Reflux In Babies: What Moms Need To Know

Reflux happens when a baby brings up milk or becomes sick shortly after feeding. Many babies go through this quite frequently, and the good news is it can also go away independently. However, there are babies that suffer reflux more than others, often necessitating medical care. These are rare, but it still pays to be on the lookout. 

Reflux usually starts in babies as they hit the eight-week mark. By the time they celebrate their first birthday, reflux may get better. It can be disheartening for moms to see their little one go through even the slightest discomfort, so it pays to know the basics of managing reflux before making that run to the hospital.

If you don’t have one yet, you could consider to buy a burp cloth for your baby. This way, you can keep them in an upright position after feeding and encourage them to burp. To give you a better understanding of reflux in babies, here’s a fact sheet that may be helpful for new moms.

The Diagnosis 

Reflux can happen every once in a while. To remember its onset better, moms should note each time reflux occurs. If you have any doubt or concern about whether or not your baby’s onset of reflux is still normal, you have a record to show your pediatrician. They can help you give an accurate diagnosis. 

Ideally, your pediatrician will start with questions about the onset of the symptoms. Depending on their judgment, they may order additional tests to support their diagnosis, such as: 

  • Upper endoscopy: done only as a last resort if and when the pediatrician determines your baby’s case is more than just ordinary reflux; 
  • Ultrasound: used to determine pyloric stenosis; 
  • X-rays: done to see if there are any abnormalities in the digestive tract, like an obstruction. 

For most babies, your pediatrician will usually recommend making feeding adjustments. It helps ease the reflux until it resolves itself. 

The Causes 

There are many reasons why babies experience reflux. It can differ from one baby to another, so there’s no need for mothers to compare each other baby’s conditions. You can ask for some pointers, but it’s up to you to assess the causes of your baby’s reflux. 

Some of those common causes include: 

  • Immature Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). This part of the esophagus opens to let food into the stomach, then closes to keep it there. If your baby isn’t fully matured, their LES opens and brings food back up. It is very common in premature infants. 
  • Diet. One of the main recourses your pediatrician may encourage if your baby has reflux is to change their diet. Depending on your baby’s age, certain food may cause acid reflux, so it’s best to ask your doctor. 

If your baby still hasn’t started with solids, the culprit could be your choice of formula milk, so switching to a gentler one would be necessary. For breastfeeding moms, you could also be asked to change your diet. 

  • Short or narrow esophagus. Upon checking your baby’s body through imaging tests, your pediatrician could find that your baby has an esophagus shorter than usual. A narrow esophagus’ lining can be irritated compared to a normal-sized one. 
  • Feeding position. One of the most overlooked causes of reflux in babies is the wrong feeding position. It’s easier for the stomach’s contents to reflux into the esophagus when feeding in a horizontal position.  

Simply feeding your baby in an upright position helps. When you’re done feeding, keep them upright for another 20 to 30 minutes to reduce acid reflux. 

The Telling Signs To See A Doctor 

While there’s no immediate need to go to the hospital ASAP when your baby has reflux, the regular onset of such is still worth discussing during your next visit to the pediatrician. A mild and infrequent case of reflux is usually classified as normal, but there are also warning signs to note, as those dictate it’s time to see a doctor immediately. 

These warning signs are: 

  • When your baby isn’t gaining weight or isn’t hitting the regular expected weight of babies their age; 
  • When your baby is always irritable after eating; 
  • When your baby consistently spits up forcefully after each feed, usually in a projectile vomiting motion; 
  • When your baby has otherwise been fine during the first five months but starts spitting food when they begin eating solid foods at their sixth-month mark; 
  • When the spit is in a yellowish or greenish color. 

The Bottom Line 

Spitting up milk is one of the most common signs of reflux. It is normal and shouldn’t be any cause for concern. However, moms tend to worry about every little thing about their little ones, so it’s normal to be bothered when they seem uncomfortable. When you feel your baby has reflux, discuss this with your pediatrician on your next visit. They can help you walk through those concerns until your baby no longer goes through frequent bouts of reflux.  

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