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What is reflux?

Author Philippa Murphy

What is reflux?

an excerpt from Philippa's book - BabyCues
Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GER, GOR or posseting) and silent reflux are better labelled as Digestive Overload, the cause of reflux which form from:

  • unbalanced feeding practices
  • retained air (wind)
  • tongue tie

Reflux can happen at any time of the day or night but is often seen after most feeds. Mass refluxing can happen from Day One – brought about by the air a newborn ingests from shock when handled without security or carelessly at birth, lack of winding thereafter and early feeding beyond a newborn’s digestive capacities.

The Oxford Dictionary defines reflux as 'the flowing back of bodily fluid.' This can be experienced as a small amount of milk, or a projectile posset which is generally of a bigger quantity and delivered with more force. Most newborns posset as a normal process. However, frequent projectile or large quantities of refluxing after the majority of feeds is not normal.  It indicates feeding and winding practices need to be adjusted.

Ingested wind is the catalyst for refluxing. When newborns swallow air it sits amongst and under the milk. This air pushes the milk out – with or without the wind that created the posset. The more wind a newborn holds, the more often and projectile is the refluxing. To counteract any possibility of weight loss, or believing bubs must still be hungry from their communication, some parents feed more, but unless the wind is released the problem persists. Retained wind then continues through the intestine causing discomfort and distressed communication.  The bringing up of acid is a bi-product from the overload of ingested air. Like us, it can make newborns uncomfortable. However, it is the overabundance of retained wind left to travel through the intestines that causes the majority of distressed communication. Combat the wind and you reduce and often eliminate refluxing. 

Overfeeding, feeding a newborn beyond their biological capacities, also contributes hugely to mass refluxing. 

Note: Some newborns, with excessive posseting and loss of weight, may have a more serious issue called Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD or GERD) however, this dis-ease' generally starts with Gastroesophageal Reflux (GOR/GER) and can often be helped through the natural solutions of BabyCues. If  i don't believe this is possible I will refer you to your GP for further diagnosis.>

This aspect of Digestive Overload has these behaviour's...

  • The release of small or large amounts of milk – spilling or projectile.
  • Varying textures of milk – clear or cottage cheese.
  • Habitual swallowing of the burp (often called ‘silent reflux’).
  • Irritability, grizzling, inconsolable crying, screaming, bloating, cramps, excessive gas.
  • Heightened communication around and during bowel motions from excessive wind passing through the intestines, frequent frothy and/or explosive bowel motions, or constipation.
  • Wakefulness from discomfort with episodes of longer periods of sleep, but the latter is often from exhaustion through crying and lack of sleep rather than feeling comfortable.
  • Frequent searching for something to suck - exhibiting the ‘root reflex’. 
  • Weight gains may be at the lower recommended levels, but most newborns will be having large weight gains that are not within World Health Organisation recommendations of 20-25 grams a day from 06- months old. 
  • Arching backwards or sideways, writhing, wriggling.
  • Pedalling legs.
  • Gulping their milk, seeming very hungry while being restless – sometimes refusing to feed, pulling off the nipple or when bottle-fed, having flailing arms and legs with much turning of the head because of digestive discomfort.
  • Hiccups - a newborn's natural reflex for releasing ingested air. The more overloaded they are by wind, the more hiccups they experience.
  • Blueness or darkness around the mouth, which will come and go.  This can be visible above the top lip, under the bottom lip, or both simultaneously and can sometimes spread as far as the bridge of the nose between the eyes.  This sign of wind is present for all newborns because all experience natural levels of ingested air. It becomes more prominent as wind accumulates to overload levels.


Thank you to Alvarez for the photo.

Last Updated: 18 August 2016