Reflux – Is it a condition or a symptom?

For many years health professionals have looked at reflux as a condition. However, after seeing thousands of babies over the last 20 years with reflux, we have come to believe that reflux can also be a symptom of another condition.


Let us explain….

We see many babies in our clinic every week where their parents say “I think he has reflux”. Or, the baby may have already been started on treatment for reflux. When Frank treats a baby, he will always do a full assessment to check if there is a reason for the reflux symptoms or is it reflux itself.

Very often, another issue can be identified as the cause of the reflux symptoms, and while the baby may occasionally still need treatment for these symptoms, the issue causing the symptoms also needs to be treated. Only then will the baby really improve.

We often see babies who have been diagnosed with reflux and have started treatment, be that a change of formula or perhaps medication. Parents can sometimes see a small improvement at the start but very quickly the symptoms may return.

What happens then?

Another change of formula?

Maybe an increase in the dose of medication?

But perhaps the best thing to do is to go back to the start and see if there is something causing these reflux symptoms.


So, what other issues can cause reflux symptoms in a baby?

Here are a few examples of issues we see in the clinic every week, that once treated, can help resolve the reflux symptoms.

1.       Tongue Tie

A baby who has a tongue tie that significantly interferes with their feeding, be that breast or bottle, will invariably take in air when they feed. This air fills up their tummy and pushes the milk out of the tummy causing reflux. Not all tongue ties need treatment. Some tongue ties can be difficult to see, even by experienced health professionals. An assessment with a tongue tie practitioner is recommended if you think your baby may have a tongue tie.

2.       Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy

A baby who has a CMPA can present with reflux initially. Reflux treatment is started but after seeing an improvement at the start, the reflux symptoms return. There will also be other symptoms associated with the CMPA and it’s not until this is recognised, diagnosed and treated that the baby will begin to improve.

3.       Difficult Delivery

A baby who is stuck in an uncomfortable position for a long time, who has a long first stage of labour, who has a long second stage of labour or who has an assisted delivery, may have some restrictions as a result. This can put a little pressure on the nerves that supply the tongue and digestive system. These babies are easy to identify as they look like they are curved to one side when lying down. Osteopathic treatment releases the restrictions on theses nerves and allows the digestive system and tongue to function much more effectively.


There are other less common issues that we also see, and of course we do see cases where there is no obvious contributory condition. Reflux can be a very distressing condition for babies and parents, and we believe that treating a reflux baby must include checking for a cause, not just treating the symptoms. The feedback we get from parents who have struggled for many weeks or even months before arriving at our clinic is very encouraging. We know we are looking at reflux, and treating reflux, the best way we can.


So, if your baby has reflux symptoms or has been diagnosed with reflux, you should also ask if there are any contributing issues. Treating these issues will have a positive effect on the reflux symptoms and will mean that you will see a happier baby sooner, which is what all parents want.

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