Infant reflux and spit up

Infant Reflux seems to be one of the most diagnosed issues we see among our clients today. The rise in diagnosis could be contributed to many factors, one of which is the internet. Hop onto any forum and ask about your baby crying and you’re likely to hear “it’s probably Reflux!” from at least a few well-meaning commenters.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Infant Reflux happens when the food in your baby’s stomach backs up, causing spit-up. It’s rarely dangerous or even a cause for concern! Why, then, are so many people turning to medications?

Issues arise when the underlying cause of the spit up is a more serious condition like GERD, Pyloric Stenosis, or food intolerance. 

What causes Infant Reflux in the first place?

When babies are born the sphincter that holds their stomachs completely closed (called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) isn’t fully developed. They live on a fully liquid diet and are often flat for most of their day. It’s pretty easy to see how spit up could happen!

It’s important to remember that this very, very common occurrence is not dangerous to your baby! Spit up by itself isn’t a symptom of something wrong and usually does not need intervention from a doctor. While spit up may be messy, the stomach contents of babies are generally not acidic enough to cause damage.

Why is my baby so fussy?

If your baby is spitting up and fussy, it’s not necessarily linked. Imagine being a brand new baby. Every single sensation is new and you have no way to communicate other than…well, cry! An infant or newborn crying isn’t typically a cause for concern. It may feel like an emergency but anything could cause them to feel a need for attention. 

Your baby may be overtired, over- or under-stimulated, gassy, or even need to poop! While crying can be an indicator of deeper issues, it’s often a pretty simple fix. 

When should I become concerned with Infant Reflux?

While spitting up and crying generally come with the territory for babies, there are some more worrisome symptoms that could mean a deeper issue. See your doctor if your baby is projectile vomiting (spit up is forceful), isn’t gaining or is losing weight, spitting up yellow or green fluid (not milk) or spitting up anything that looks like blood or coffee grounds.If spit up begins after 6 months (this could be a stomach bug), baby has difficulty breathing or a chronic cough, a doctor should be called as well. 

How can I help?

If you notice your baby is constantly spitting up after a feed or a bottle there are a few simple things you can try right away. Consider dialing back how much your baby is eating. They could simply be getting too full! Smaller, more frequent feeds could help eliminate the issue altogether.

Another easy thing to try is keeping your baby upright for 20-30 minutes after a feed. This could mean holding them on your chest or even babywearing. Whatever keeps your baby upright to give them long enough for the milk to stay in their little tummy.

Finally, consider burping them more frequently. Air bubbles in the stomach can force milk out when they escape.

Many parents find themselves seeking intervention because they just can’t seem to get their babies to sleep. If that’s you, head over to our blog on Newborn Sleep Essentials and help your whole family get a few more winks of shut-eye.

It’s normal to want babies to be comfortable and happy always. Unfortunately, being a baby is rough sometimes. Spit up is just a part of life when you’re a newborn. There are definitely rare cases where your baby may need intervention from a doctor but most babies will grow out of it. Rest assured, parents, it’s completely normal!

About Amy Lewis

Amy is the co-owner of Buddha Belly. She is passionate about assisting women through life's most challenging transitions and nurtures a lifelong commitment to women in serving mothers as a doula.