Feeding your baby can be a real pleasure. Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, there's nothing like the togetherness and intimacy that feeding times bring. But some babies may sometimes bring up small amounts of food, which is known as ‘posseting’ or reflux. This is common and may just be a sign that your baby has had enough food. However, if your baby is showing signs of discomfort when feeding, there may be some other reason. So, let's look at some.
Why are babies susceptible to reflux?
There are two factors that can contribute to reflux in babies. Firstly, their oesophagus (or food pipe) is shorter and narrower. Secondly, the muscular valve at the bottom of the food pipe is not yet fully developed. So, stomach acid can more easily pop out into the oesophagus. Unlike our stomach lining, the lining of the oesophagus in both babies and adults is not designed to withstand acid. Therefore, if the liquid that pops out into the oesophagus contains a lot of stomach acid, it may cause pain.
Acid reflux or GORD - in babies?
Heartburn in adults can be due to acid reflux or what is known as GORD - gastro oesophageal reflux disease, a common condition which causes acid to leak from the stomach. It's not uncommon in adults, but it can also affect babies and infants too. In fact, about half of all babies have some reflux in their first three months. Thankfully, this isn't all acid reflux and doesn't cause problems for many babies. And by 10 months, it's seen in only about 5% of babies. A few babies however may have acid reflux or GORD and need a little help to prevent or stop it. Here are some signs to look for:
- Your baby brings up food frequently - soon after feeding or up to two hours afterwards
- Your baby arches their back when feeding or after a feed
- Refusing a feed, even if your baby is content to suck on a dummy or comforter
- Crying frequently
- Bad breath
- Difficulty sleeping
If these signs occur frequently, it's advisable to have a word with your doctor (GP).
Can you help to avoid reflux in your baby?
There are two main things to consider: The food you give your baby and the way you feed your baby.
1) Food choices for a baby with reflux:
Breast milk is digested faster than formula and also contains enzymes that help digestion. So the chances of reflux are reduced.
If you're feeding formula milk, try smaller amounts more often. This is because small meals are digested quicker and, with less volume, the chances of reflux are reduced.
2) Tips for feeding a baby with reflux:
You may find these solutions may help:
- Feed your baby slowly and hold them upright
- Burp your baby frequently when feeding
- Try holding your baby upright for half an hour after feeding
- Ensure your baby's nappy isn't too tight
What can you do to minimise reflux in babies?
If you take your child to see a healthcare professional about reflux, they may talk you through some of the advice above, such as breastfeeding and feeding schedules. They will take into account several factors such as your baby’s age, temperament towards food, and whether or not they were born prematurely. If they consider it a suitable path they may offer breastfeeding advice, or prescribe anti-regurgitation formulas. However, if your little one is aged one to two years old, they may suggest Gaviscon Infant.
Medications for adult reflux should not be given to young children or babies, but thankfully Gaviscon Infant is especially for that age group.
If you are in any doubt about your child's condition, always ask for advice from a paediatric dietician, paediatric nurse or your doctor (GP). But remember, very few babies and infants suffer from acid reflux or GORD, so enjoy your special feeding times together while you can – our little ones aren't little for very long.
All information presented is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Gaviscon for Heartburn & Indigestion. Always read the label. If symptoms are severe or prolonged you should consult a doctor or pharmacist. Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine during pregnancy.
Article published January 1, 2021