Gastric Reflux

What is Gastric Reflux

There is a ring of muscle at the top of the stomach. This is a valve, which should close when feeding has finished. When a baby has Gastric Reflux this valve doesn’t close properly. The contents of the baby’s stomach (food and digestive acids) are brought up/regurgitated. These contents come up the oesophagus and may be vomited or spill out through the baby’s mouth. As the child matures so does the valve/ring of muscle at the top of the stomach. Generally speaking, the more upright the baby is the more the reflux decreases. By the time the baby is walking reflux will often have disappeared. In some cases it will improve over a longer period of time. 

Gastric reflux in infants is common, and most infants have some degree of reflux at birth. Babies often spill a little after feeding and this is quite normal. Reflux is variable and unpredictable. Some days may be much better than others are.

Some babies vomit up part of every feed. Sometimes this continues for several hours. Some babies rarely vomit at all, but their feed will come part way up their oesophagus and then go back down again.

For more information on types of gastric reflux and treatment, please see:


You need to take your baby to a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you think they may have gastric reflux.

  • Chronic coughing
  • Sore ears or ear infections
  • Distressed during or after feeding, arch their back in an attempt to relieve their pain or refuse to feed.
  • Comfort feed and be unhappy unless feeding, and therefore have huge weight gains.
  • Most gain weight well, but a few will fail to thrive.
  • Gagging.
  • Can be happy when distracted.
  • Frequent hiccups.
  • Irritability – may include screaming, whinging, crying, fussiness and will be inconsolable at times due to pain. Irritability is more common during or after feeding, or when laid down. If you consider your baby’s crying to be excessive seek medical help.
  • Over-sensitivity to noise.
  • Restlessness.
  • Some may hold their head to one side in an unusual position to ease their discomfort – Sandifier Syndrome is the term used to describe this. 
  • Sleep little and be disturbed easily when sleeping. Wake frequently at night. OR sleep through the night due to exhaustion.
  • Spilling or vomiting (may be projectile, and may vomit through their nose).
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Frequent coughs or runny noses and/or frequent sore throats.
  • Change in voice.
  • Chronic wheezing.

Always seek medical help if you are concerned about your child or yourself.

  • Rochelle Wilson (President of GRASP).
  • Jennifer Howard, National Coordinator 2001 – 2013

© Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust (GRSNNZ) February 2022. Updated by Roslyn Ballantyne (RN), Trustee and Jenny Overwater, National Coordinator.
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