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Reflux Trivia - What, Why, How?

Reflux (aka gastroesophageal reflux or GER) is a condition when the food moves backwards from the stomach into the esophagus and from there into the mouth .

The valve called sphincter separates esophagus and stomach. Ideally, it should prevent stomach contents from “walking” up and down the esophagus.

In younger children, and especially infants, this valve is not fully developed and either doesn’t close tightly or opens on its own. It causes the food movement from the stomach up to the mouth. This disturbs gastrointestinal acid level and causes vomiting.

This condition can be very short-termed. Most of the babies outgrow it by six months of age. But it may also linger till the first birthday or even past that.

My son’s GER started when he was a month and a half. It lasted for only two weeks, which to me seemed like years. It was very exhausting for both me and my baby.

GER may even try to undermine your success as a mother. But don’t get fooled by it! It actually happens in most children and adults. In adults the contents of the stomach don’t go all the way to the mouth and cause vomiting. They usually stop somewhere in the esophagus and go back down. But if you think about it, you’ll recognize signs of it. Ever had this heartburn sensation? Or felt like some of what you just ate came back up to your throat? Especially if you are physically active after the meal.

In some babies GER gets really severe and may turn into a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Babies with GERD must be monitored by a gastrointestinal specialist (GI). These babies spit up and vomit vigorously after meals.

Acid from the stomach constantly irritates esophagus, which leads to discomfort, pain, heartburn sensation, trouble breathing, frequent colds and respiratory symptoms.

Feeding sessions become a source of frustration and pain and many babies refuse to nurse or nurse only shortly to slightly satisfy their hunger. Keep in mind, there may be other reasons why the baby refuses to nurse. Visit Nursing Strike section to read more.

Symptoms of Reflux:

GER can range in severity. Some babies have only a few symptoms. In some cases GER is difficult to diagnose, but general symptoms are:

  • GER is one of the causes of baby colic – unexplainable excessive crying. GER-related colic usually happens after or during the meal. Visit Colic In Infants section to read more.
  • Excessive spitting up

Important: Don’t confuse spitting up with vomiting. Vomiting is vigorous. Spitting up happens in most of the babies and usually doesn’t cause any discomfort. However, some GER may cause spitting up of large amounts of milk, still not vomiting. The bottom line: if your baby spits up a fistful of milk, let your pediatrician or GI doctor know.

  • Frequent respiratory illnesses and inflammations, coughing, voice hoarseness, difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss due to excessive vomiting
  • Your baby won’t be able to tell you that, but his/her excessive crying, arching, pulling up his/her legs or rubbing heels against each other are all signs that he/she is experiencing stomach pain and discomfort.
  • Your baby stops crying when lifted up in a vertical position.
  • It seems like your baby is swallowing all the time even not during meals.
  • Your baby may get uncomfortable when bent, because it causes pain in his/her stomach. He/she would protest against car seats, swings or even breastfeeding in a half-seated position that used to be your baby’s favorite.
  • During breastfeeding your baby goes on and off the breast. He/she is definitely hungry, but the pain the feeding causes frustrates him/her. My son was doing that. It is a sure sign of GER. He would start nursing, then stop, get fussy all of a sudden, cry, arch, and become very irritable.
  • Between the feedings your baby acts happy. There is no diarrhea or fever accompanying vomiting.

This condition will go away on its own. You just need to learn to live with it temporarily and comfort your baby as much as you can. Do NOT get discouraged from breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are less prone to GER and GERD in the first place.

Transitioning to a hypoallergenic formula won’t solve the issue. Remember: it is not about what your baby eats. Think about GER mechanism. In stories where formula resolves the issue, the issue was most likely misdiagnosed. For example, vomiting and reflux can be signs of food allergies. The baby is transitioned to a hypoallergenic formula and the allergy symptoms go away. If your baby’s issue is true reflux, continue breastfeeding!

There is nothing you can do to completely resolve the issue until your baby outgrows it, but there are ways to ease discomfort and pain. Click here to find out.

There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.



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