Condition 101 About Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants

What is the definition of Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when stomach contents leak backward from the stomach into the esophagus. This causes "spitting up" in infants.

What are the alternative names for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Reflux - infants

What are the causes for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

When a person eats, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus. The esophagus is called the food pipe or swallowing tube.

A ring of muscle fibers prevents food at the top of the stomach from moving up into the esophagus. These muscle fibers are called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. If this muscle does not close well, food can leak back into the esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux.

A small amount of gastroesophageal reflux is normal in young infants. However, ongoing reflux with frequent vomiting can irritate the esophagus and make the infant fussy. Severe reflux that causes weight loss or breathing problems is not normal.

What are the symptoms for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Symptoms may include:

  • Cough, especially after eating
  • Excessive crying as if in pain
  • Excessive vomiting during the first few weeks of life; worse after eating
  • Extremely forceful vomiting
  • Not feeding well
  • Refusing to eat
  • Slow growth
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing or other breathing problems

What are the current treatments for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Often, no feeding changes are needed for infants who spit up but are growing well and seem otherwise content.

Your provider may suggest simple changes to help the symptoms such as:

  • Burp the baby after drinking 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 milliliters) of formula, or after feeding on each side if breastfeeding.
  • Add 1 tablespoon (2.5 grams) of rice cereal to 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of formula, milk, or expressed breast milk. If needed, change the nipple size or cut a small x in the nipple.
  • Hold the baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding.
  • Raise the head of the crib. However, your infant should still sleep on the back, unless your provider suggests otherwise.

When the infant begins to eat solid food, feeding thickened foods may help.

Medicines can be used to reduce acid or increase the movement of the intestines.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Most infants outgrow this condition. Rarely, reflux continues into childhood and causes esophageal damage.

What are the possible complications for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Complications may include:

  • Aspiration pneumonia caused by stomach contents passing into the lungs
  • Irritation and swelling of the esophagus
  • Scarring and narrowing of the esophagus

When should I contact a medical professional for Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants?

Call your provider if your baby:

  • Is vomiting forcefully and often
  • Has other symptoms of reflux
  • Has problems breathing after vomiting
  • Is refusing food and losing or not gaining weight
  • Is crying often


Hibs AM. Gastrointestinal reflux and motility in the neonate. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 82.

Khan S, Matta SKR. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 349.

Top Global Doctors For Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants

Yvan Vandenplas
Brussels, BRU, BE
Taher I. Omari
Adelaide, SA, AU
Luigi T. Corvaglia
Bologna, IT
Silvia Salvatore
Varese, IT

Latest Advances On Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants

  • Condition: Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Journal: Clinical and translational gastroenterology
  • Treatment Used: Feeding Modifications with Acid Suppression
  • Number of Patients: 49
  • Published —
This study investigated the use of feeding modifications with acid suppression to treat patients with infant gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • Condition: Feeding Intolerance
  • Journal: Nutrients
  • Treatment Used: Donkey Milk-Derived Human Milk Fortifier Versus Standard Fortifier
  • Number of Patients: 156
  • Published —
In this study, researchers compared the outcomes of using donkey milk-derived human milk fortifier versus standard fortifier for preterm newborns with feeding intolerance.

Clinical Trials For Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Participants: 35
  • Start Date: March 2021
Inclined Positioning and Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Indicators
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Phase: Phase 1/Phase 2
  • Intervention Type: Drug, Other
  • Participants: 160
  • Start Date: November 18, 2020
Initiation of Acid Suppression Therapy Prospective Outcomes for Laryngomalacia