Baby and infant reflux 

Reflux is the term given to the movement of stomach contents back up into the oesophagus (the tube connecting our mouths to our stomachs) and can sometimes lead to full regurgitation of food and fluids. Reflux occurs in adults (i.e. heartburn) but it is much more common in infants although does not cause as much discomfort or distress. 

Most babies under the age of six months will have had at least one episode of reflux. Each baby is different in terms of the frequency and volumes they may bring up. Some babies may cry if reflux is accompanied by wind or colic but mostly infants accept reflux as part of normal life. In the majority of cases, infant reflux is not associated with any other health conditions. The frequency of reflux episodes decreases with age and the condition tends to resolve by around 12 to 18 months of age.

When should I be concerned?

Some infants may experience severe reflux that can have an effect on their health. This is known as Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) and needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. Discuss your baby’s reflux with your paediatrician or GP if you notice any of the following:

  • weight loss, static weight or poor weight gain
  • vomits containing blood or bile
  • difficulty settling or more irritability than usual
  • refusal to feed
  • multiple occurrences of choking or gagging with feeds
  • sudden onset of reflux after six months of age.

What should I do about infant reflux?

For most parents, the simplest solution is to clean up and wait it out. Here are some tips to help minimise the impact of reflux:

  • Continue to breastfeed—breast is best for babies wherever possible, but it is not your milk that’s causing the issue
  • If your baby takes a bottle, consider discussing with your doctor whether the use of an anti-regurgitation formula or a thickening agent would be beneficial
  • Make use of tummy time—take care to ensure infants are never left unattended in this position, as an experienced adult or parent should always be present to supervise
  • Check your feeding practices with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)—they will be able to offer advice to optimise your baby’s feeding and ensure their growth is on track
  • In cases where GORD has been diagnosed by a doctor, specific dietary modifications may be considered. Discuss these options with your doctor and seek the advice of an APD.

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For urgent assessment at any stage of your pregnancy, please present to your nearest emergency centre or Mater Mothers’ 24/7 Pregnancy Assessment Centre in South Brisbane.

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