The oesophageal sphincter muscle is located at the opening of the stomach and should prevent food and acid travelling upwards into the oesophagus from the stomach. Infant reflux occurs when a baby's sphincter muscle doesn't work as well as it should. Here's an overview of four signs of infant reflux.
Vomiting Or Regurgitation
Posseting is the regurgitation of a small amount of milk, and it's normal for babies to posset right after a feed. However, if your baby regurgitates large volumes of milk or vomits milk a couple of hours after feeding, they may be experiencing reflux. Vomit associated with reflux can also take the form of green or yellow bile if your baby's not been fed for a while.
Although vomiting is a classic sign of infant reflux, silent refluxing is common and can cause your baby as much discomfort as vomiting. Silent reflux occurs when milk and stomach acid travel up the oesophagus to the throat and then go back down into the stomach. The acid can burn or irritate your baby's throat, and they will typically grimace at the foul taste of the acid. Babies with silent reflux may appear to cry for no reason, particularly right after a feed, but it may be they are experiencing a reflux episode.
If your baby experiences episodes of fussiness that seem to come from nowhere and have no identifiable cause, they may be experiencing pain or discomfort as a result of reflux. In some babies with reflux, there's no pattern to their fussy episodes. However, some will be fussy at set times, such as right after a feed or when they are laid on their backs, as lying down allows the acid to flow more freely along the oesophagus. Signs of fussiness and irritability associated with reflux include inconsolable crying, arching of the back, difficulty settling for sleep or squirming when you try to rock them or cuddle them.
It's common for babies with reflux to have a hard time with feeding. Babies soon learn that eating can bring pain or discomfort, so fussing and screaming during feeding is common. Feeding can become a time of stress for your baby, and they may express this by becoming easily excitable and distracted during feeds. Some parents find it helpful to feed their baby in a quiet, darkened room and to play calming music. Gagging and spluttering are also common when drinking milk, as your baby may be trying to swallow while milk is coming back up their oesophagus.
As your baby's digestive system matures, the sphincter muscle will get stronger, and most babies grow out of reflux. If your baby is displaying any of the listed signs of infant reflux, make an appointment with your doctor. Never diagnose your baby yourself, as some other medical conditions can produce similar symptoms. Your doctor will examine your baby and may want to weigh them regularly to ensure they are gaining weight and thriving. If your baby's symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe an antacid to reduce the burning sensation when your baby vomits.