Reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach flows back up the oesophagus (the tube that connects the stomach into the mouth). In the majority of cases the reflux results with the baby “regurgitating” or vomiting.
Some babies, however, experience “silent reflux”, which means that the stomach contents backflow into the oesophagus, but does not enter the mouth. The baby then re-swallows this and vomiting does not occur.
Many babies “posset” or “bring up” a small amount of milk immediately following a feed, either as an overflow or with a burp. This is considered normal and is not referred to as “reflux”.
A reflux baby will reflux or regurgitate indiscriminately throughout the day. They may reflux immediately following a feed, 1 hour after a feed or even 3-4 hours following a feed.
Reflux is a common problem in young babies and varies in severity. A large number of babies, both breast and bottle fed experience mild reflux. Some will repeatedly regurgitate small amounts of their milk effortlessly but are otherwise well. This is referred to as uncomplicated or simple reflux.
These babies are often called the “happy chucker “as their reflux does not seem to affect them. They are happy and content and grow and develop normally.
Other babies may experience severe reflux with pain, irritability, periods of unsettledness, feeding problems, sleep disturbances, weight loss or poor weight gain. These babies we refer to as having complicated reflux and require medical advice and treatment.