What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, otherwise known as GER (gastroesophageal reflux) is when the stomach contents move upward into the esophagus.
Acid reflux issues often clear up as a child ages. However, if the symptoms are more severe (see below) then they may be indicative of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a cow’s milk protein allergy.
What causes acid reflux?
Babies often spit up after a feed because their digestive systems aren’t yet fully developed. As their stomachs may not work properly, the contents can make their way back up into the esophagus. This causes spitting up or vomiting.
Reflux is common in babies and unless it interferes with well-being or feeding, there is no need for concern.
Symptoms of reflux
Some symptoms of reflux are:
- bringing up milk or being sick after feeding
- coughing or hiccuping during a feed
- being unsettled during feeding
- swallowing or gulping while eating
- crying and not settling.
Sometimes babies may show some of the above symptoms but without burping or being sick. This is known as silent reflux.
Ways to ease reflux
Usually your baby will not need to see a GP as long as they’re healthy, happy and gaining weight. Here are some things to try in order to ease your baby’s symptoms:
- Ask for advice from your health visitor about feeding positions
- Hold your baby upright during feeding and for as long as possible afterwards
- Burp your baby after each meal with gentle movements.
When should I consult a GP?
If you see that your baby is suffering from any of the following symptoms, it’s time to consult a GP:
- Regular or forceful spitting up after eating
- Arching their back
- Choking or gagging
- Being very unsettled and difficult to soothe
- Loss of appetite
- Sounding wheezy.
These symptoms may be indicative of GERD or perhaps an allergy to cow’s milk protein.
When to seek medical help urgently
Seek medical attention right away if your baby develops any of the following symptoms:
- Being extremely irritable
- Projectile vomiting
- Swollen or tender stomach
- Very high temperature/ hot or shivery
- Diarrhoea or sings of dehydration
- Unable to keep fluids down
- Blood in their poo
- Green or yellow vomit, or vomit with blood or what looks like coffee grounds in it
- Problems breathing or swallowing.
What is cow’s milk protein allergy?
CMPA is an allergy to the cow’s milk protein found in all dairy products such as milk (including baby formula), cheese, and yogurt. It is often diagnosed while investigating what is causing GERD in babies. If this is suspected as a cause your baby will be referred to a specialist who will often try your baby on a CMPA-free formula (or ask the baby’s mother to avoid all dairy while breastfeeding) to see if their condition improves. Should this trial of dairy-free feeding work, your baby will need to avoid all dairy products.
If you have a family history of allergy, hay-fever, asthma, or eczema your baby will be more likely to develop CMPA.