How does reflux affect babies?

Baby with reflux
By Sara Castoldi

Since the digestive system of the new-born baby is immature, it is normal for them to bring up small amounts of milk after a feed, especially in the first few weeks of life. This is normal during times of deliberate burping or whilst moving them into a different position and is more likely to happen when the baby is fed lying down.

Baby with reflux

However, some young babies will have a tendency towards persistent burping or irritation after or between feeds. This post-feeding regurgitation is due to gastro-oesophageal reflux (GER), which occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach move back up into oesophagus and out of the mouth. This can be quite distressing and unsettling for the baby.

How can you tell if your baby is suffering from infant reflux?

The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Spitting up after a feed
  • Pushing away and refusing feeds
  • Crying suddenly, unable to soothe
  • Sleeping difficulties

If the vomiting is projectile and weight gain is affected, it is recommended that you contact your GP or discuss this with your midwife.

What can you do to help your baby?

Babies should be fed in a vertical position when possible and burped frequently but not too forcefully. After meals, the baby should be kept in a seated position where possible or held upright. Meal size may have to be reduced and the feeding frequency increased so that the stomach is not overfilled.

Sometimes medical intervention is needed and the first step is usually to add infant Gaviscon to the feed, this is a mild antacid and helps to neutralise the additional acid in the infant digestive tract. Though mild, and often somewhat successful, Gaviscon can often lead to constipation, which might be more distressing to the infant than the reflux itself!  If this is unsuccessful, then other medications may be introduced.

How can osteopathy help?

From an osteopathic perspective there is much that can be done if there is physical tension contributing to a pressure disturbance between the lower oesophagus and stomach. This is commonly seen and can easily be treated through skilled techniques with the aim of reducing muscular tightness around this junction.

Treatment can also be beneficial to improve the associated symptoms seen with GER, such as wind and constipation. In fact, gentle tummy massage can help to stimulate bowel movement, subsequently helping to alleviate trapped air in the gut, which may be causing discomfort to your baby.

If your baby is currently experiencing these symptoms and you’d like to speak to a member of our team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 0208 088 0614, alternatively you can book a FREE consultation with our specialist paediatric osteopath at osteopathywestlondon.com/booknow

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