What Causes Reflux in Babies?

What Causes Reflux in Babies

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Reflux in babies can be a living nightmare for new parents. Couples with reflux breastfed babies are majorly accompanied by countless sleepless nights. This feeling of helplessness may lead to postpartum depression.

Generally, 1 in 4 parents with a child suffering from reflux, there are more chances the parents are suffering too. You will not be surprised to know that reflux is seemingly common in almost all babies. These common symptoms typically improve from 3 to 4 months onwards. 

If you notice your baby is still uncomfortable and not settling despite simple measures, then it is a matter of concern. Having a child suffering from reflux, I have consulted with many doctors and other fellow reflux families. I came up with the proper knowledge about what causes reflux in babies and how any parent can console their newborn with an appropriate diagnosis.

In this article, you will get to know everything that can help your child beat reflux.

What is reflux in babies?

When humans swallow food, a ring of muscle called “Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) opens and lets the food pass to the stomach. “Reflux” happens when the stomach content moves back to the oesophagus, resulting in discomfort, sleep disruption and pain.

This muscle is not fully developed in reflux babies, therefore fails to make a sealed barrier. Due to its unusual openings, the food in the baby’s stomach flows back to the mouth and can cause spitting up in newborns.

Parents usually associate reflux with the traditional acid reflux in which the baby may feel heartburn, regurgitation, bloating and gas, while totally overlooking the lesser-known “silent reflux” (medically known as Laryngopharyngeal Reflux or LPR).

Both are a symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or commonly known as GERD.

Silent Reflux

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand the signs of reflux in babies, as you will not see the milk or solid food reaching the baby’s mouth in all types. It is called Silent Reflux.

In this reflux type, you can barely notice regular milk or simple yellowy fluid while spitting up. It is misdiagnosed chiefly because of no considerable symptoms.

If it sustains long enough it can damage the inner lining of the oesophagus leaving the baby trouble swallowing and a burning throat.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux in your little one happens when the stomach acid mixed with milk flows back into the oesophagus and throat. This acidic experience can irritate your child causing heartburn and a queasy stomach. 

Allergies to some foods can also cause acid reflux in breastfed babies like certain proteins in cow milk. While breastfeeding, mothers can avoid certain foods such as caffeine, spices and citrus fruits in their diet that will benefit their baby’s health and enhance nutrition.

According to statistics, there are few facts that every parent should know and have a breath of relaxation.

  • Reflux typically occurs between 1 to 2 hours after feeding.
  • It is common in 0 to 3 months babies to reflux at least once a day.
  • When does reflux peak in babies? Well, it usually peaks between 2 to 4 months.
  • Many babies settle on their own when they reach up to 7 to 8 months.
  • Most babies stop spitting by the age of 1.
  • If your child is happy, gaining weight, and feels no discomfort while feeding, then your child is a happy spitter.

Symptoms and Signs of reflux in babies

The common symptoms of silent reflux in babies are back-arching, irritability, difficulty settling, sinus infection and screaming.

Whereas the symptoms of acid reflux in babies include:

  • spitting up milk, or being sick after feeding.
  • Trouble in breathing, persistent Coughing, and nasal congestion.
  • Silent reflux baby has Hiccupping during feeding
  • Gulping, Crying, and irritability after feeding
  • Resisting or difficulty eating, acid reflux creates heartburn in the esophagus; your child might not eat well.
  • They are not gaining weight because your reflux child is not keeping enough food in the body.
  • Vomiting and gassiness
  • Gagging, colic, and choking.

However, other than these common symptoms, newborn reflux babies, If accompanied by a slew of problematic symptoms. Which includes 

  • Failure to thrive
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Spits up yellow or green fluid
  • Has blood in stool
  • Chronic cough
  • Begin reflux after six months old
  • Still, reflux after getting older than 1.

These indicate possibly a severe but treatable medical condition, such as an allergy. It refers to “GERD” in babies or a blockage in the digestive tract.

Potential causes of reflux in babies

If you notice that your baby has excessive reflux than usual, it is overwhelming to figure out these potential causes, so you can timely avoid them to prevent your baby.

1. Diet Sensitivities

You are probably now thinking about what are the foods that cause acid reflux in babies? Well, fruits with acidic juices such as oranges, apples, and lemon can trigger baby acid reflux and sourcing discomfort.

If you breastfeed, Studies show that reducing the intake of tomatoes, sauces, and spicy food can also save your baby from irritable conditions as these foods cause heartburn.

A slight change in a mother’s diet can be beneficial for breastfed babies in consoling acid reflux. Medical experts limit the caffeine intake up to 75ml per day. As too much caffeine generates acidity in the stomach.

Besides this, consumption of certain foods by the baby also causes the LES to open for longer and allow the stomach contents to reflux. These foods include chocolate, peppermint, and high-fat meals. 

Sometimes your infant may be allergic to specific proteins found in cow’s milk. In this case, it creates acid reflux. 

2. Positioning

One of the most overlooked factors in positioning your baby is essential during and after feeding your baby. Laying flat makes it easier to flow back the stomach contents into the throat, causing heartburn and discomfort in infants.   

3. Overfeeding

As compared to breastfeed infants, overfeeding is more a case in bottle-fed babies. Acid reflux can occur when you feed your baby too much and give frequent meals in a day, even after having milk.  This excessive feeding puts unnecessary pressure on LES, and your baby could not sustain food in the stomach, leading to vomiting. 

4. Undeveloped lower esophageal sphincter

One of the leading causes of acid reflux in premature babies is an undeveloped lower oesophagal sphincter; a muscle opening allows the food to pass into the stomach and shuts to keep it there.

The unusual opening of LES causes backflow of whatever baby has eaten mixed with stomach gastric juices into the esophagus, causing a sour taste in the mouth. It is not common, but if your baby faces constant regurgitation due to acid reflux, it can damage the esophageal lining.

Practical acid reflux remedies you can try at home

If your baby is suffering from reflux, you can do the following simple yet effective things to ease and reduce acid reflux symptoms in infants. Moreover, these techniques are also helpful if you wonder how to treat GERD at home. 

1. Holistic nutrition

A natural remedy for acid reflux is to start with holistic nutrition beneficial for both the mother and the baby as it covers all the aspects of a healthy lifestyle. You can avoid acid reflux by adding whole, unrefined, and organic food to your diet.

2. Upright position

Sometimes new parents panic because they don’t know how to help a baby with reflux.  Paediatricians suggest that simply holding your baby in an upright position during and after feeding for about 20 to 30 minutes, will reduce chances of acid reflux.  

3. Accurate feeding

Feed your child with small meals and divide one large meal into more frequent meals per day. It will help your baby’s stomach to digest properly, and ultimately there will be fewer chances of reflux. Bottle-fed babies are mostly recommended to take small quantities of milk over regular intervals. Check out these baby bottles.

4. Change formula milk

If you notice frequent reflux in your baby, one of the reasons can be an allergy to the protein present in cow’s milk. In such a case, you wonder, does milk help acid reflux? Well, doctors recommend hydrolyzed protein formulas for better and easier digestion. These are the best milk for acid reflux and are prepared with unique ingredients. Therefore, it may be more expensive than regular formula milk.  

5. Burp your baby

Gently burp your baby more often, generally after 2 to 3 ounces of milk per feed. This practice will help infants to release gas and lower the chances of reflux.  

I advise you to consult with a health visitor if your newborn reflux does not settle even after these simple remedies.

Parents Also Ask

Do pacifiers help with reflux?

Yes, according to paediatricians, pacifiers during sleep will reduce 90 per cent chances of sudden infant deaths. I appreciate how pacifiers soothe a crying baby suffering from acid reflux and give parents peace of mind. 

Do probiotics help with infant reflux?

Probiotics refer to good bacteria. It supports the gastrointestinal system in your body. It quickly helps to treat any stomach infection and other medical conditions with your baby. Probiotics are now popping up in almost every baby product, formula milk, and supplement.  

According to studies, doctors observed a relief in acid reflux, constipation, and colic symptoms with probiotics in babies up to 3 months old. 

What is the best sleeping position for a baby with reflux?

Back sleeping is considered the best position that reduces the signs of reflux in babies, and you can also raise your child’s head with a towel underneath the mattress. Sleeping babies on their backs will prevent vomit and choking. At the same time, make sure to hold your baby in an upright position for about 30 minutes right after feeding. 

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