What is Baby Reflux?

what is baby reflux and silent reflux

Reflux. A disease that no parent wants to learn about. A condition that no baby needs to suffer through. So...


What is baby reflux?

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) is a symptom and not a disease. Reflux has no underlying pathology of its own.


Because reflux is a symptom, there is always a possible resolution. 


When I use the term “reflux”, I include reflux, silent reflux (reflux without vomiting), food allergies and intolerances, and colic. This is because the symptoms of each overlap. They frequently get mistakenly diagnosed, one for the other, and the approach to resolving them is the same.


There is GER and GERD. The only difference is that reflux is called a “disease” if it causes “marked distress” to the baby. The challenge I have with this definition is that it allows for ongoing suffering and pain in the most vulnerable and precious of humans and causes huge emotional stress to parents.


Reflux can be there from the outset. It can appear gradually over the course of a few weeks or even start when solids are introduced. 


Reflux is the involuntary regurgitation of stomach contents (including stomach acid). While this is a completely normal physiological process, ongoing, repeated, and regurgitation is not.


Silent reflux is the same, except the force behind the regurgitation only drives the stomach contents into the oesophagus, throat or mouth, and the baby does not vomit frequently.


How many babies have infant reflux?

We are told “reflux is normal”.

It is not.

Reflux is common .

Reflux is not normal.

Reflux affects about 50% of babies UK and the USA, and "official" statistics are about 40% in Ireland and 20% in Australia and New Zealand.

When you do the math across the global population (because reflux is not limited by geographical borders, race, gender, or any other demographics), the number of infants who will suffer from reflux annually is between 3 and 33 million —every year. 

So, first of all, you are not alone.



How would you know if your baby has reflux?

The challenge we have is because reflux is a symptom itself, there is no defined set of symptoms that guarantee a reflux diagnosis. I don’t believe we need a diagnosis to trust our motherly instincts.

In the early days, there are a few obvious signs that you can look out for to understand if your baby has reflux and what you can do about it.


Excessive unsettledness & discontent

Babies are not born grumpy and unhappy. Babies want to sleep. It’s biological programming. Yes, their sleep times are not aligned with the world, but they need. If you feel that your baby is particularly unsettled, trust your observations. They probably are. What you need to do now is figure out why. Do not settle for the answer, “All babies cry”.


Baby does not want to lie down.

If your baby gets particularly unsettled when you change their nappy, or they wake very soon after lying down, this could also indicate that they have a little reflux going on.


A lot of posseting or vomiting

Reflux does not always cause the baby to vomit; however, lots of vomiting (painful or not) is a sign that something is going on for your little one and warrants further assessment.


Lots of bottom wind

Farting is one of the funniest things for children but isn’t fun for babies. Our little ones lack the muscular control and strength to allow the easy movement of air through their digestive system, and so it builds up, causing bloating, discomfort and sometimes pain.

The sources of this gas are twofold – firstly, it can be the air that was swallowed that has not been burped out, and it can be from baby’s milk (formula or breast).

Babies have naturally immature digestive systems*. They do not have the necessary digestive enzymes to break down all foods. As a result, some foods ferment in the baby’s gut, producing carbon dioxide as a by-product, causing a build-up of air, digestive discomfort, constipation and other symptoms.


Reflux Myth Busting

There are a number of myths about baby reflux that I feel I must dispel because they do not help parents, babies or anyone. In fact, being told these myths can feel soul-destroying. You do not have to wait for the baby to grow out of it simply.


 Reflux is normal 

As above, reflux is not normal; it is common, not normal.


Baby is gaining weight, so doesn’t have reflux.

Babies with reflux can experience slow weight gain and be diagnosed as “failure to thrive”. This is understandable if the baby cannot keep milk down. However, babies with reflux can equally gain weight at normal or excessive rates. They often comfort feed: the act of drinking milk washes the stomach acid back into the stomach, providing comfort and relief from the acid burn.


It’s just colic.

There is no such thing as “just colic”. Colic is most frequently caused by digestive discomfort, proven by the relief that comes with the release of gas. We can act to resolve this gas production, which will relieve colic.


What should you do if you think my baby has reflux?

The best approach to resolving reflux is to understand the underlying cause. This can be done by reading all the symptoms your baby has, grouping them into patterns and using this pattern analysis to figure out the underlying cause. By doing this, you can take specific action to address the specific cause in your baby.


Use the box below to get your free Baby Reflux Symptoms Tracker so you can really start to see what is going on for your baby, regardless of diagnosis, reflux, silent reflux, colic or allergies.


Ready to be free of silent reflux and any other reflux?

Start today with the  Reflux Free Baby programme.  I talk you through understanding your baby's symptoms, what they mean, and how to use them as clues.


The course is suitable for both bottle-feeding and breastfed babies who are suffering from baby reflux. For babies who are already on solids, if things have gotten worse... whatever your situation, we have you covered.


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