Gastro Oesophageal Reflux in Babies

Gastro Oesophageal Reflux in Babies

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux, what is it? And how does it affect babies?

In its simplest and most basic forms...

Let’s break it down into its simplest components:

1. Gastro means stomach

2. Oesophageal is into the oesophagus

3. And reflux is involuntary regurgitation

It is simple - when something moves from the stomach into the oesophagus, a GOR event has occurred.

Is this normal?

This process is completely normal.

Our bodies are designed to be able to do this for various reasons, for example, getting rid of excess air from the stomach – or burping, and unwanted food or bacteria – vomiting.

As adults, our bodies retain this capability as a means of supporting our digestive system and preventing attack from anything the body deems harmful, such as viruses, bacteria and poisons.

So, yes, gastro-oesophagal reflux events are normal. However, this does not offer any solace to parents of babies who continue to suffer.

Our medics describe GOR Disease (GORD / GERD) as GOR that causes marked distress.

Let’s look at the definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary for disease.

(An) illness of people, animals, plants, etc., caused by infection or a failure of health rather than by an accident.

I feel this definition is wrong because GORD is not a disease.

It is a disease, a discomfort, but it has no underlying pathology and, therefore, is not an illness.

Sure, vomiting can be caused by an ingested virus, but this isn’t reflux disease; this is a stomach bug.

I also disagree with medical literature when it says that GORD is "normal".

The ability to burp is normal, and the ability to vomit is normal.

When it happens on a continual and regular basis, with or without distress, it is NOT normal.

For example, some babies vomit a lot. Yet, because they are not upset by it, and as a result, they don’t gain as much weight as they should.

Or it causes distress to parents who often implement bigger feeding regimes, yet the doctors will say that the vomiting is normal and the baby is gaining weight; therefore, it is not reflux disease.

Without this label, both the baby and parents are pushed away without an answer and without support.

Yet even this constant vomiting worries parents, and I believe that this is not “normal”.  

There is a reason for the frequent or constant vomiting; once we understand the reason, we can resolve it. 


So why does GOR happen? And why does it occur frequently?

It is very, very simple. 

Grey’s Anatomy explained that reflux happens when the pressure in the stomach is greater than the pressure in the oesophagus.

We all know that things tend to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.

They will naturally try to even things out. We see this every day in the changes in our weather.

And we all know the sort of explosive force a build-up of pressure in a small stretchy container can have….

Have you ever witnessed the bursting of a balloon?

This is exactly the same mechanism at work in a baby’s stomach.

When the pressure inside a baby’s tummy is greater than the pressure in the oesophagus, and depending on how big that pressure difference is, that will determine the nature of the vomit that comes with it—higher pressure results in projectile vomit and lower pressure presenting as silent reflux. 

Now, when these explosive events happen, what comes back into the oesophagus can be just milk or milk mixed with stomach acid.

The longer the milk has been in a baby's tummy, the more acidic the reflux will be.


What is the solution for Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux in Babies

So what we need to understand then is what is causing the pressure in the stomach to be greater than the pressure in the oesophagus.

This is the solution.

The cause of reflux in infants is not an overproduction of acid in the stomach. It happens because there is too much air in the baby’s tummy.

And I want to make a distinction here: a food allergy, such as CMPA, is not reflux.

It is not caused by the same thing. It is actually caused by the stomach identifying the food as something it doesn’t think is safe and saying, “I don’t want this in my body”, and then creating the gastro-oesophageal reflux event to protect itself.

So, while some of the symptoms and presentation may be the same, the cause is different.

This is why we really, really need to understand what is going on for our babies so that we can help them properly and quickly.

There is no reason a baby with a food allergy should be on reflux medications, yet this seems to be the first place we go with babies presenting this way.

When we understand that our babies are telling us everything we need to know through their symptoms and behaviours, we can understand virtually everything that is going on for them.

In most cases, there are multiple causes of these reflux events.

With this information, we can take informed and appropriate action to help resolve the issues and, in many cases, completely resolve their ongoing suffering and discomfort.

The additional benefits – parents get to enjoy being parents, get rest, reduce stress and reduce worry for their baby.

These may be immeasurable things; they are massively meaningful.


What help is available?

If you want to learn more about reading the symptoms and behaviours that your baby is showing to be able to help and resolve their reflux, then click here to access The Reflux-Free Baby Workshop.

I've written an entirely new approach introducing solids to babies with reflux because of this natural immaturity.

When we give our children the foods they need and can digest, they thrive. Click here to find out more about my Weaning Course.

Suppose you're breastfeeding your baby, and it's something in your diet that is causing an issue.

In that case, the Breastfeeding Masterclass is going to explain a LOT more of what is going on and HOW to TRULY identify the culprits of your baby's issues, especially with a diagnosis of multiple FPIES foods. 


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