Is your baby a bit of a chucker? Or do they seem to be in pain or distress during or following a feed? Whether they vomit a lot or not, if feeding time is consistently unhappy, it’s worth investigating whether or not they might be suffering from reflux.
We’ve teamed up with Children’s Panadol to provide you with lots of quick and helpful information covering many aspects of children’s health and development. We hope you’ll find them a great resource as you take care of your family every day.
Reflux is common in babies, due to an immature or weak muscle between the baby’s stomach and oesophagus. This allows the milk to escape from the stomach and flow back up, sometimes bringing stomach acids with it. There are several forms of reflux, ranging from mild (often called ‘posseting’) to severe (often called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or GORD).
Posseting refers to bringing up small amounts of milk after a feed. It’s annoying because it’s messy, and worrying because you wonder whether the baby’s getting enough nourishment. Posseting causes no pain or discomfort, and is no cause for concern if your baby is happy, feeds well and gains weight. It usually settles at around six months when your baby is sitting. If your baby is happy, alert and putting on weight, there is no need for medical intervention.
Reflux (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or GORD)
This more severe form of reflux can be similar to adult heartburn – discomfort or a burning sensation due to stomach acids leaking back into the baby’s sensitive oesophagus, along with the milk, causing inflammation. The condition can be difficult to diagnose, especially in cases where the milk does not come out of the baby’s mouth (as it does in posseting). Sometimes milk or stomach acid is only regurgitated as far as the oesophagus or throat (called ‘silent reflux’). This still causes the baby discomfort and there is usually disruption to feeding and possibly sleeping patterns. Babies may cry during or shortly after a feed, pull off the breast, arch their backs, become rigid, writhe, kick or throw out their arms. They are not happy babies.
Managing posseting and mild reflux
- Change your baby’s nappy before a feed rather than after.
- Lay a pillow or folded towel under their head and shoulders on the change table.
- Wipe their bottom by turning them on their side, rather than pulling their legs up to the tummy (which puts pressure on the baby’s stomach and forces milk and acid into the oesophagus).
- Give your baby tummy time on the floor before feeding, rather than after. Lay your baby on an absorbent quilt, which can be machine washed.
- While feeding, hold your baby in a more upright position. Put towels on the floor around you when feeding, just in case!
- When burping, hold your baby gently – don’t pat vigorously or bounce them up and down.
- After feeding, sit them semi-upright in a baby chair or rocker, or carry them in a pouch for 15 minutes, to help settle the milk.
- Some parents find that elevating the head end of the cot helps.
- Choose bibs with elastic around the neck, or Velcro fasteners, which are easy to take on and off. Make sure the bib is wide enough to cover the shoulders, and extends around the back of the neck, to catch those unexpected possets.
Possible medical treatment
There are tests to show if reflux is occurring. If tests show that reflux is indeed present, one of the most common treatments is medication – either to help empty your baby’s stomach more quickly or to reduce acid production by the stomach. Another possible treatment is to use a powder which mixes with your breastmilk or formula, to thicken it and help your baby to keep down the milk.
If your baby’s reflux is severe, or there is no improvement, and/or your baby remains distressed or is not gaining weight, ask your doctor to refer you to a paediatric gastroenterologist.
For more information you can visit websites such as the Reflux Infants Support Association (RISA).
This is an excerpt from The First Five Years, which is a handy and easy to navigate book, specifically developed to help parents. It contains a comprehensive collection of practical parenting information and useful tips for your child’s first five years. If you’ve ever wanted a quick guide to refer to in the middle of the night, or to help you decide when it’s time to see a doctor, this is a resource which will help you on your way. You can view it online or download it for free at The First Five Years.
(This is a sponsored post for Children’s Panadol)