Kids Health

Does Your Baby Have Silent Reflux? Here’s How We Dealt With It


In the first months of my son’s life, I was terrified to let anyone else hold him. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my friends or family; it was that I couldn’t bear to watch him spew the contents of his stomach all over them.

“It’s fine, babies spit up, I don’t mind,” people would tell me as they eagerly reached for him. 

“No,” I’d caution, “I don’t think you understand.”

We weren’t talking about getting a cute little splotch of baby spit-up on your shoulder; we were talking about being drenched by a deluge of such volume that it seemed impossible it could have sprung from such a tiny, adorable being.

Concerned, I made an appointment with our pediatrician and detailed the situation: our baby was spitting up large amounts after each feeding, so much so that I worried he wasn’t getting enough food. Here’s what we learned and how we dealt with it. 


What is silent reflux?

Our doctor explained that we were likely dealing with silent reflux. This condition occurs in infants because the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach is not yet fully developed, thus allowing stomach contents to flow back up through the baby’s throat and mouth, ending up all over you or Aunt Minnie in her Sunday best. Additionally, the factors that contribute to infant reflux are things that generally can’t be avoided in babies, such as lying flat most of the time and having an almost completely liquid diet. 

According to our doctor, the good news was that this muscle ring would eventually develop, remaining tightly closed except when the baby swallows and keeping stomach contents where they belong. The bad news, however, was that this development could take months.


We weren’t talking about getting a cute little splotch of baby spit-up on your shoulder; we were talking about being drenched by a deluge of such volume that it seemed impossible it could have sprung from such a tiny, adorable being.


Although I adore and trust our doctor, I was skeptical after he assured us that our baby’s condition was completely normal. I didn’t know anyone else experiencing the same thing. All the moms I met at the playground were using cute, postage-stamp-sized burp cloths when they fed their babies, whereas I swathed myself in the biggest beach towel I could find. At home, our rugs and furniture were covered by protective blankets and towels, but I became reluctant to take the baby anywhere else for fear he would leave a mess behind.

 “Are you sure this is normal?” I pressed.

Our doctor assured me that reflux can occur in healthy infants multiple times a day and that the condition is rarely serious. Provided our son was gaining weight and appeared generally content (yes on both counts), he didn’t recommend any of the clinical interventions that were available, as they are typically more invasive than is worth the risk for otherwise healthy, happy infants.

So, we returned home happy that our baby was healthy but determined to find a solution that would ease his reflux and reduce our laundry burden.  



 What We Tried

Smaller, more frequent feedings: At our doctor’s recommendation, the first thing we tried was smaller, more frequent feedings. We stopped several times along the way to burp, and then kept the baby upright for at least thirty minutes after finishing. This seemed to work about 30 percent of the time. The other 70 percent we still ended up covered in spit-up. 

Probiotics: After reading online that this had worked for other people, I ran it by our pediatrician for the green light. He thought it was unlikely to help but didn’t see the harm in trying. We ordered our probiotic on Amazon, trying both the Gerber and the Culturelle Probiotic Drops. They were easy to use as you just squeeze a couple of drops into baby’s bottle or onto their tongue. While I had high hopes, however, this remedy had no impact whatsoever—our son continued to spit up what felt like buckets several times a day.

Baby massage: Another recommendation I found online was for basic movement and massage exercises to help reduce the gas and bloating that can contribute to reflux. The ones we tried were lying the baby on his back and moving his legs in a bicycle motion and also moving our hands gently along his digestive tract in a clockwise motion. While baby seemed to think these were fun (especially the bicycle legs), these exercises didn’t seem to help his reflux.

I want to note here that we were lucky to have what doctors often call a “Happy Spitter” — a baby whose overall health is unaffected by their reflux. However, reflux can sometimes be an indication of other, underlying problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should check with your doctor if your baby isn’t gaining weight, spits up blood or a green or yellow fluid, refuses food, has blood in his or her stool, or has difficulty breathing or a chronic cough.


What Helped

While I wish I had a magic solution to offer, aside from smaller, more frequent feedings, for us the best remedies were gratitude for the fact that we had an otherwise healthy, happy child and the knowledge that his reflux wouldn’t last forever. And it didn’t. Nearly six months to the day, our baby stopped spitting up. It took us a while longer to feel confident removing the coverings from all our furniture or letting other people hold him, but after a while, our days of being covered in spit-up became a distant memory.

While it was a trying period of our son’s development, now that he’s 3, we’ve weathered many other challenges that have put it in perspective. As a parent, it’s never easy to encounter a problem you can’t solve for your child. Thankfully in the case of reflux, time usually does heal all wounds.


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