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Reflux and regurgitation

Many babies bring up milk during or shortly after feeding: this is known as reflux or sometimes as posseting. It is very common in young babies, and normally passes by the time your baby is a year old.

Much more information can be found on the NHS Choices website, including information on treating reflux, but their summary of the main sysmtoms, causes and tips for helping a baby with reflux are:

Signs that a baby may have reflux include:

  • spitting up milk during or after feeds – this may happen several times a day
  • feeding difficulties – such as refusing feeds, gagging or choking
  • persistent hiccups or coughing
  • excessive crying, or crying while feeding
  • frequent ear infections
When to get medical advice

Reflux isn't usually a cause for concern and doesn’t normally need to get medical advice if the baby seems otherwise happy and healthy, and is gaining weight appropriately. 
But contact a midwife, health visitor or GP if reflux starts after six months of age, continues beyond one year, or a baby has any of the following problems:

  • spitting up feeds frequently or refusing feeds
  • coughing or gagging while feeding
  • frequent projectile vomiting
  • excessive crying or irritability
  • green or yellow vomit, or vomiting blood
  • blood in their poo or persistent diarrhoea
  • a swollen or tender tummy
  • a high temperature (fever) of 37.5C (99.5F) or more
  • not gaining much weight, or losing weight
  • arching their back during or after a feed, or drawing their legs up to their tummy after feeding
These can be signs of an underlying cause and may mean the baby needs tests and treatments.

Causes of reflux in babies

It's normal for some babies to have reflux. It usually just occurs because a baby's food pipe (oesophagus) is still developing.It normally stops by the time a baby is a year old, when the ring of muscle at the bottom of their oesophagus fully develops and stops stomach contents leaking out. 
In a small number of cases, reflux can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as:

  • gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – a long-term form of reflux where stomach contents are able to rise up and irritate the oesophagus
  • a cows' milk allergy – this can also cause a rash, vomiting and diarrhoea; many babies will eventually grow out of it and can be treated by removing cows' milk from their diet
  • a blockage – rarely, reflux may occur because the oesophagus is blocked or narrowed, or there's a blockage in the stomach and small intestine

Treatments and advice for reflux in babies

Reflux doesn't usually require treatment if a baby is putting on weight and seems otherwise well. 
The following treatments and advice may be offered if a baby appears to be in distress or their reflux has a specific, identified cause.

Feeding advice

Your midwife or health visitor may want to check how the baby is being fed and suggest some changes to help with their reflux. 
These changes might include:

  • burping the baby regularly throughout feeding
  • giving the baby smaller but more frequent feeds
  • holding the baby upright for a period of time after feeding
  • raising the head end of the child's cot – try using books under the legs, or place a pillow under the head end of the mattress; but make sure the cot is stable, don't put any loose pillows inside the cot, and never put a baby to sleep on their front or side
  • using thicker milk formulas that are less likely to be brought back up – these are available to buy without a prescription, but only try them if advised to by a healthcare professional
For more information on other treatments, visit the NHS Choices website

All information is supplied from the NHS. accessed on 14/03/2017