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What is Infant Reflux and what you can do to help your baby

infant reflux whole body health and wellness

Infant Reflux can be very distressing for new parents but it is relatively common as your baby’s digestive system is still developing. Here we explain what infant reflux is, signs you can look for and how osteopathy may support your baby.

Infantile reflux is very common in the first year of their life. In fact, it’s estimated up to 50 percent of babies will experience reflux within their first 3 months. Although it can be quite distressing for parents, it is often normal in an otherwise healthy baby. 

What is Infantile Reflux?

The medical term for reflux is gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR). Reflux is when the contents of your baby’s stomach are regurgitated back into their food pipe (oesophagus) or their mouth. Most reflux is swallowed back into their stomach, but it may also project out of their mouth. This is referred to as posseting.

Regurgitation involves no straining and is almost effortless just like a hiccup. In some babies, reflux can lead to complications such as inflammation of the oesophagus and failure to thrive. This is called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and requires medical attention.

What are the causes of Infantile Reflux?

One of the reasons Infantile reflux is so common is that your baby’s digestive system is immature during the first year of life. It typically occurs because the muscle at the top of your baby’s stomach is under-developed, causing it to be loose. This can allow their milk and stomach acids to flow back up the food pipe and even out of their mouth.

How does infantile reflux feel for a baby?

Your baby is likely suffering from reflux if they are regurgitating 2 or more times a day for 3 days or more but has no other obvious signs of illness such as fever, blood in stools, vomiting.  

If your baby has reflux they may regurgitate milk, especially after feeding. In some cases, this may be the only sign of reflux. In others, there may be other signs that indicate your baby is suffering from GOR. These may include:

  • Frequent wet burps, hiccups, excessive crying or screaming and very difficult to settle
  • Your baby is arching their backs, pulling up their legs, stiffening their body during or after feeds
  • Appearing to be in pain and discomfort in their chest or upper abdomen
  • Have disrupted sleep and/or hard to settle back to sleep
  • Show poor weight gain
  • Have breathing and swallowing difficulties such as gagging, choking, coughing, wheezing
  • Needs to be upright to be settled after feeding.

How can Osteopathy help with infantile Reflux?

Osteopathy can help support your baby if they are experiencing infantile reflux or symptoms associated with the condition. 

In infantile reflux, there are a number of areas where restriction in the body may be affecting the function of the oesophagus (food pipe) and digestive system. Tension, irritation or compression in structures such as the thoracic diaphragm (breathing muscle), rib cage, upper back and the vagus nerve (the nerve supply to the digestive system) can contribute to reflux. 

Your Osteopath will identify and treat any areas of restriction that may be causing or contributing to reflux in your baby. Cranial Osteopathy is a very gentle and relaxing form of treatment that is particularly suited to babies.

Through gentle pressure applied to different parts of your baby’s body, your Osteopath can help to release strain patterns and restore balance to their whole system. Your Osteopath will also be able to assist you if a referral is necessary if your baby has GORD. 

How long does it take to recover from reflux?

GOR usually occurs between 3 weeks and 12 months of age, often peaking around 4-6 months. As your baby grows older, the muscles at the top of the stomach become stronger and the digestive system begins to mature. For most babies, infantile reflux resolves by the time they are one year old.

At Whole Body Health and Wellness, we have several osteopaths experienced and confident in treating babies including Natasha who treats at our Ocean Grove clinic. To book an appointment, click here.

Infantile Reflux Resources

Infantile Reflux