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Reflux vs Milk Allergy in Babies

Reflux vs Milk Allergy in Babies

Learn the difference between reflux and milk allergies and when they can be related.

Parenthood is an incredible journey filled with joy, but it also comes with its fair share of questions and concerns. One common puzzle many parents face is deciphering whether their baby's discomfort is due to reflux or a milk allergy. In this article, we'll explore these issues together, offering insights and tips to help you and your little one.

CMPA and feflux: What’s the difference?

CMPA (Cow's Milk Protein Allergy) is a condition where a baby has an allergic reaction to a protein found in cow’s milk. Sometimes the reaction can manifest as reflux. Reflux itself is when acid in the stomach travels up the throat, which can be irritating and painful. Reflux can be triggered by many different things, while CMPA is only triggered by a specific protein in cow’s milk.

What is a cow’s milk protein allergy?

The difference between CMPA and Lactose intolerance is commonly misunderstood. A Cow's Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) is a condition in which a baby's immune system reacts negatively to the proteins found in cow's milk. CMPA is common in infants and different from lactose intolerance, which is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk.

Reflux in babies: What to look for

  • Frequent spitting up: If your baby spits up after most feedings, it's not necessarily a cause for alarm. However, if the spitting up is frequent and forceful or if your baby is vomiting–or if you’re having a hard time telling if your baby is vomiting or spitting up, it might be something more than just reflux, and it’s best to speak with your doctor.
  • Arching of the back: Does your baby seem to arch their back during or after feedings? This unusual posture can sometimes be an indicator that they are experiencing discomfort related to reflux.
  • Fussiness and irritability: Of course, babies cry for various reasons, but if your little one seems unusually fussy, especially during or after feedings, it could be due to reflux-related discomfort. Keep an eye on their behavior patterns.
  • Frequent hiccups: While hiccups are common in babies, frequent hiccups following feedings might be related to reflux. It can help to keep track of how often they hiccup.
  • Trouble sleeping: Reflux can disrupt your baby's sleep patterns, causing them to wake up frequently or have trouble settling down to sleep.

How long does reflux last in babies?

The duration of reflux in babies can be quite different from one little one to another. In many cases, reflux tends to be most noticeable around 4 months of age but often gets better as they reach their first birthday. However, remember that each baby is unique, and some may experience reflux for a bit longer. If your baby's reflux seems to be causing them discomfort or continues beyond what you'd expect, it's a good idea to reach out to your pediatrician for guidance and support.

How to manage reflux in babies

If your baby is experiencing reflux, you can try things that help them eat more comfortably such as:

  • Adjust their feeding position to be more upright
  • Burping them often
  • Offering smaller, more frequent feedings (and burping in-between)
  • Asking your doctor about a thicker formula, such as Enfamil® A.R™

Can breast milk cause acid reflux in babies?

Breast milk, including expressed (pumped) breast milk, is not known to cause acid reflux. If your breastfed baby is experiencing acid reflux, it may be helpful to adjust your feeding position, burp them often, and offer smaller, more frequent feedings.Your doctor should be able to connect you with a lactation support specialist to support you and your baby through this phase.

Can formula cause reflux in babies?

Statistically speaking, there is a higher prevalence of formula-fed babies who experience reflux compared to exclusively breastfed babies2. One reason for this is likely the prevalence of cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), and babies who are allergic to common milk protein in formula can experience reflux. In those instances, your doctor may recommend changing to a formula such as Nutramigen®, which is designed to be suitable for babies with cow’s milk protein allergy.

What formula is good for reflux?

Your doctor may recommend a change in formula if your baby is experiencing acid reflux. Formulas like Enfamil® A.R™ are designed to reduce reflux and frequent spit-up due to their thicker consistency that helps the formula stay down and settle in the stomach.

If you’re concerned that your baby has acid reflux or heartburn due to persistent spit-up, be sure to get in touch with your doctor for how to address it.

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All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.