Reflux-image-for-articleYour baby seems to scream a large percentage of the time and is vomiting often and in large volumes, or not vomiting but making swallowing noises in the throat, sleeps in "cat naps", often looks uncomfortable when feeding, wants to be carried all the time, and wakes up frequently at night.


This has been going on for days, weeks or even months and you are desperate to find something to ease the pain, stop the screaming, get some sleep and really cherish and enjoy your baby. But what is it that is causing this behaviour? Is it Colic, which seems to be the "catch all phrase" to explain screaming, fussy babies? Or could your baby be suffering from Reflux?


What is Reflux

Reflux is a condition which is believed to affect approximately 60% - 70% of babies at various stages of their early lives, to various degrees. It normally starts from birth, or soon thereafter, peaks around 4-6 months and then in most cases disappears by 1 year.


Reflux occurs when the lower oesophagus sphincter (or muscle that controls the movement of substances in and out of the stomach) is underdeveloped; or the baby reacts to something in her diet, causing the contents of the stomach, including the stomach acid, to flow back up the oesophagus (throat). This may be quick and cause no symptoms at all, or may be more prolonged and frequent burning the baby's oesophagus and causing significant discomfort and pain.


Testing for Acid Reflux

There is no easy, inexpensive , un-invasive or especially accurate means of testing for Reflux. Most doctors generally look at symptoms and then suggest either home treatments (for example changing feeding and sleeping positions), natural remedies or medication and see if anything works. If the symptoms improve then treatment continues, however if the symptoms persist or worsen then tests are often necessary.


Silent Reflux

Sometimes the symptoms of Reflux can be present, but the vomiting is not. This is then termed Silent Reflux. Silent Reflux can be more damaging than normal Reflux as the acid from the stomach burns the baby on the way up and on the way down again.


GORD vs Reflux (GOR)

GORD (Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease) occurs when Reflux or GOR (Gastro-Oesophgeal Reflux) is associated with complications, such as:

  • oesophagitis (erosion of the oesophagus) which leads to a very irritable baby who may become difficult to feed because of the pain
  • excessive vomiting causing poor weight gain
  • recurrent respiratory problems such as pneumonia or apnoea

GORD is treated medically in the first instant, such as with anti-acid medications and a change in milk, but in severe cases can ultimately require surgical intervention to fix. If you suspect your baby has GORD I strongly advise that you seek immediate medical advice from a Paediatrician or Paediatric GIT (Gastro Intestinal Tract) Specialist.


Symptoms of Reflux

Babies suffering from Reflux can exhibit all or just a few of the symptoms listed below. The number of symptoms your baby shows has no correlation to the severity of the acid Reflux.






The information in this article was reviewed for medical accuracy by, Paediatrician and Allergy Specialist, Dr Claudia Gray (MBChB (UCT), MRCPCH (London), MScClin Pharm(Surrey), DipPaedNutrition (UK), PostgradDipAllergy (Southampton), Certified Paediatric Allergologist (SA))

Dr Gray works at the allergy clinic at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, and has a private practice at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, contact 021 531 8013.