Why does my baby have reflux?

This information is intended solely for education purposes and is in no way to be substituted medical advice. If you have concerns about reflux in your baby, take your baby to their doctor.

In simple terms, their gut is still immature.

The mouth is connected to the stomach through the esophagus, essentially a tube lined with muscle. In adults, the esophagus is longer and has something called a “lower esophageal sphincter” (LES) at the bottom before it enters the stomach, which prevents food from moving back up.

In babies, the esophagus is shorter, the muscle has not fully matured and the LES has not fully developed yet, so food easily moves in both directions. When food moves up the esophagus, it can cause discomfort. Many babies with reflux are happy and do not have symptoms. In fact, they may even feel relief once they spit up.

For these reasons, keeping your baby upright after meals uses gravity to help keep food moving downward.

If your baby has symptoms of severe reflux, including arching their back, discomfort or crying with feeds or not gaining weight, they may have gastro-esophageal reflux disease and your doctor can help.

Reflux symptoms tend to get better as the gut matures overtime, and also around 6 months, as your baby is sitting more and eating more solids.

5 factors that can contribute to reflux:

  1. Overfeeding – consider feeding smaller amounts more frequently
  2. Gulping in a lot of air – consider burping at regular intervals
  3. Position – lying down too soon after a feed, consider keeping elevated at least 30 min-1h after a feed
  4. Age (due to maturity of the gut) – generally resolves with maturity of muscles and sitting upright
  5. Fluid vs. solids – The younger they are, they drink mainly fluids. Reflux tends to get better with solid food introduction.