Q&A on Silent Reflux in Babies

Silent reflux is among the common things that babies experience. Because its symptoms are pretty generic, it can often go undiagnosed and as a result, infants suffer without receiving the right treatment. How can you avoid this with your child?

What is silent reflux?

A reflux happens when the food in your stomach somehow gets pushed back out of your mouth. We’re all familiar how uncomfortable it is. This is due to the fact that together with the food, it brings acid with it. It’s already bad enough for us adults to experience this thing. Now just imagine your baby having to deal with it.

We call it a silent reflux because its symptoms are often not obvious so babies sadly suffer in silence. It can be extremely painful to the point that your baby will refuse to feed despite feeling very hungry.

What causes infant silent reflux?

Silent reflux happens because babies are still developing their digestive system. The muscles used for opening the esophagus to the stomach can close suddenly, pushing the food back up. This is also made easy by the fact that a baby’s esophagus is still very short. That means the food (and the acid that comes with it) can travel much faster up to his mouth.

How do you know if your baby has acid reflux?

There are a number of signs that point towards your baby having the condition. Look out for symptoms of silent reflux in babies such as discomfort or irritated disposition after feeding or when lying down. Most babies who have silent reflux can’t sleep because of the pain. If they refuse to sleep or if they wake up screaming after a few minutes of catching some zzz’s, they are obviously going through something.

Babies who have silent reflux also often swallow after feeding even if they don’t have milk in their mouths anymore. Sore throats can also occur so make sure to regularly check.

These signs can pass as symptoms for anything. That’s why most cases of infant silent reflux are not diagnosed.

When does it start?

It usually starts around 3 to 5 weeks after birth. But it can occur as soon as your baby feeds regularly already.

When does reflux peak in babies?

It usually peaks at around 4 months. A lot of moms shared that their babies around this time tend to lose sleep because of the pain.

When do babies outgrow acid reflux?

Because their digestive systems are now more developed, most babies outgrow silent reflux at around 7 months. However, there are still cases where they can still suffer from the condition even beyond this age.

What are the baby reflux remedies available?

Treating silent reflux is way easier than diagnosing it. Once diagnosed, your doctor will recommend a treatment according to the extent of the reflux. Infant antacids are usually prescribed. While they do the job quite well, I personally think prevention is still more effective.

How do you prevent silent reflux?

1. Feed in an upright position

There are different breastfeeding you can try and they differ according to your preference or situation. If you are able to, feed your baby in an upright position as much as you can. A lot of reflux episodes happen while the baby is lying down precisely because gravity makes it easier for the food to reach his mouth.

2. Don’t feed your baby too much milk

Another way to reduce the likelihood of your baby having reflux is feeding less amounts but doing it more frequently. This allows the milk to be digested more quickly, lessening the chances of it going back up.

3. Be still after feeding

We all love to rock our little babies. But avoid it after feeding because this can only disturb the food that’s trying to settle in their stomachs.

4. Avoid tight diaper and clothing

Tight clothing can also cause reflux because it prevents food from reaching the stomach where it’s digested properly. So make sure your baby’s diaper and clothing are not too tight.

When should you worry?

Unfortunately, a simple silent reflux can progress into a much more serious medical condition we call gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or GORD. It is characterised as a long-term reflux that damages the oesophagus. If your baby still has reflux after turning 1 year old, you may want to get him checked.

GORD is very uncommon. Only less than 5% of babies get affected. To know if he’s suffering from this condition, pay attention to his vomit. If it is sort of green in color, if he barfed quite forcefully, or he did it hours after the last feeding, this could be a sign. Other symptoms include constipation, weight loss, fever, intense irritability and discomfort. If you observe this in your baby, consult the doctor immediately.

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