How do you know your baby has reflux?
Vomiting is normal in babies if it occurs as a little spit-up after feeding and when your baby breaks wind – this is called posseting. Excessive vomiting, however, especially if related to feeding, may well be reflux.
Reflux means that your baby has a weak sphincter valve in the area where the oesophagus and stomach join. The contents of his stomach will flow easily back up the oesopohagus and come out as vomiting, or, if the reflux is acidic, your baby may well just experience lots of pain without actually vomiting. The reflux will be worse after your baby has had a large feed or is put down to sleep on a flat surface.
Reflux is not necessarily a problem. Physiological reflux is vomiting after feeds that causes no discomfort, where your baby continues to gain weight, grow and develop and has no chronic cough or chest problems. This form of reflux generally requires no treatment and will get better as your baby approaches his first birthday.
Pathological reflux is excessive vomiting that causes weight loss or poor weight gain, failure to thrive, chronic chestiness or frequent chest infections. The treatment of reflux includes giving small frequent feeds, keeping the baby upright for at least half an hour after feeds and elevating the head of the crib by 30º.
There are products available that thicken the feed, as well as thicker anti-reflux formulas. However, there is little evidence that thickening feeds makes any difference to pathological reflux.
Antacid preparations will line the oesophagus, prevent pain and decrease the chance of reflux by forming a lining on top of the stomach contents. Acid-neutralising medications such as proton pump inhibitors like Losec or Lanzor will also help with acid reflux. Only use these medications if the reflux is causing poor growth or chronic chest problems in your baby.