Recognizing Silent Reflux in Infants: 5 Common Signs

Spitting up is fairly common among newborn infants. It’s commonly called reflux. Unfortunately, the majority of parents might not be aware of silent reflux in babies.

Don’t worry, it’s understandable – after all, it’s silent. A lot of things come naturally to parents, but also, a lot of knowledge doesn’t.

It is essential to educate yourself on the most common infant issues. If you didn’t know by now, you are probably wondering, “what is silent reflux in babies?”

What is Silent Reflux in Babies?

When the content of an infant’s stomach rises above and out of it, entering the throat, voice box or the pharynx – the problem is known as the silent reflux in baby. When that happens, there is a risk of the stomach content reaching the infant’s mouth, sinuses, ears, nose or even lungs – which can result in a fatal outcome.

Silent reflux is not the same as normal reflux. The difference is significant. In this case, the contents of the stomach could stay in the food pipe for a prolonged period of time, which can harm the esophagus lining or the digestive tract of the baby.

To make matters worse – silent reflux baby is tough to diagnose. Symptoms are not quite prominent and easy to notice. In the majority of cases, it remains undiagnosed.

What Causes Silent Reflux in Infants?

The main culprit is usually the underdeveloped digestive system of the infant. Another important point – newborns spend the majority of their time lying on their backs. That position makes it easy for stomach acid and digestive enzymes to go up and down the esophagus. Fortunately, as your little one grows, their digestive organs get in place and become mature, and that way, the issue might get cured.

Five Signs Your Baby Might Have Silent Reflux

Now that we know what silent reflux is, let’s look for the signs.

1. Lots of Crying

Your typically joyful baby might start crying excessively all of a sudden. If your baby is unusually agitated during nursing or feeding, they might be suffering from this problem.

In some cases, babies even start crying when they realize you are about to feed them. If your baby hasn’t been a fussy feeder before, they might have a problem.

2. Lots of Night Waking

Another sudden occurrence – your baby might start waking up every hour, or even less. After waking, they might cry and scream. If your baby was fed before that and been burped before going to bed, it could be a sign.

3. Planking

Your baby might go rigid during their crying outbursts. In a way, by behaving like that, an infant is telling you they are in pain.

You baby might go stiff as a plank when you try to comfort them during an episode. Try to see if your baby becomes unusually agitated when you place them on their back.

4. Constant Stuffy Nose

At first, you might think your baby had a cold, but then, a couple of weeks later, their nose is still stuffy. A lot of parents would think it as the cause of feeding issues, but that’s not necessarily the case. Congestion may be a sign of silent reflux.

5. Feeding Issues

In addition to crying over nursing and screaming, your child might pull off the breast to cough or sputter. You might think that it’s caused by your “let down reflex,” if it is too strong and your breastmilk comes out too fast. Unfortunately, it is another possible sign of silent reflux.

There are some other silent reflux symptoms that may appear. Look for the following signs as well:

  • Noisy breathing
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Hoarse voice
  • Making a regular gulping sound
  • Baby not gaining weight
  • Trouble feeding your baby
  • Baby wanting to be fed more often to soothe the pain

If you notice some of the beforementioned symptoms, pay a visit to your pediatrician to seek silent reflux treatment baby.

Mother holding baby girl

How is Silent Reflux in Babies Diagnosed?

As we have already established, diagnosing silent reflux in infants can get quite tricky because there are no apparent symptoms and infants cannot speak for themselves. However, if you notice any of the beforementioned signs, you might have good reason to suspect your baby has it. In that case, the best would be to seek immediate medical attention.

Your pediatrician will probably perform a thorough physical exam of your child. Any of the information mentioned can help your physician to decide the correct form of treatment. It is possible that your doctor might suggest some of these methods that are used for diagnosis:

  • pH Monitoring
  • Esophageal Manometry
  • Barium Swallow
  • Biopsy
  • Endoscopy

What are the Possible Complications?

If the bouts of silent reflux keep coming back, complications may develop. Some of them would be:

  • Hoarseness
  • Narrowing of vocal cords
  • Long-term airways conditions or complications
  • Ear infections

What Can Be Done to Ease It?

There are a couple of remedies you can try to ease your baby’s pain:

  • You could try nursing your child at regular intervals instead of nursing them more at once
  • Check if the baby bottle is not allowing to much milk release, it can possibly cause overfeeding
  • Hold your infant in an upright position after nursing them
  • Burp your child often during nursing sessions
  • You can try elevating your child’s head by elevating the mattress. An important note – do not use a pillow as it poses a choking hazard.

Are There Any Treatments For Silent Reflux?

It’s never a good idea to treat such serious medical conditions on your own. If there is a need for it, your pediatrician may offer the following treatments:

1. Infant Antacid

It’s an effective medicine that is used in the treatment of silent reflux in infants. Your specialist might suggest mixing it with breastmilk, formula or water and giving it to your child. The doctor will prescribe the exact dosage according to your child’s age and condition.

2. Avoid Cow’s Milk

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your child has cow’s milk allergy or silent reflux. Your pediatrician might suggest you to avoid feeding your baby dairy products if they suspect your child is suffering from a cow milk allergy. In case your baby is allergic to regular formulas, your doctor might advise you to use a hypoallergenic formula.

Grumpy baby

How Long Does It Last?

It’s a fairly common occurrence and, in most cases, it gets worked out by the time your child turns one.

How Can I Cope?

When your baby is constantly spitting up or vomiting – it can get a bit tiresome for mommies as they always have to change the baby’s clothes, bibs and quite often their own clothes, and everything else that gets soiled. You needn’t worry, there are some useful tips that can help you cope:

  • Always carry wet wipes and a bottle of water
  • Always carry some extra baby clothing whenever you go somewhere
  • Carrying a poly bag for dirty clothes, as well
  • Dress up your little one in comfortable and loose clothing – changes are easier that way
  • Use washable covers for your baby’s car seat and stroller
  • Use washable covers on chairs, sofa, the bed, or any other place where you might sit with your little one

When to Consult a Doctor

It’s possible that you will be able to manage silent reflux on your own. However, if some of the following symptoms become evident, it would be best to seek immediate medical attention:

  • If your infant refuses to eat, but will gladly accept a pacifier
  • If your child throws up a large amount of their stomach content, usually immediately after nursing
  • If your baby is agitated or fussy during or after nursing sessions
  • If your infant’s vomit looks greenish, yellowish or appears to have blood in it
  • If your child experiences recurring bouts of the condition

If you notice any of the beforementioned symptoms in your infant – don’t hesitate – seek professional help. There is usually no serious cause for concern if your baby suffers from the said condition. It’s a fairly common occurrence in infants, and with proper care and medical help, it can easily be cured.



Most mothers acquire a new appreciation for the excellent use of machine-washable items. No matter how fancy your dress is, your baby isn’t the least impressed. Even though baby vomit is something a mommy is used to, sometimes more serious action is needed.

Each parent suffers when their child suffers. But, sometimes, it’s difficult to see what is causing them pain. Especially when they are so young and not able to express themselves verbally.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself, so that you can better help your little one. The rest will be taken care of by the doctors.


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