Infant reflux occurs when food backs up (refluxes) from a baby's stomach, causing the baby to spit up. Sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), the condition is rarely serious and becomes less common as a baby gets older. It's unusual for infant reflux to continue after age 18 months.
Reflux occurs in healthy infants multiple times a day. As long as your baby is healthy, content and growing well, the reflux is not a cause for concern.
Rarely, infant reflux can be a sign of a medical problem, such as an allergy, a blockage in the digestive system or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Infant reflux generally isn't a cause for concern. It's very unusual for the stomach contents to have enough acid to irritate the throat or esophagus and to cause signs and symptoms.
See your baby's doctor if your baby:
Some of these signs can indicate possibly serious but treatable conditions, such as GERD or a blockage in the digestive tract.
In infants, the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach â the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) â is not yet fully mature. That allows stomach contents to flow backward. Eventually, the LES will open only when your baby swallows and will remain tightly closed at other times, keeping stomach contents where they belong.
The factors that contribute to infant reflux are common in babies and often can't be avoided. These factors include:
Occasionally, infant reflux can be caused by more-serious conditions, such as:
Your doctor will start with a physical exam and questions about your baby's symptoms. If your baby is healthy, growing as expected and seems content, then further testing usually isn't needed.
If further testing is needed, your doctor might recommend:
Infant reflux usually clears up by itself without causing problems for your baby.
If your baby has a more-serious condition such as GERD, he or she might show signs of poor growth. Some research indicates that babies who have frequent episodes of spitting up may be more likely to develop GERD during later childhood.
To minimize reflux:
Remember, infant reflux is usually little cause for concern. Just keep plenty of burp cloths handy as you ride it out.