Reflux in babiesOverview

Reflux is when a baby brings up milk, or is sick, during or shortly after feeding. It's very common and usually gets better on its own.

Check if your baby has reflux

Reflux usually starts before a baby is 8 weeks old and gets better by the time they're 1.

Symptoms of reflux in babies include:

  • bringing up milk or being sick during or shortly after feeding
  • coughing or hiccupping when feeding
  • being unsettled during feeding
  • swallowing or gulping after burping or feeding
  • crying and not settling
  • not gaining weight as they're not keeping enough food down

Sometimes babies may have signs of reflux, but will not bring up milk or be sick. This is known as silent reflux.

Things you can try to ease reflux

Your baby does not usually need to see a doctor if they have reflux, as long as they're happy, healthy and gaining weight.

Do

  • ask a health visitor for advice and support
  • check how your baby is feeding – read more about breastfeeding advice and bottle feeding advice
  • hold your baby upright during feeding and for as long as possible after feeding
  • give formula-fed babies smaller feeds more often
  • make sure your baby sleeps flat on their back – they should not sleep on their side or front

Don't

  • do not change your diet if you're breastfeeding
  • do not raise the head of their cot or Moses basket

See a GP if your baby:

  • is not improving after 2 weeks of trying things to ease reflux
  • gets reflux for the first time after they're 6 months old
  • is older than 1 and still has reflux
  • is not gaining weight or is losing weight

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if your baby:

  • has sick that's green or yellow, or has blood in it
  • has blood in their poo
  • has a swollen or tender tummy
  • has a very high temperature or they feel hot or shivery
  • keeps being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • has diarrhoea that lasts for over a week or has signs of dehydration
  • will not stop crying and is very distressed
  • is refusing to feed

If a GP thinks something else is making your baby sick, they may send your baby for tests in hospital with a specialist.

Treatment for reflux

A GP or specialist may recommend some treatments for reflux.

If your baby is formula-fed, you may be given:

  • a powder that's mixed with formula to thicken it
  • a pre-thickened formula milk

If the thickening powder does not help or your baby is breastfed, a GP or specialist might recommend medicines that stop your baby's stomach producing as much acid.

In very rare cases, surgery might be needed to strengthen the muscles to stop food or milk travelling back up. This is usually only after trying other things or if their reflux is severe.

Causes of reflux

Reflux happens because muscles at the base of your baby's food pipe have not fully developed, so milk can come back up easily.

Your baby's muscles will develop as they get older and they should grow out of it.

Page last reviewed: 18/02/2019
Next review due: 18/02/2022