Our postnatal expert MELINDA HUNT answers common questions about babies, pregnancy, parenting and more. Here, she discusses reflux in newborns and how to help.
“My baby keeps spitting up; does she have reflux? What can I do to help her?”
As a new parent, bringing home your baby can generate an abundance of anxiety and a lot of fretting. When baby spits up (the medical term for which is reflux), parents can naturally start to feel concerned and worry if it’s a normal thing or not.
A common occurrence
Rest assured, reflux or spitting up is very common in babies! It tends to start at around the two-week mark and it usually peaks when they’re around four months of age. There are, of course, varying degrees of reflux, and it can go on into a baby’s second year.
Reflux specifically refers to when the milk your baby has swallowed comes back into their food pipe. When your baby swallows milk, it mixes with stomach acids that work to break down the milk feed, but when it comes back up again into the food pipe it can make baby feel very uncomfortable and unsettled. You may see crying, coughing and a lot of hiccups! Some babies aren’t bothered by their reflux while others are very sensitive and triggered by the sensation.
Silent reflux is when baby swallows the milk that comes back up, so you actually don’t see the spit up at all, instead just a very grumpy and unhappy bub. Silent reflux can be hard to diagnose for that reason!
To see a doctor or not?
Reflux usually resolves itself as baby’s digestive system matures over time and it often doesn’t need medicine or medical intervention. While it’s normal for your little munchkin to spit up to a certain extent, do see the GP or paediatrician for a check-up if you observe any or all of the following:
- the reflux is causing significant discomfort;
- your baby is crying uncontrollably;
- they’re having large projectile-type vomits;
- the vomit is tinged with yellow or with blood; or,
- they’re starting to refuse feeds and don’t seem to be gaining weight. These are all red flags that parents should investigate further. Usually, reflux will dissipate well before the 12-month mark in babies. If it still persists, you should consult your GP.
Tips to help a baby with reflux
Here are some things you can do to make the situation more comfortable for both of you:
- feed your baby in an upright position;
- hold your baby upright after the feed for around 20 to 30 minutes;
- give smaller, more frequent feeds;
- burp baby more often; and,
- include pauses during the feed.
Melinda Maternity is a bespoke postnatal care and night nurse service. Melinda brings first-hand experience and professional advice on topics from feeding and settling to basic baby care.
See more helpful advice in our Kids section.