Health A to Z
Babies often bring up milk during or shortly after feeding – this is known as possetting or reflux.
It's different from vomiting in babies, where a baby's muscles forcefully contract.
Reflux is just your baby effortlessly spitting up whatever they've swallowed.
It's natural to worry something is wrong with your baby if they're bringing up their feeds. But reflux is very common and will usually pass by the time your baby is a year old.
This page covers:
Signs that your baby may have reflux include:
Reflux isn't usually a cause for concern and you don't normally need to get medical advice if your baby seems otherwise happy and healthy, and is gaining weight appropriately.
But contact your midwife, health visitor or GP if reflux starts after six months of age, continues beyond one year, or your baby has any of the following problems:
It's normal for some babies to have reflux. It usually just occurs because a baby's food pipe (oesophagus) is still developing.
It normally stops by the time a baby is a year old, when the ring of muscle at the bottom of their oesophagus fully develops and stops stomach contents leaking out.
In a small number of cases, reflux can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as:
Most babies with reflux don't need any tests. It can usually be diagnosed based on your baby's symptoms.
In rare cases, the following tests may be recommended if your baby's reflux is severe or persistent:
These tests will normally be carried out in hospital.
Reflux doesn't usually require treatment if your baby is putting on weight and seems otherwise well.
The following treatments and advice may be offered if your baby appears to be in distress or their reflux has a specific, identified cause.
Your midwife or health visitor may want to check how you feed your baby and suggest some changes to help with their reflux.
These changes might include:
If your doctor thinks your baby could have a cows' milk allergy, they may suggest trying special formula milk that doesn't contain cows' milk.
Babies with reflux don't usually need to take any medication, but sometimes the following medicines may be offered if your doctor feels the problem is severe:
Alginates may be used if changing the way you feed your baby doesn't help. PPIs and H2-receptor antagonists may be recommended if your baby appears to be in discomfort or is refusing feeds.
In a very small number of babies – most often, babies with serious underlying conditions such as cerebral palsy – an operation may be needed to treat GORD by tightening the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus.
Surgery may also be needed if there's a blockage or narrowing in the oesophagus, stomach or small intestine.