As you may have noticed when feeding baby, spitting-up and burping are an expected part of the process. Spit-up is also called infant reflux, and it occurs when food moves back up from baby’s stomach. Baby reflux is typical and may happen multiple times a day. But what is the difference between reflux and a condition called GERD, and when should you consult a healthcare provider?

Parent burping a baby can induce a refluxFirst, it’s important to recognize what typical reflux looks like. Typical reflux occurs when baby spits up a small amount of milk during or shortly after feeding. This reflux is also known as GER (Gastroesophageal Reflux). It usually happens during in baby’s first year; GER begins when baby is around 2-3 weeks old, peaks around 4-5 months, and is usually resolved around 9-12 months. As baby gets older, they have improved head and trunk control and they are able to sit up, which helps reduce reflux. The introduction of solid food may also help.

One key sign baby is experiencing typical reflux is that when baby spits up, they tend to still be happy and not in pain. These babies are sometimes called “happy spitters”.

Sometimes baby experiences reflux that is uncomfortable or keeps happening.

This type of reflux is called GERD, which stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. GERD has different symptoms than typical reflux, and can interrupt baby’s development if not addressed.

So what are signs of GERD? Look to see if baby:

Baby reflux can occur due to a number of reasons

  • Spits up with force
  • Spits up fluid that is yellow, green, dark, or has blood in it
  • Is unusually irritable after eating
  • Refuses food
  • Isn’t gaining weight
  • Has reflux symptoms beyond 12 months
  • Arches back during or after eating

If baby is showing signs of GERD and having trouble feeding, contact a healthcare provider. GERD is a manageable condition, and healthcare providers will be able to give treatment tips to help reduce GERD symptoms.


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