Infant reflux


Infant reflux occurs when the contents of a baby’s stomach move back up into the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. This is also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER). It is common and happens several times a day in healthy infants, but it usually decreases as the baby gets older.

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a more severe and long-lasting form of reflux that can cause problems with feeding or last for more than 12 to 14 months. However, as long as a baby is growing well and healthy, reflux is not usually a cause for concern. It is rare for infant reflux to continue beyond 18 months, and symptoms such as weight loss or delayed growth may indicate a medical issue such as an allergy, blockage in the digestive system, or GERD.

While infant reflux is common and usually not a cause for concern, GERD is a more serious form that can cause health problems. It is important to seek medical attention if a baby’s symptoms prevent them from feeding or if they experience weight loss or delayed growth, as this may indicate an underlying medical issue.


Stomach acid rarely reaches levels high enough to cause symptoms like irritation of the throat or esophagus, so infant reflux usually causes no concern. Symptoms of infant reflux include:

  • Projective vomiting or spitting forcefully
  • Crying for more than three hours each day without a medical reason is referred to as “colic.”
  • Infant does not gain weight.
  • Vomits a yellow or green liquid.
  • Vomits up what appears to be coffee grounds or blood.
  • Refuses to eat or problem swallowing
  • Blood in the stool
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Becomes irritated after eating
  • Weakness

It is recommended that you seek medical attention if the infant is experiencing some of the symptoms that could be signs of serious conditions, such as GERD or digestive system obstructions. These conditions are treatable.


During infancy, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the muscular ring separating the esophagus and stomach, is not yet fully developed. As a result, it may not be able to prevent the backward flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. However, as the LES matures, it should open when the baby swallows and stay closed at other times, ensuring that stomach contents stay in the stomach.

Babies commonly experience reflux due to certain unavoidable factors such as spending most of their time lying down and being fed a mostly liquid diet.

Infant reflux may occasionally be brought on by serious conditions like:

  • GERD: The esophageal lining is irritated and damaged by the reflux’s high acid content. Younger infants frequently have GERD as well. It’s common among 4-month-olds. Nevertheless, only 10% of infants still have GERD by their first birthday.
  • Food intolerance: The most frequent cause is a protein found in cow’s milk.
  • Pyloric stenosis: Pyloric stenosis results in the valve thickening and enlarging beyond what is normal. Consequently, food is trapped in the stomach by the thickened valve, preventing it from passing into the small intestine. As part of digestion, a muscle valve allows food to exit the stomach and enter the small intestine.
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis: Eosinophil a type of white blood cell. The lining of the esophagus gets damaged by a buildup of a certain type of white blood cell.
  • Sandifer syndrome: As a result, the head tilts and rotates irregularly and exhibits motions resembling convulsions. It’s an uncommon side effect of GERD.

Risk factors

Infant reflux is common. But some things make it more likely that a baby will experience infant reflux. These include:

  • Premature birth
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cerebral palsy (Conditions of the nervous system)
  • History of surgery of the esophagus