What is reflux? What are the symptoms? How can it be treated? When should I contact my doctor? Reflux in babies is very common but in some cases can be a very serious condition.
What is reflux?
Reflux (gastro oesophageal reflux or GOR) is the name given to the condition that causes the contents of the stomach to involuntarily move upwards into the oesophagus and some times out of the mouth (the oesophagus is the tube that carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach). When the contents rise out of the stomach it can be painful for baby as it also contains acids. It is common in children under 2 years of age but most cases clear up between the age of 12-14 months. If the symptoms continue after 12-14 months or the symptoms are more severe, such as poor feeding and/or vomiting it may be that your child has gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), this is a more serious, long-lasting condition that will need to be managed. If you suspect your child has GORD you should contact your GP immediately.
What causes it?
We all have a ‘valve’ at the bottom of our oesophagus that prevents food and stomach acids from rising, this valve is a muscle and takes time to develop. Whilst this valve (or sphincter) is still developing it may push stomach contents up the wrong way. This is why the symptoms of GOR usually stop at around 12-14 months. Serious cases of reflux (GORD) are often caused by the muscle becoming weak or relaxing when it shouldn’t.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Babies with GOR will commonly show only a few symptoms such as spitting up or display an obvious discomfort during (or shortly after) feeding. The symptoms of GORD are as follows:
When should I see my GP?
If you suspect your baby may have reflux or she is experiencing some of the above mentioned symptoms , you should discuss this with your GP immediately. On some occasions, further investigation will be required to determine if your child has GOR (gastro oesophageal reflux) or GORD (gastro oesophageal reflux disease).
How can it be treated?
If your child is only displaying a few of the above symptoms and is generally in good health, is gaining weight as expected and feeding well then making small changes can have a positive impact. These should be discussed with your GP but most commonly involve using a thicker formula or thickening the current formula (with gaviscon), feeding a smaller amount more frequently, positioning your baby in an upright position when feeding and keeping her upright for as long as time possible afterwards. You could also try elevating one end of your baby’s bed with bed blocks or a wedge. If the above doesn’t help you may be referred to a paediatrician for further tests where medication will most likely be prescribed and further monitoring scheduled.
My first born had reflux and ended up having to be bottle fed a prescribed thick formula milk from 6 weeks old. She was also prescribed Domperidone and Ranitadine which we had to give before each feed. Fortunately it wasn’t so serious that she lost weight or didn’t gain weight properly but it was a worry. If you would like to discuss my experience of having a child with reflux get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. I hope you found this post helpful.