagus).

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At the bottom of the oesophagus is a muscular valve that lets food into his tummy, but stops food or acid coming back up. Sometimes the valve hasn’t yet developed properly, so food and acid can come back up and cause them to bring up milk or even vomit. 

Around half of babies will get some reflux during their first three months and it’s only a serious problem for a small number of these. As the valve gradually gets stronger, the chance of having reflux decreases and the good news is that most babies grow out of it by the time they’re 10 months old. However, some babies will have reflux for a longer period of time.

In a small number of cases, long term reflux – gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – is experienced. It is not quite clear why this happens and it seems to be more prevalent in babies who have been conceived by IVF. 

Does your baby have reflux? 

Some of the most common signs that your baby could have reflux are:

  • Excessive or projectile vomiting
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Arching back or being agitated during feeds
  • Screaming or crying in pain between feeds
  • Losing or not gaining weight
  • Refusing feeds, or only managing small amounts at a time

What can you do?

Try the following to help ease your baby’s reflux:

  • Keep your baby upright for at least 20 minutes after a feed
  • Give your baby smaller, more frequent feeds to allow him more time to digest his food
  • Invest in cot and changing wedges to raise his head and ease the pain during the night

Should I consult my GP?

If your baby suffers from reflux often, appears to be in distress or you are worried, the NHS advise that you should consult your doctor. Especially if your baby is suffering from the following symptoms:

  • coughing, gagging or trouble swallowing
  • frequent projectile vomiting
  • persistent crying and being irritable
  • wheezing
  • bad breath
  • difficulty sleeping
  • arching their back during or after a feed
  • drawing their legs up to their tummy after feeding
  • refusing a feed even though they’re happy to suck on a dummy or similar
  • not gaining much weight, or losing weight

Mums’ tips

jillyjumps recommends Gaviscon, however it does have it’s down side: “it works alright but then there is constipation poor child.” 

“If it is really bad, make an appointment with your GP,” says Babyarama. “Maybe ask for a referral. My little boy was seen at a local hospital clinic as he suffered terribly with it and was prescribed Ranitidine which really helped.”

Another suggestion by Lh8609 was to try adding a thickener to the milk or using anti-reflux milk. “That’s what we had to do with our youngest,” she said.  “But she just grew out of it in the end.”

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