Richmond Practice - Reflux in babies

Reflux in babies

Published in Families Upon Thames, March 2015

Frequent vomiting in young babies can be worrying for parents. However, around 70% of babies bring up small amounts of milk in the first three months of their life, which runs out of their mouths or noses, usually shortly after feeds.

Babies usually get reflux because the ring of muscle where their food pipes joins their stomachs haven’t fully developed. This means that when your baby's tummy is full, milk and acid can come back up the food pipe, causing discomfort. Both formula-fed and breastfed babies can have reflux and it can be very uncomfortable for them. Reflux usually gets better on its own as the muscular valve at the entrance to your baby's tummy gradually get stronger, and most babies grow out of it by 10 or 12 months.

Babies need to take in a lot of high calorie food to help them grow, but their food pipes and stomachs are still developing.

To help reflux, try:

  • feeding your baby small amounts frequently to avoid  overstretching his or her stomach capacity
  • hold your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding
  • “wind” or burp your baby thoroughly after feeds
  • raise the head end of the baby’s cot by about 25%, by putting a pillow under the mattress, but not in the cot
  • if you bottle feed, make sure that the hole in the teat is not too large, because this can cause milk to come out too fast
Consult your doctor if your baby:
  • regularly vomits up to two hours after feeding, with lots of coughing involved
  • is irritable during or after feeds, crying and arching his back
  • refuses to feed
  • gains insufficient weight
Your doctor can discuss further treatments for reflux. These might include adding thickener to expressed breast milk or formula or using a pre-thickened formula. The symptoms of cow's milk allergy or intolerance can be very similar to the symptoms of reflux, so, if you breastfeed your baby, your doctor may suggest you stop drinking cow's milk or having food or drinks containing cow's milk or a hypoallergenic formula for formula-fed babies for a couple of weeks to see if it helps. If the above treatments have not helped, medication may be prescribed.

At Elsbeth's Doctors, advice is available on reflux and other childhood illness. For more information or to arrange an appointment please contact us on 030 0303 5009 or at For more information visit