6 Changes To Soothe Baby’s Acid Reflux

“Infant reflux” in babies occurs when infants regurgitate milk through their mouth and nose after a feeding. This partially digested breastmilk or formula spills out of the baby’s mouth and all over their clothing and surroundings. The last thing new parents have time for is excess laundry! Although frustrating and messy, some amount of reflux is actually common and normal in healthy babies.1 There’s often no medical intervention necessary for it, and most babies outgrow it on their own.1 However, you still may want to decrease the amount of daily spit-up. Below, we’ve compiled six natural remedies for reflux in babies. We’ll also go over the types of infant reflux medication and how to clear reflux congestion in newborns.

If you want to help soothe your baby’s reflux without drastic measures or medications, here are a few natural remedies you can try at home:

When your baby takes milk from the breast or a bottle, make sure their head is above their stomach. In this position, gravity ensures the contents of their stomach don’t flow back up into the esophagus during the feed. After a feed, maintain this positioning for 20 minutes by holding them or trying baby wearing.2 However, if your baby falls asleep after a feed, the safest sleep position is on their back on a firm, flat surface. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend elevating the head of your baby’s bed while sleeping to manage reflux.3

A smiling baby wearing a green shirt and brown pants is lying on a patterned blanket. An adult, visible from behind, is holding the baby's hands, engaging in playful interaction that could help soothe baby acid reflux. The background shows part of a chair and some floor space.

There’s a muscle called a sphincter between the bottom of the esophagus and the top of the stomach. It clenches to prevent backflow of stomach contents. In babies, this muscle isn’t well-developed yet. The pressure in the stomach must be lower than the pressure in the esophagus. If there’s too much pressure applied to the stomach, the sphincter may fail to hold milk down.4 So, you should avoid actions that apply extra pressure to your baby’s tummy after feeds. This includes putting them in tight clothing or diapers, playing too hard, tickling your baby’s belly, and bending at the waist.5 These actions can add extra pressure to the full stomach. If too much pressure is applied to a baby’s stomach after a feed, this can cause stomach overflow and reflux into the esophagus.2

A person with curly hair is holding a baby in a green onesie against their shoulder, gently patting the baby's back—an effective method for easing acid reflux in babies. The baby appears to be looking off to the side while the background is softly blurred.

Your baby may swallow air when they’re eating or sucking on a pacifier. When the air gets trapped in your baby’s stomach, they may try to expel the air with a burp and reflux some of the stomach contents with it. This is why small amounts of spit-up are sometimes called “wet burps.”2

To decrease the chance of wet burps, offer two to three intentional burping sessions per feeding. Try burping your baby at least halfway through each feed and at the end of the feed. If you’re breastfeeding, burp your baby when you switch the side you’re feeding on. If you’re bottle-feeding, wait for a natural pause in your baby’s sucking. Don’t interrupt a good feeding flow for a burp! To burp your baby, prop them upright and gently pat their back to help release any air that might be trapped in their stomach. If they don’t burp after one minute, don’t force a burp. Simply try again in a few minutes. Burping is a simple way to soothe your baby with acid reflux.2

A man is holding a baby in his arms. The baby, dressed in a light blue outfit and sucking on a pacifier, looks content. The man, wearing a green sweater, holds the baby close to his chest and gazes down at the infant lovingly—perhaps pondering how to soothe baby acid reflux. A window with curtains is visible in the background.

Overfeeding is one of the main causes of reflux in babies.2 It’s easy to overfeed an infant, as their stomachs are about the size of an egg.6 To maintain the same overall daily milk intake, consider offering less volume of milk more frequently. If you’re bottle-feeding, try decreasing feeds by 1 ounce and offering them a bit more frequently. Look out for hunger cues such as rooting, bringing hands to mouth, and fussiness to know when to offer the next bottle since it may be sooner than you’re used to.6

If you’re breastfeeding, consider offering only one breast per feed or limit the time on each breast. Move the next feed up by 30-60 minutes and offer the alternate breast with each feed.2

A hand holding a blue scoop filled with powdered baby formula over an open canister, likely the best formula for reflux. A baby bottle is in the background on a wooden surface.

Symptoms of cow’s milk protein intolerance can include spitting up, blood or mucus in the stool, and colic or excessive crying.7 If your child has a milk intolerance causing their spit-up, removing milk from their diet (or yours, if you’re breastfeeding) can help alleviate their reflux. However, unless your baby has other symptoms of a milk allergy or intolerance, there’s probably no reason to change their formula. Usually, the best formula for reflux is whichever formula you’re already using — changing formulas often can upset your baby’s stomach.8

If you and your pediatrician suspect a true milk allergy is causing pain and symptoms in your baby, they may recommend trying a hydrolyzed or amino acid formula that has broken down the milk proteins.9 If you suspect milk allergy in your breastfed baby, you can try eliminating dairy products from your own diet after talking to your pediatrician. If milk is the culprit, your baby’s reflux should improve in three to four weeks.4

A baby in a light blue shirt is being fed milk from a bottle by a smiling woman with long blond hair. They are seated together in a comfortable indoor setting, clearly enjoying the moment. Using the best formula for reflux can help soothe baby acid reflux and make feeding times more pleasant for both.

Your baby’s pediatrician may recommend adding small, measured amounts of rice cereal (usually 1 tablespoon of rice cereal per ounce of milk) to your baby’s milk to decrease spitting up.10 The milk thickened by formula is stickier, and the stomach can hold it down more easily.11 Thickened milk can reduce acid reflux in babies by two episodes of spitting up per day.11 There are other considerations and potential side effects to thickening your baby’s feeds, so you should only do this under the supervision of your pediatrician.

Note: For any of the natural remedies above, always consult a doctor before making changes to your baby’s diet or routine. If your baby’s reflux is severe and these interventions don’t help, your provider may also prescribe medications for infant reflux.

Sometimes, none of the natural remedies for acid reflux in babies work. If you’ve tried them and your baby’s reflux is still severe, you can also talk to your doctor about infant reflux medications.

If your baby is a happy spitter (meaning they spit up but are otherwise comfortable and gaining weight), infant reflux medication isn’t typically recommended.1 But if your baby is severely irritable, refuses to eat, or has poor weight gain, your pediatrician may recommend medication to treat their acid reflux.1

There are two main types of acid-reducing medications your pediatrician may prescribe your baby for reflux. Proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, are approved for short-term use of up to six weeks to treat reflux in babies 1 month to 1 year of age.14 H2 blockers, such as Pepcid, can also be used in babies from birth to age 1 and beyond to treat reflux. These two types of medications both work to decrease the acidity of the stomach. This can reduce the burning sensation your baby may feel when they experience reflux. Less heartburn may decrease baby’s irritability and refusal to eat. If baby’s reflux symptoms don’t improve drastically within a few weeks of being on these medications, you should talk to your doctor about stopping or switching.1

Remember, most medications for infant reflux can’t stop the reflux and regurgitation from happening. Your baby will still spit up — they may just be more comfortable. Sometimes, the constant spit-up can cause congestion in babies because the vomit comes out of their mouth and nose and can get stuck in their airway and nasal passages. If you’re wondering how to clear newborn reflux congestion, you can try saline drops, suctioning with a Nose Frida or bulb syringe, running a cool mist humidifier, and doing a steam treatment in the bathroom with a hot shower running. These interventions help widen the nasal passages to loosen and release the congestion that refluxed milk sometimes causes.12

Contact your baby’s doctor if their reflux is causing severe respiratory symptoms beyond congestion, such as persistent coughing, wheezing, or choking.1,13 You should also contact a provider immediately if your baby has blood in their vomit or stool, seems particularly irritable and cries inconsolably for hours at a time, refuses multiple consecutive feedings, or becomes lethargic or unresponsive.1

If your baby has no severe symptoms of reflux and simply spits up frequently, there’s no need for drastic changes in your caretaking habits or baby’s diet. You can try all the natural, harmless remedies for acid reflux, but some babies are just happy spitters. The good news is that most babies outgrow reflux within their first year of life. It typically doesn’t recur or affect their overall health down the road.1

While it may be an inconvenience, infant reflux is a normal phenomenon in babies. It likely bothers you more than it bothers your baby. Monitor them for signs of it worsening, and try some simple home remedies. But rest assured that it should clear up regardless of your interventions.


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