What’s so silent about silent reflux?
Instead of throwing up, babies with silent reflux swallow the milk that comes up their oesophagus. The signs aren't always noticeable and you don't see your child constantly vomiting, hence the word "silent". It can be incredibly heartbreaking not understanding what is causing your child pain. You could second-guess your every step as a parent or caregiver, and wonder when, oh when, you'll have a happier and more relaxed baby.
Symptoms of silent reflux
Crying (and crying and crying and crying…)
Tears are your baby's way of communicating that they're in pain. However, many babies with reflux won't cry; instead, they'll be difficult to calm or get to sleep. But first, it's important to remember that just because your baby is crying a lot doesn't mean they have silent reflux.
There may be a variety of underlying problems causing those tears. Before you suspect silent reflux, make sure you've ruled out anything on our list that might be causing your baby to cry. Here is a list of the most common signs...
Whether your little one is on the boob or bottle, there will more than likely be some feeding issues occurring if they are suffering with silent reflux. They may gag and cough while sucking, seem "fussy" and move away from the breast or bottle, or they may refuse to eat at all.
Alternatively, some reflux babies will "snack" a lot, either because feeding hurts and they stop, or because more milk going down and pushing acid back down is calming. They can also have difficulty swallowing or burping. Sometimes, babies with extreme silent reflux will arch their backs during or shortly after feeding.
So, will taking a bottle help? There seems to be a misconception that reflux occurs more in breastfed babies, but changing from breast to formula feeding will usually not solve the problem. It’s the act of having any liquid in their tummy that matters.
Babies with silent reflux are unlikely to be good sleepers. They'll often take a long time to fall asleep, and once asleep, they'll often wake up after a brief period of time, crying.
Your baby will be much more comfortable falling asleep while lying semi-upright, especially either on you or in a baby carrier. This is because when being held upright, gravity helps prevent acid and milk from rising up and irritating your baby.
If your baby won't settle, sleep deprivation sets in for both of you. This, combined with seeing your baby in pain, can drive you insane! However, some babies with reflux will sleep soundly both during the day and at night. It’s possible they're simply exhausted or they may not ‘reflux’ too much overnight.
Other reflux signs
As well as the above, a baby with silent reflux may also suffer from one or more of the following:
- Coughing, but without other sickness symptoms
- Being really noisy and making strange sounds like gagging, grunting and having a hoarse voice
- It may seem they are more “mucusy” than other babies
- They may drool a lot more
- They may pick up frequent colds and ear infections
- Have bad breath.
- Bubbles around their mouth
- Hiccuping frequently
Diagnosis of reflux
A GP or specialist may make a diagnosis based on symptoms described by the parents. If you suspect your baby is suffering from silent reflux, make a list of as many of the symptoms mentioned above as possible. When babies with reflux are distracted, they are usually happier, meaning people, including doctors, do not realize they are in a lot of pain.
It's a smart idea to take a video of when your baby is having an episode, to take along to your doctors appointment. A few diagnostic tests are available, including a barium swallow sequence, a PH probe, and an upper GI endoscopy.
To help with reflux, products like the babocush cushion and bouncer combo are amazing because together, they hold your baby on their tummy. The extra comfort of a gentle vibration and heartbeat sound helps too - for added relaxation. To read more about how the babocush can help your baby, visit our website.