Reflux in babies
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 in babies
Your baby does not usually need to see a doctor if they have reflux, as long as they're happy, healthy and gaining weight.
ask a health visitor for advice and support
get advice about your baby's breastfeeding position or how to bottle feed your baby
hold your baby upright during feeding and for as long as possible after feeding
burp your baby regularly during feeds
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)
do not change your diet if you're breastfeeding
do not raise the head of their cot or Moses basket
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your baby:
- is not improving after 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
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if your baby:
- has vomit that's green or yellow, or has blood in it
- is projectile vomiting (being sick with more force than usual)
- 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
Also call your GP or 111 if you have any other concerns about your baby.
Treatment for reflux in babies
A GP or specialist may sometimes recommend 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.
Very rarely, 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 usually happens because your baby's food pipe (oesophagus) has not fully developed, so milk can come back up easily.
Your baby's oesophagus will develop as they get older and the reflux should stop.
Page last reviewed: 13 December 2021
Next review due: 13 December 2024