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HealthInfo Canterbury

When your baby has reflux or GORD

What is reflux?

The term reflux (also called gastro-oesophageal reflux or GOR) is just another name for spilling. This is when a baby's stomach contents pass up into their gullet (oesophagus) and into their mouth. Spilling is quite normal in babies, and is different to vomiting, when a baby empties their stomach forcefully.

Why do some babies have problems with spilling?

A baby's oesophagus (gullet) and stomach is not yet fully developed. In an adult, the stomach contents are kept in place by the lower oesophageal valve. However, in babies, the lower oesophageal valve relaxes more often, so that stomach contents can come back up into the oesophagus (gullet) more easily. This means that spilling is common in babies.

Facts about spilling

What can I do if my baby spills?

If your baby spills a lot, there are some things you can do to help.

When should I worry?

In most cases if your baby is growing well there is no reason to worry about spilling. However, some babies who spill, and who are also not growing, feeding, or sleeping well can have something called GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease). Most babies with GORD do not need medicines, but babies who are not growing well may need to have some tests. If you are worried about your baby's growth, feeding, or sleeping, take them to see a doctor for a check-up.

Your baby always needs to be checked by a doctor if they:

Although, cow's milk protein allergy (often called a dairy allergy) has been known to cause spilling and GORD, it's not usually necessary to try changing formulas or eliminating dairy products from your diet. Talk to your health professional before making any changes.

If my baby is unsettled, does this mean they have GORD?

Most unsettled babies who spill do not have GORD.

Do medicines help GORD?

Medicines such as omeprazole or ranitidine have been given in the past to infants who were unsettled and thought to have GORD. We now know that these medicines do not work for unsettled babies, and may even cause an increased risk of serious illnesses such as pneumonia and gastroenteritis.

On the next page: Looking after a baby with spilling or GORD

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by paediatric gastroenterologist, Child Health, Canterbury DHB. Reviewed December 2016.

See also:

When your baby is unsettled

Page reference: 35214

Review key: HISPR-12789