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What is reflux?
Reflux is when the contents of a baby’s stomach travel back into his oesophagus
or mouth. Paediatrician and M&B expert Dr Scott Dunlop says many babies regurgitate milk.
“This is quite normal,” he says. “However, if it becomes regular vomiting or is accompanied by acid pain, we usually diagnose reflux.”
Some bubs aren’t too bothered by it, but for others the accompanying stomach acid burns their throat, making them very unsettled. Reflux usually occurs between two and four months of age and tends to improve once bubs can spend more time upright.
What are the symptoms of reflux?
Babies with reflux vomit and hiccup a lot. Sometimes they swallow their vomit back down, which is called silent reflux.
If you notice your baby swallowing a lot when he’s not feeding, this is another sign. And you’ll know when he has oesophageal pain because he’ll look miserable or worried, and will cry or scream in pain whenever you lie him down on his back.
What causes reflux?
Food should travel in one direction: down the oesophagus, into the stomach and through the bowels.
In babies with reflux, there’s a weakness in the band of muscles in the lower oesophagus, which act as a valve to the stomach. If this valve doesn’t close properly, milk can travel back up the oesophagus, resulting in vomiting.
“It’s normal for the lower oesophageal sphincter to be loose in babies,” says Scott. “In most cases, the muscle tightens by six months of age. This, combined with being in a more regular upright posture at that age and starting on solids, usually leads to an improvement of symptoms,” he adds.
How to help a reflux baby?
Keep your baby as upright as possible when feeding him, and for at least 30 minutes afterwards.
Carry him around in a sling so he spends more time upright in general, or place him in a rocker so his body is angled upwards slightly.
When to see your GP
Visit your doctor if your baby starts projectile vomiting, his chronic reflux is combined with refusing food or he’s not putting on weight.
Your GP will assess him, provide a proper diagnosis and recommend strategies to help you manage the symptoms.