In this section
Reflux is when the contents of the stomach are brought
back up (regurgitated) either into the oesophagus (food tube) or mouth.
Although it can be very distressing to parents, infants normally do
reflux and regurgitate more than older children and the problem usually
resolves by itself.
Sometimes the amount or consequences of the
reflux can become a problem and need treatment. Sometimes, there
may be another problem causing the reflux which may need to be
identified and treated.
If you are worried, see your family doctor or
Maternal and Child Health Nurse.
The medical term for reflux is
gastro-oesophageal reflux, or GOR.
Reflux is when stomach contents are brought
back up into either the oesophagus or mouth. It happens
spontaneously and, unlike vomiting, is effortless. Most
reflux is swallowed back into the stomach but occasionally it is
regurgitated. Parents are usually more aware of regurgitation,
especially after feeds. It normally stops by the time
the child is about one year old. Some babies regurgitate
more than others - this does not necessarily mean there is anything
wrong. It does not usually harm your child and is unlikely to cause
problems later on in life.
For most children, you don't have to do
anything about reflux and regurgitation. It is a natural process
which will resolve by itself. It is possible to reduce the number
of reflux episodes by placing your baby on their tummy (only if
your baby is awake and only if you or another adult person is with
them). This will not reduce the age at which the reflux will get
Changing formulas or changing from
breastfeeding to bottles will not have any effect on the reflux at
all and is not recommended.
Reflux and regurgitation can be very worrying
for the family. Parents need to know that there is not
much they can do to resolve it, and it will improve naturally with
time. They also need to know when it is appropriate to be
concerned and seek medical advice.
If you are unsure about what to do, talk to a
health professional such as a Maternal and Child Health Nurse or
your family doctor.
Sometimes there may be another problem causing
the reflux, such as an infection. Sometimes the reflux itself can
cause problems. See your family doctor or Maternal and Child
Health Nurse if your child:
The doctor or Maternal and Child Health Nurse
will check your child's growth, check for infection or other
possible causes for the reflux and may suggest some treatment such
as thickened fluids. Pre-made thickened fluids are most
suitable. Occasionally, medications can help.
However, most children with reflux do not need any treatment
Developed by the RCH Dept Emergency
Medicine & Clinical Practice Guideline Group in
consultation with Gastroenterology. Many thanks to the parents
who provided feedback and input to this factsheet. First
published July 2006. Updated December 2010.