Silent reflux is when a baby is suffering from acid reflux, sometimes called GERD, but the visible signs are not very obvious. Most reflux babies vomit, or spit up and therefore often loose weight or fail to put on an appropriate amount of weight after birth. The symptoms of this are very clear and very physically visible. They are not in infant silent reflux.
Silent reflux in babies
This is when the baby does not vomit or spit up, but swallows the regurgitated liquid, sometimes choking on it first. You will start to know if this is happening as you spend time with your baby after a feed, while he/she is sleeping, when the baby is laid down without the help of gravity to keep the liquid in the stomach. However, for a professional who might see the baby for ten minutes, without the description of vomiting and seeing the weight loss it is much harder to diagnose that your baby has acid reflux.
Confusion of symptoms
Silent reflux in babies is less messy but very confusing as often silent reflux babies want more and more food and put on weight, as they comfort eat to try and soothe the pain. Most diagnoses are dependent on the symptoms of raw throats from vomiting, hiccups, lots of vomiting itself and weight loss. You may need to be persistent if your medical help has not had experience with silent reflux babies. Keep a diary or remember to describe when your baby is crying in pain, how long after food, when upright or lying down. Remember to listen to see if you can hear the liquid flowing up his food pipe and into his mouth. You can usually hear the liquid and certainly the swallowing and sometimes the choking on the now acidic liquid which he/she has regurgitated. A permanently runny nose and bad breath are also very common signs.
Is a baby crying because it is in pain, hungry, tired, frightened or bored? Most people who care for a baby learn quickly to differentiate between these things. If the baby is your first child, it may well be harder to know which cry is which. It is therefore possible to feel that something is wrong, but not be confident enough to say that there is a problem. Lots of small babies don’t sleep well. Lots of small babies cry in the night. Lots of babies cry when they are put down. However, if you are worried and aware that by six weeks your baby is still not settling at all well, flaying little arms around and you can hear the liquid coming up, then be confident and consider the possibility that your baby has silent reflux.
For the reasons given above, babies with of silent reflux tend to get diagnosed much later than ordinary reflux babies who vomit and fail to put on weight. However the reflux is not less painful for your baby. The lack of sleep and worry is no less devastating to you and your family. If it helps find a close member of the family or friend who is experienced with babies recently and ask them to do a night with the baby for you in your home. See if they can settle him or her or if they too realise the baby can only sleep comfortably when help upright on a shoulder or on a lap on a chair. Another experienced person’s confirmation that the baby is in discomfort or pain, not just lacking in routine can help.
Your baby needs the right medication and the right management of reflux to help the pain. Acid reflux is a long haul. Be assertive with your doctor, confident in your capacity to tell when your baby is in pain and wise in asking someone for help to hold your baby while you get some sleep. You are looking not at days or weeks up eight times a night and no respite in the day, but months. It helps to have a diagnosis and treatment. But remember your baby WILL grow out of it.
Infant silent reflux is hard to diagnose. You will have to help the professionals with your 24 hour experience of your baby. Management of silent reflux babies as well as getting the right treatment is very important. My email course is written to give you tips on sleeping, eating, finding treatment and explaining to the outside world what the difficulties are for your baby in pain and for you and the rest of your family. Acid reflux affects everyone in the household.
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