Young babies often regurgitate what they ate. This is called 'newborn reflux'. It refers to a phenomenon in which formula or breast milk that has already passed through the esophagus and has reached the stomach refluxes and comes back into the esophagus or comes out of the mouth.
What is neonatal reflux?
At the border of the human esophagus and stomach, there is a muscular loop that prevents digested food from passing into the esophagus. If this muscle loop function is immature, milk or formula that has already passed through the esophagus to the stomach can be refluxed backwards. This phenomenon is called gastroesophageal reflux. It is common in babies between 1 and 4 months of age, and usually resolves on its own after 6 months.
In most cases, symptoms tend to get better after 100 days of age. Neonatal reflux is one of the most common symptoms of healthy babies. Reflux usually becomes most severe around the first month of life and can persist even to stones. According to one study, 85% of babies under the age of one week vomit at least once a day. Among babies under 6 weeks of age who do not have growth problems, more than 10% of babies often vomit.
What if my baby’s neonatal reflux is severe?
1. Divide formula or breast milk into small portions and feed often.
If your baby has severe reflux, small and frequent feedings may relieve the symptoms. It is important to extend the breastfeeding period, but each baby's condition is different, so please approach it a little more slowly!
2. Burp your baby often, but don't hit them hard on the back.
Burping will help reduce your baby's vomit. However, don't hit or shake the baby's back too hard. Tapping your baby hard on the back can irritate the inflamed area of the esophagus and cause them to vomit again.
So, how do you touch your baby's back? Put your baby's arms on the mother's shoulder and hold it. This will give you a straight line down from their mouth to their esophagus. Will it help with digestion? While holding the baby, stroke their back in a circular motion.
It's good if you stroke it in the left direction. If your baby doesn't burp within 3 minutes, you can stop. Even if your baby isn't burping, keeping them upright may have helped with digestion. Instead, it is better to hold them for a little longer until they are stable and then lay them down. Do not rock the baby while holding them, as this may encourage reflux in your child.
3. Elevate the baby's upper body and head.
Elevate the baby's upper body and head using a backflow cushion or a small pillow. If you think that your baby's head is higher than their hips, that's fine. Elevating the baby's head slightly when they are lying on the pillow will help prevent reflux. However, avoid cushions that are too soft. This is because babies who are not yet able to properly hold their own body can be buried in the soft cushions.
Most newborn reflux symptoms naturally get better after 100 days, but if you have problems with your baby's weight gain, be sure to check it out! You need expert advice. Stop by the hospital to talk to a specialist about your baby when it's time to vaccinate your baby.
Author: Eun-Kyung Beom, Pediatrician
- Baby Sleep Education Expert
- Director of Baby Sleep Research Institute
- Formerly Director of Gwangju Central Children's Hospital