mom holding crying baby

How To Spot The Difference Between Colic & Silent Reflux

Posted by Kerry Nevins on

Colic and silent reflux are two very difficult conditions to deal with in your baby’s early stages of development. Both of these conditions are extremely common in newborns and share some similar symptoms, hence why they are often confused with one another. A common thread amongst babies with colic and silent reflux is excessive crying with no clear cause. When your newborn is suffering and crying a lot it can really test your patience and make moments of your baby’s first few months challenging. It is always important to remember that you are not alone, it is not your fault and it will not last forever! In this blog we will help you to understand both conditions, how to spot the difference and what you can do to effectively soothe your baby.

crying newborn baby

How to know if your baby has colic

Around 20% of all babies experience colic and it usually occurs between the age of six weeks and six months. A telltale sign of colic is daily episodes of extreme crying which can last up to three hours at a time or perhaps even longer. These bouts of wailing will usually occur around the same time every day. Babies will often squirm and wriggle and are extremely difficult to settle. 

To be sure if your baby is suffering from colic, you should look out for these symptoms:

  • Frequent excessive crying with no clear cause
  • Crying episodes most often occur in the evening
  • Your baby cannot be soothed
  • Your baby looks angry and red in the face
  • Your baby brings their knees up to their chest or arches their back when you hold them

What about silent reflux?

Like colic babies, infants with reflux will do an unprecedented amount of crying. Over 50% of all babies experience reflux which means there are billions of parents across the globe just like you facing the daily battle of soothing their little ones! Simply put, reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach comes back up into the esophagus. It is very important to note that silent reflux differs from typical cases of reflux in that rather than spitting up or vomiting, your baby keeps the regurgitated milk in their esophagus. Because of this, silent reflux can be more difficult to spot. 

Here are some symptoms that are specific to babies with silent reflux:

  • Gagging and choking episodes
  • A white coated tongue
  • Excess nasal mucous, seeming to often have a cough and cold
  • Your baby dribbles a lot and often seems to ‘bubble’ at the mouth with excess saliva
  • Your baby holds their breath and has episodes of sleep apnea

Causes of colic and silent reflux

There has been much deliberation over what causes colic. Although medical experts have struggled to pin down a definitive cause, it is commonly agreed that because a newborn’s digestive system is very delicate it can be troublesome for them to digest properly. Statistically, babies who are exposed to smoke whilst inside the womb are at a higher risk of developing colic after birth. Symptoms can also be brought on by an intolerance so it can be useful to pay attention to what formula you use if you are bottle feeding your baby. Colicy babies can experience further difficulties if they are not being burped properly or frequently enough.

mom burping baby

When it comes to silent reflux, newborns and young babies commonly experience this condition due to their development. Babies have underdeveloped esophageal sphincter muscles at birth. These are the muscles at each end of the esophagus that open and close to allow for the passage of fluid and food. As they grow, the muscles become more mature and coordinated, keeping stomach contents where they belong. The mostly-liquid diet of babies can also contribute to reflux since liquids are easier to regurgitate than solid food.

My baby has colic, what can I do?

Okay, so now that you have identified that your baby has colic let’s discuss what you can do in order to soothe your baby. When a baby suffers from colic, a lot of the crying is a result of a buildup of painful gas in their digestive system. The key practice for parents who are dealing with a colicy baby is to take some extra time winding your baby frequently and thoroughly. It can help to take breaks during a feed to burp your baby rather than waiting until their belly is full. You can also try different winding techniques in alternating positions to help your baby to release as much gas as possible.

What to do if your baby has silent reflux

The same amount of attention and care when it comes to burping is just as important for babies with silent reflux. A further step you can take to help alleviate your baby’s symptoms is to keep them sitting upright for thirty minutes after a feed. Keeping your baby in a secure vertical position will help the digestion process run a lot more smoothly. It can also help to feed your baby little and often so as to not overload their little tummies and to help make digestion more manageable for them.

How can the babocush help with colic and silent reflux?

baby on the babocush

Babies who suffer from both colic and silent reflux require a great deal of comforting during those marathon crying stints. Designed with both colic and reflux babies in mind, the babocush includes gentle vibrations and a heartbeat sound to replicate the soothing sensation of being back in the womb. Babies spend a lot of time on their backs, especially before they learn to roll over.  frequently lying in this position means that babies don’t have the benefit of gravity to help keep food in the stomach to digest properly. The babocush gives your baby that much needed tummy time to progress through their developmental milestones and help improve their overall digestive system.

Through all of the tears and frustration that comes with parenting a little one with colic or silent reflux, the most important thing to remember is that this will all come to pass.

Related blogs:

Silent Reflux in Babies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What Foods Help With Baby Colic?

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