Reflux in infancy is all too common these days. Roughly 50% of the babies we have the pleasure of working with, have some degree of reflux ranging from mild to severe.
What Causes Reflux?
There are a number of reasons that contribute to a baby having reflux. Common triggers can be:
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Tongue and lip ties
- Swallowing excess air
- Spinal subluxation
- Over feeding or feeding too often
- Immature LES valve in infancy
Food Sensitivities or allergies
Babies that have a significant sensitivity or allergy to a certain food may spit up or “vomit” more often. This is because that substance is irritating their body. It’s important to know that there are often rashes, eczema or other skin irritations present with sensitivities or allergies, they aren’t always exclusive of one another.
Tongue & Lip Ties
When beginning work with any baby that has reflux, I always evaluate for tongue and lip ties. While I cannot diagnose, I’m very educated and if I’m suspicious of ties, a referral is always made. It is very important to do this evaluation, because ties are a HUGE contributor to reflux and most providers don’t check for them, or aren’t knowledgeable enough about them. I will check or refer parents to a proper provider, EVEN if several negative “diagnoses” have been made. There is THAT MUCH error.
The reason tongue ties are such a huge part of the equation are:
- A tongue tie will prevent the tongue from properly elevating to the roof of the mouth. In combination with a lip tie, this makes it hard for the lips to seal properly around the nipple of the bottle or at the breast. The baby will then force a seal with their lips, which creates “lip blisters”. Ultimately this will cause the baby to take in additional air.
- Aerophagia is known as the intake of excess air. In an infant it will contribute to additional gas, as well as reflux. Milk gets trapped on top of the excess air bubbles in the baby’s tummy and ultimately when they “burp”, that milk will come up with the air bubble. Approximately 70% of babies have reflux symptoms caused by or in combination with aerophagia.
A few symptoms of tongue and lip ties:
- Failed breastfeeding
- Lip blisters (creating seal with lips, not tongue)
- Poor digestion
- Poor weight gain
- Pain when breastfeeding
- Clicking when eating
- Visually can see the tongue when eating
- Skin issues
- And many more!
Immature Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) valve
The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. At the bottom of the esophagus, where the stomach joins it, is a ring of muscle called the LES. This valve normally opens when you swallow.
Infants tend to have immature or underdeveloped LES sphincters. This in turn allows the LES valve to get stuck open, which allows the contents of the stomach and digestive juices to “reflux” back up into the esophagus.
Pediatric chiropractic is often very helpful for babies with reflux. The gentle adjustments help the spine realign, which helps to calm the central nervous system, improve nerve function and ultimately helps the LES muscle to gain more control.
Spinal subluxation is often caused by the ramifications of a baby being tongue tied. The tie is just one component of the whole picture, but a very important one. That is why with tongue tie revisions, good practitioners will recommend pediatric chiropractic along with another bodywork modality like craniosacral or physical therapy. All the fascia is interconnected!