Silent reflux explained: a no-panic guide for parents

Kinderling News & Features

For parents with a new bub, you would have heard of reflux. Silent reflux, however, is a less known, and much harder to diagnose. Instead of vomiting, a bub with silent reflux has no spit up, hence the term ‘silent’. Acid-tinged milk isn’t forced out of the mouth. Instead, they might swallow it back into their stomach, or it may sit in their oesophagus. This makes poor little ones very uncomfy.

What is silent reflux?

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) or silent reflux can present in babies aged around six weeks to five months of age.

It can cause discomfort, a cough or a sore throat in a baby. It can also prevent babies from putting on weight.

Sometimes a baby will make a sound that mimics reflux, but no milk presents, making it hard for parents to realise that reflux is occurring.

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The acidic reflux can burn on the way up and again on the way down, delivering a double whammy to the poor baby who is suffering with the condition.

A baby with silent reflux may cry during or after a feed without any obvious reason. They may also grimace or wince as they deal with the acidic reflux milk.

Other babies don’t appear to be worried by their silent reflux at all, making it even more difficult to diagnose.

What are the symptoms?

  • Sudden bouts of crying
  • Being grizzly during or after feeds
  • Coughing
  • Sour breath
  • Milk in mouth between feeds
  • Breathing irregularities
  • Wet-sounding burps
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Failing to gain weight
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Hoarse or croaky voice

This condition can be stressful for parents and babies alike. Babies may be uncomfortable and find feeding difficult.

Parents may have trouble translating what’s making their baby unhappy and feel exhausted, frustrated or inadequate, making it important to seek support as soon as possible.

Silent reflux can lead to other complications like ear problems, respiratory infections, stomach ulcers and damage to vocal chords, so it’s vital to take it seriously.

What can be done?

To help avoid silent reflux, hold your baby upright as you feed and burp or “wind” them often during feeds. This can sometimes alleviate symptoms, but not always.

Shorter, smaller feeds can sometimes help, as can dietary changes in breastfeeding mums and, in some cases, medication or even corrective surgery.

If you suspect silent reflux in your baby, seek support from your Maternal Child Health Nurse or trusted medical practitioner.

It’s important to not tough this out on your own as helpful treatment and advice awaits.

This article was originally published on Babyology.