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It's basically when a baby brings up milk, or is sick, during or just after a feed. It's normal for most babies (which is why all those bibs come in handy) and usually gets better, without causing any significant problems.
Reflux happens because the muscles at the bottom of baby's oesophagus (food pipe) and stomach are not fully developed, so rather than going into their tummy, milk and food can sometimes travel back up. As your baby grows, these muscles develop and your baby stops getting reflux.
Reflux usually starts before your baby is 8 weeks old and gets better by the time they reach their first birthday.
Your baby may show that they are distressed and uncomfortable in many different ways. It's not always reflux that's causing their pain. They may be feeling hot, cold, want a change or just a cuddle. But signs of reflux include:
Regular reflux happens when your baby spits up milk after feeding. Sometimes babies don't spit out what comes back up but swallow it instead. This is known as 'silent reflux'. Babies with silent reflux might gain weight normally but show some of the other signs of reflux.
With silent reflux, when your baby brings up milk, some of the acid from their tummy will come with it, making your little one uncomfortable and restless after feeding.
If you notice your baby swallowing after a feed, when there shouldn't be milk in their mouth, they may have silent reflux. Your baby may develop a cough and will often show signs of discomfort when lying down.
You can help ease your baby's regular and silent reflux by:
If you're using formula to feed your baby, you can use thickened 'anti-reflux' formula milk. But it's important to talk to your GP or a healthcare professional before you try this as thickened milk can swap reflux for constipation.
Reflux can be more common among babies who are born prematurely and babies who had a low birth weight. Babies and children who have an allergy to cow's milk may are also more likely to develop reflux.
Babies who are breastfed and formula fed can both get reflux. But it's generally accepted that breast milk is easier for babies to digest, one of the many reasons it is recommended that you breastfeed your baby.
If your baby is formula fed and develops reflux, you can try giving them smaller feeds more often and talk to a health professional about the best kinds of formula milk to feed your baby.
You should seek professional medical advice if your baby:
Is not improving after 2 weeks of trying things to ease their reflux
Gets reflux for the first time after they're 6 months old