What is Reflux: Symptoms, Signs and Remedies

What Is Reflux: Signs, Symptoms and Remedies

Posted by Kerry Nevins on

Although baby reflux is common, it can be worrying for parents and caregivers. Whilst it’s advisable to seek medical advice to confirm a diagnosis of baby reflux, there are plenty of ways to ease your baby’s discomfort.

What is Reflux?

Baby reflux occurs when the infant’s milk travels back up the oesophagus rather than sitting in the stomach. In the first year of life, the muscle which holds food in the stomach may not work correctly all of the time, which results in food or milk and stomach acid travelling back up the oesophagus. 

Signs and symptoms of baby reflux

Signs and symptoms of baby reflux

Signs and symptoms of baby reflux can manifest in various ways, each potentially indicating discomfort or issues related to digestion. One common sign is the regurgitation of milk during or shortly after a feeding session, often accompanied by fussiness or irritability. Additionally, infants might display frequent hiccupping or coughing while feeding, hinting at potential reflux-related challenges. It's essential to pay attention to signs of distress, particularly if your baby appears unsettled during or after feedings, as this could be a subtle indication of reflux. 

Some babies might gulp or swallow noticeably after feeding or burping, further suggesting possible reflux concerns. Weight issues can also be indicative, with some infants not gaining weight as expected or even experiencing weight loss, which can be a critical indicator of more severe reflux problems. Furthermore, in some cases, babies might exhibit signs of reflux without actual regurgitation, a condition referred to as silent reflux. Identifying and addressing these symptoms promptly is crucial, as silent reflux demands the same level of attention and care as standard baby reflux, ensuring the well-being and comfort of your little one.

Differentiating Reflux from Normal Spitting Up

Signs and symptoms of baby reflux

Differentiating between normal spitting up and reflux is an important aspect for parents to understand. While spitting up is common in infants and typically harmless, it is essential to recognize when it might be indicative of reflux. Normal spitting up tends to occur sporadically without causing significant distress to the baby. On the other hand, reflux symptoms often manifest with higher frequency and intensity, causing notable discomfort for the infant, particularly during or after feedings. If left untreated, reflux can lead to potential complications such as feeding aversions, poor weight gain, and persistent irritability. 

Understanding the subtle differences between normal spitting up and reflux symptoms can empower parents to seek appropriate guidance and support from healthcare professionals, ensuring timely intervention and effective management of any underlying reflux issues.

Baby Reflux Remedies

Most parents recognise that their baby has reflux when there are a lot of signs of distress during or after feeding. Whilst wind/gas or baby colic can cause similar symptoms, reflux is extremely common in infants under the age of one year. 

If your baby has reflux, their positioning is extremely important. When feeding, you should hold your baby upright as this minimises the chances of milk travelling back up the oesophagus. Similarly, holding your baby upright for as long as possible after feeding can help to minimise the effects of baby reflux. 

Of course, it isn’t always realistic to hold your baby upright for long periods of time. Fortunately, you can use specially designed products to assist you. With the Babocush Comfort Cushion, for example, your baby is supported in a semi-upright position, just as they would be in your arms. With a five-point harness to fasten them securely, you can be sure your baby is safe whilst they’re gently soothed. The gentle vibrations and heartbeat help further relieve the symptoms of wind/gas pains and colic, as well as reflux. 

Lifestyle and Feeding Tips for Managing Reflux

Lifestyle and Feeding Tips for Managing Reflux

Lifestyle and feeding adjustments play a crucial role in managing reflux in infants, offering parents effective strategies to ease their baby's discomfort.

One practical tip is to ensure frequent burping during and after feedings, which helps release any trapped air and reduces the likelihood of excessive gas that can contribute to reflux symptoms.

Maintaining an upright position for your baby after meals can also prove beneficial. Hold your baby upright for about 30 minutes following each feeding session, allowing gravity to assist in digestion and minimizing potential reflux episodes.

Additionally, practising paced feeding techniques and avoiding overfeeding can contribute to reducing reflux symptoms. Providing smaller, more frequent feedings ensures that your baby's stomach isn't overloaded, reducing the likelihood of excessive regurgitation and discomfort.

Moreover, ensuring a calm and soothing feeding environment can also make a significant difference. A relaxed atmosphere promotes better digestion and minimizes the potential for added stress or agitation, which can exacerbate reflux symptoms.

Should you Seek Medical Help? 

It’s always useful to obtain a proper medical diagnosis for any condition your baby is experiencing. Even though reflux can often be easily managed at home, it’s important that your GP or health visitor is aware of any conditions your infant may be experiencing. 

It’s particularly important that you seek medical assistance if your baby is failing to gain weight or is losing weight. In some instances, reflux can prevent your baby from thriving because they are unable to keep their milk down. If so, your GP may advise a course of medication or may supplement your baby’s current formula or breast milk. Similarly, you should always seek medical help if your baby begins to experience reflux after six months or their symptoms continue when they are over the age of 12 months. 

Long-Term Outlook and Prognosis

It's essential for parents to understand the long-term outlook and prognosis for infants dealing with reflux. While managing reflux can initially seem challenging, it's important to highlight that in most cases, as the infant's digestive system matures, symptoms tend to improve gradually. Reassuringly, many infants outgrow reflux as they reach developmental milestones and their digestive systems become more robust. Understanding this natural progression can provide parents with much-needed reassurance and hope, knowing that their baby's reflux symptoms are likely to diminish over time. 

Although it can be distressing for both babies and parents when reflux occurs, it is a common condition which can typically be resolved by making slight alterations to your baby’s feeding routines and positions. 

Want to read more on reflux and ways you can cope with it? Check out our blog post on our six tips on how to cope with baby reflux.

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