Silent reflux is a common experience in newborn, which is the spitting of the contents of the stomach by the infant soon after drinking milk. Every mother knows how to tackle this issue and resolve it well as more than 90 percent of infants experience it sometime or the other. However, not all mothers are aware of silent reflux. It is important to know about the silent reflux symptoms infants, diagnosis and natural remedies for the same.
What is Silent Reflux in Infants?
Silent Reflux is also known as LPR or laryngopharyngeal reflux, which is a condition where the stomach contents such as digestive enzymes and acids get reflux into the pharynx and larynx which is the throat and voice box respectively. These contents can also reflux into the nose, sinus, mouth, ears and lungs and prove dangerous for the infant. The contents can also be swallowed back into the stomach by the infant allowing it to travel to and fro from the esophagus.
The reason why silent reflux is more dangerous than the normal one is that the stomach contents stay in the food pipe for a really long time before going back to its original place. This can result in the acids of the stomach causing extensive damage to the esophagus lining and digestive tract of the infant, which is still in its developing phase. Moreover, when this occurs in infants, the little one does not spit out the stomach contents, therefore making it difficult for the mother or the doctor to recognize the condition.
The major cause of silent reflux is that the valve which prevents the contents of the stomach from coming back into the esophagus is not well developed in infants thereby causing some kind of reflux problem in them. Preterm babies and newborns with medical problems may be more prone to silent reflux in infants. In some cases, the cause of silent reflux is a short esophagus which might have to be corrected later on in life.
Silent Reflux Symptoms in Infants
It is quite difficult to understand whether the infant is suffering from silent reflux or not, but there are some symptoms which can assure the same.
Here are some of the most common silent reflux symptoms in infants.
- Sour breathe from the mouth all day long.
- The infant cries quite intensely due to pain as the acid contents damage the internal lining of esophagus and digestive tract.
- Breathing becomes noisy.
- Constant chronic cough which refuses to go.
- Hoarseness of voice due to extensive crying.
- Breathe holding spasms.
- Frequent hiccups.
- A frequent gulping sound is heard.
- Infant avoids feeding due to the internal pain.
- Mother faces issues in feeding the infant.
- Difficulty in gaining weight.
- Some infants wish to eat and drink frequently to ease the pain which can result in obesity in the infant.
Diagnosis of Silent Reflux in Infants
Being in their early stages of life, infants are unable to speak out, which makes diagnosis of silent reflux in infants challenging. When you suspect that your infant is suffering from silent reflux, it is advisable to seek medical opinion to diagnose the problem and also treat it effectively. The doctor takes into consideration the infant's history and make use of various tests along with a complete physical examination, which together help confirm the disease and plan appropriate treatment.
Few methods which help in the diagnosis of silent reflux in infants are Barium Swallow, Endoscopy, Biopsy, pH monitoring and Esophageal Manometry. Diagnosis of silent reflux in infants is best carried out via an endoscopy examination where the endoscopic device checks for inflammation and damage in the esophagus by passing through it. It is planned only if necessary and due care is taken when performing it in infants.
Another great method to diagnose silent reflux is through pH monitoring of esophagus where a catheter is passed through the nose into the esophagus and kept in it for a period of 24 hours. The monitor fitted onto the other end of the catheter keeps a check on the stomach acid in the esophagus and records all its findings the entire time. If the findings reveal the presence of stomach acid in the esophagus right after the infant is fed then it is confirmed that the infant is suffering from silent reflux.
Natural Remedies for Silent Reflux in Infants
Though it is imperative to get your infant checked by a pediatrician for silent reflux in infants, natural remedies too help to a great extent. Some great natural remedies can help control the problem and also provide immense relief to the little one.
Here are some of the best natural remedies for silent reflux in infants.
- Dietary Changes – Making a dietary change can be of great help to both the mother and the infant and a great natural remedy for silent reflux in infants. A mother's diet plays a vital role in the life of a breast feeding infant as the food she eats is what gets passed to the infant through her milk. A breastfeeding mother, whose child is suffering from silent reflux should alter her diet to observe the difference in the infant. She should also stay away from caffeinated drinks, dairy products, colas, spicy and oily food items and citrus juices; all of which can trigger silent reflux. Being well hydrated also helps a lot and it is important that mothers maintain their fluid balance.
- Feeding at Shorter Intervals – Feeding the infant at shorter and regular intervals helps to reduce silent reflux naturally. The baby's feed must be properly adjusted so as to provide enough rest and good sleep for some hours in the night. The mother too should consume nutritious food in moderate quantities at shorter intervals to ensure constant supply of energy.
- Feeding Position – One of the most important natural remedies for silent reflux in infants is appropriate feeding position. The mother should feed her infant at an angle, which is 40 degrees or more than that as it ensures that the milk goes right into the stomach and does not stay in the esophagus instead. Holding the infant at an upright position and ensuring that the baby burps after a feed is also important. It is better to keep the baby seated or supported in an upright position during and after the feed. Try not to play with the baby too much right after the feed and avoid bending or rolling by all means.
- Elevate the Sleeping Infant – As soon as the infant goes off to sleep elevate his upper body a little by placing a slightly big pillow under his head, while supporting the shoulders and upper back. Adjust the height of the pillow and ensure that it does not hurt the infant's neck. This is one of the simplest natural remedies for silent reflux in infants.
In most cases, trying out natural remedies for silent reflux in infants helps to gently subside the problem. However, in some cases when the silent reflux refuses to go away or if the silent reflux is due to certain medical conditions, it may be necessary to follow medical treatment. Pediatrician may advise a proton pump inhibitor medicine while in some extremely rare cases a surgery may have to be carried out to correct the esophagus's lower end sphincter to treat silent reflux.