Infant reflux, or GERD is usually caused by an uncoordinated gastrointestinal tract. Some infants who experience reflux experience little or no pain, while other babies with reflux experience severe pain, even if they are not spitting up (this is known as “silent reflux”).
Regardless of age, reflux is generally caused when the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus becomes over relaxed, or too much pressure is applied below this muscular valve. Most babies outgrow reflux by the time they are one.
If your baby is experiencing painful reflux that cannot be controlled by medicines, he or she may be experiencing food allergies or food intolerances. The most common offending foods for babies with food intolerance/allergies are milk and soy (MSPI), but other foods can contribute as well. If a breastfeeding mother modifies her diet (e.g. she doesn’t eat the foods that are bothering baby) or if she switches to a hypoallergenic formula, oftentimes her baby’s reflux symptoms will improve and can be controlled with reflux medicines.
Both of our boys had reflux that could not be controlled if they were ingesting foods in which they were intolerant. Around four or five months, our firstborn almost had esophagus surgery because of this. Once I modified my diet, reflux medicines finally controlled Lil Z’s reflux pain. You can read about our experience with reflux here and here.
Some other signs that your baby may have more than reflux is if he has mucous or blood in his stools. Lil Z’s diapers were nothing but mucous, but because he was my firstborn, I thought that is just what baby poop looked like! So when our pediatrician asked if he had blood or mucous in his stool, I told her no. Sigh… So you don’t make the same mistake, here are some pictures of an abnormal, mucousy stool on the great blog Happy Healthy Mama.
Here are some excellent reflux sources: