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What are the symptoms of Reflux in babies?

“Does my baby have reflux?”

What are the symptoms of Reflux in babies and how do I know if my baby has it?

“My baby is only a month old and I have been noticing that he spits up a lot. Sometimes it seems like most of his bottle is on him rather than in him. I’ve heard about reflux before, is this what they’re talking about?”

A paediatrician will be able to help you determine if your baby has reflux. Reflux is not an illness, but rather a set of symptoms that can be caused by several different problems.

Newborn baby cry and may be showing symptoms of Reflux in babies

When does reflux peak in babies?

Reflux is very common among infants, with most babies experiencing it at some point during their first year of life.

What causes reflux?

Most infant reflux is simply a physical response to an immature digestive system that cannot yet handle food properly.

Reflux can be a sign of intolerance to baby formula, breast milk, or something in the mother’s diet.

How long does reflux last in babies?

The symptoms tend to decrease after four-six months of age, after the introduction of the solids. It can take up to 12 months to resolve.  

What are the symptoms of reflux in babies?

Reflux often with effortless vomiting or “spilling”. Reflux produces a sour taste in babies’ mouths. This may cause them to swallow excessively, cough, wheeze, and look short of breath. Gastro-oeseophageal reflux disease (GORD) can also cause heartburn, an upset stomach, irritability, and lightheadedness. You may find that your child’s reflux symptoms are often most severe when the baby is placed in a lying-down position or is crying excessively (back arching). You may also notice some weight loss.

How to treat reflux in newborns

Baby reflux treatment includes changing feeding habits, but severe cases may require medication. Omeprazole is a medication that blocks the secretion of acid in the stomach and is an effective, safe treatment for reflux.

If you are concerned about reflux in your baby, schedule an appointment with our paediatrician

Baby reflux medication

how to treat reflux in babies: Simple GOR can cause considerable parental distress, and requires reassurance, support and guidance. General measures may minimize symptoms.   

General measures 

Positioning

  • Holding your infant in a head elevated position for 20–30 minutes after feeding may reduce GOR
  • We do not recommended for you to use prone sleeping or inclining the sleeping surface due to the increased risk of SIDS
A midsection of unrecognizable mother holding a crying newborn baby at home.

Specific measures for GORD

Consider cow milk protein exclusion

Up to 40% of cases of GORD will be due to non-IgE mediated Cow Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA). Symptoms usually develop after a few weeks of consuming cow milk protein.

In cases where CMPA is suspected, you should be taking your infant off all dairy products for a 2-week test. Breast-feeding Mums should also avoid cows milk protein. Formula-fed infants require prescription formula, obtained from your paediatrician.

Consider acid suppressant therapy:

You may end up finding that acid suppressant therapy may be recommended if a paediatrician ends up diagnosing your infant with GORD. When you commence this treatment, it should be instituted as a four-week trial. In this instance, Omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), is the recommended agent:

  • omeprazole: <10 kg: 5 mg once daily
  • omeprazole takes 4 days to reach maximum effect
Feeding And Childcare Concept. Closeup of adorable little African American infant wants to drink milk or water, woman holding bottle in hands, feeding her baby who lying on the back on white bedsheets

Studies have indicated that PPI therapy may lead to an increased risk of pneumonia, gastroenteritis, fractures and micronutrient deficiencies. You should use this treatment with caution.

There is no evidence to support empiric use of acid-suppressant therapy as a diagnostic trial for irritable infants

It is important to review ongoing therapy and cease at 4 weeks if no benefit.

Dr Khairul Ishmail- paediatrician 

Dr. Jon Field – emergency physician