reflux in babies:
symptoms and treatment

We’ve found you one more use for those magical little muslin squares (didn’t think that was possible, did you?). While your baby’s still very young, they're likely to spit up milk after feeding. It’s perfectly normal and, yes, it's just as messy as it sounds.

what is reflux?

It can, understandably, be a bit scary when your baby spits up the food they’ve just eaten, especially if it’s happening regularly. There's no need to fret though – reflux happens to around 40% of newborns, so you're definitely not alone.

Reflux is different from vomiting. It’s when your baby effortlessly brings up the milk you’ve just given them, and it usually stops happening after their first birthday.

what causes reflux and how can i tell if my baby has it?

The cause of reflux is simple – your baby’s food pipe is still developing. As your little one’s digestive system matures, reflux should pass. While you wait, keep a supply of muslin cloths, baby wipes and clean baby grows on hand.

It’s pretty easy to tell if your baby has reflux. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • spitting up milk, often several times a day
  • refusing food or gagging
  • hiccups or coughing
  • crying during feeding
  • ear infections

is there a way to prevent reflux?

Reflux might sound worrying but it’s actually perfectly natural – the downside of this is that there aren't many ways to prevent it if your baby is otherwise healthy. There are however, a few habits you can get into to minimise reflux.

  • burp your little one regularly during meals
  • try feeding them little and often
  • hold your baby upright for a period of time after feeding
  • thicker milks that are harder to bring up are available over the counter, although you should check with your GP before switching to these

are there treatments for reflux?

Babies with reflux usually don't need to take any medicine. The exception is if your doctor thinks it might be causing a bit of a problem with your baby's weight or health, in which case there are a couple of things that might be prescribed. Alginates are designed to form a protective barrier inside their tummies, while proton pump inhibitors bring down the amount of stomach acid.

should i take my baby to the doctor?

As reflux is such a common occurrence, you don’t usually have to see the doctor about it. As long as your little one is happy, healthy and gaining the weight they should be, there's no cause for concern.

If symptoms start after your baby is six months old or continue after they turn one, ask your midwife for advice. Also, if you notice symptoms such as diarrhoea, a swollen tummy, blood in their poo or a fever, you should call your GP as these could be signs of something else causing the reflux.