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Infant Silent Reflux

Not all infants suffering from reflux actually vomit; some may have infant silent reflux - where the stomach contents only come part way up the esophagus.

Sometimes you may hear the baby reflux, or see them swallow repeatedly, and see no evidence of it. Your baby may suddenly start crying while feeding, or afterwards, without any other obvious cause for the crying, or they may grimace, or make a screwed up face like they are tasting something bad - they may, in fact, be tasting the acidic reflux.

Many babies with infant silent reflux, especially very sleepy ones, do not show any pain or discomfort for up to 3 months of age.

You may need to keep a watchful eye for some other signs of infant reflux apart from the obvious one; vomiting. Occasionally infants can be seen to hold their head to one side in an unusual position to ease their discomfort (called Sandifer’s Syndrome). Some symptoms that can indicate infant silent reflux are:

  • irritability and pain
  • poor sleep habits typically with frequent waking
  • arching their necks and back during or after eating
  • frequent hiccups
  • frequent ear infections
  • refusing food or accepting only a few bites despite being hungry -or the exact opposite
  • requiring constant small meals or liquid
  • food aversions
  • anemia
  • excessive drooling
  • running nose, sinus infections, sinus congestion
  • swallowing problems, gagging, choking
  • chronic hoarse voice
  • frequent red, sore throat without infection present
  • apnea
  • respiratory problems—pneumonia, bronchitis, wheezing, asthma, night-time cough,
  • aspiration
  • gagging themselves with their fingers or fist (sign of esophagitis)
  • poor weight gain, weight loss, failure to thrive
  • neck arching (Sandifer's Syndrome)
  • bad breath

Since the signs of silent reflux are not always obvious, it can be difficult for doctors to confirm the condition, and for a diagnosis to be made. Medical intervention may be necessary asthe same complications can arise as in other forms of infant reflux.

Infant silent reflux can be more damaging because it can sit in the esophagus longer (the refluxate burns the esophagus on the way up and again on the way down).

Some babies with infant silent reflux will feed as a means of soothing their pain, so they may not have issues with their weight like other reflux babies do. This can further delay diagnosis and treatment as the problem is sometimes overlooked

Reflux may be hereditary and is quite common in premature babies.

It may worsen if the child becomes ill from cold or flu, has allergies, is teething, has immunizations, is overtired, out of routine, or if the weather changes dramatically. It may even worsen when the baby is crawling.

The infant can also go through quite “normal” phases where the problem appears to be improving and then re-occurs quite suddenly for no apparent reason. This occurs because infant silent reflux can be cyclic.

The amount of pain does not necessarily correlate to the amount of inflammation or damage seen with testing infant silent reflux. Some children can have severe pain, and show no inflammation, while others can have no pain and show signs of severe inflammation.

Infant Silent Reflux References

By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009