Recognizing Infant Reflux
Has your baby been extra fussy and spitting up a lot? They may have reflux. Similar to the way adults get reflux, babies can also have this problem. Let's look at what reflux is, what it looks like in infants and ways to help relieve the symptoms.
What is Infant Reflux?
Spitting up after nursing or bottle feeding is normal and isn’t a cause for concern as long as your baby is growing and gaining weight. Infant reflux typically corrects itself by their first birthday and often gets better with time. I know when you are in the thick of it covered in spit up, it may feel never ending, but in most cases it’s usually less often once your baby begins eating solids.
Reflux occurs when the muscle between the esophagus and stomach isn’t fully mature and can allow foods and liquids to come back up. GERD is a more severe form of reflux. If you suspect GERD, your baby isn’t gaining weight or see any blood in your baby’s stool or spit-up, please contact your pediatrician as these can require medical attention.
There are some other outside influences that may also cause reflux. Sometimes a milk allergy can cause reflux. Breastfeeding moms can cut out all dairy to see if there is any improvement. Also reducing caffeine intake for a breastfeeding mom can help. Make sure to eliminate all possible environmental tobacco exposure as it too is a contributing factor to reflux.
What does Infant Reflux look like in babies?
Reflux can appear in many forms. Typically the most frustrating symptom comes in the lovely smell of spit up. Spitting up is normal for babies, but when it's excessive and uncomfortable for your baby, it may be reflux. Another possible sign is coughing or hiccupping while eating, although this could also be from a heavy letdown so don’t automatically label this as reflux. Feeling unsettled or uncomfortable while feeding or shortly after is a more significant sign of reflux. Another big sign is not gaining enough weight since they are not keeping enough food down. If weight loss is occurring then definitely talk to your pediatrician.
And just to throw in a fun fact, babies can also have what is known as silent reflux. This is when they have all the symptoms and uncomfortable parts of reflux, except they do not spit-up.
Ways to ease the effects of reflux
Warm milk or formula:
A warm slow flow bottle can help ease digestion. Using a bottle warmer like The Baby’s Brew Portable Bottle Warmer can warm your baby’s bottle to the perfect temperature and maintain that temperature until you are ready to feed. We suggest using our 103 degree setting for babies who have reflux. Breastmilk and formula can be safely and accurately heated to 103 degrees, but be sure to not warm breastmilk beyond 104 degrees as it can damage the nutrients in the milk. Check out this post about warming breastmilk for more tips and tricks!
Tips while feeding your baby:
Babies often spit up when they get too much milk too fast, so using a slow flow nipple can slow the flow. Try to keep your baby upright while feeding and a period of time after. Also make sure to burp your baby periodically while feeding. Another suggestion is to feed smaller meals more often as to allow for digestion.
There are medications that your pediatrician can prescribe to ease the severity of reflux. Often this is a last resort if other remedies are not helping and the baby is losing weight or not gaining enough.
Thickened breastmilk or formula:
While somewhat controversial, some pediatricians recommend thickening breastmilk or formula with baby cereal to help with the symptoms of reflux.
Ask a medical professional:
If you are concerned that your baby may have reflux, please talk with your pediatrician.
We hope that these tips will help you! Reflux is hard on babies and parents alike! Being covered in spit up isn’t the most awesome thing, but thankfully reflux is something that most baby’s outgrow by 1. Being a parent is awesome and it comes with the good and bad, but all of it is SO worth it. You’ve got this!
Q: What is the difference between reflux and GERD?
A: GERD is a more severe form of reflux. GERD can cause infants to lose weight because they are not getting enough calories. Please see your pediatrician if you suspect GERD.
Q: What does Infant Reflux look like in babies?
A: Reflux can appear in many forms. Typically the most frustrating symptom comes in the lovely smell of spit up. Spitting up is normal for babies, but when it's excessive and uncomfortable for your baby, it may be reflux.
Q: How can I help my baby have less issues with reflux?
A: Try to keep your baby upright while feeding and a period of time after. Also make sure to burp your baby periodically while feeding. Another suggestion is to feed smaller meals more often as to allow for digestion.
Written by: Kristen Bickel
Kristen is a mom of 4 and an employee at The Baby’s Brew.