Baby,  baby growth,  baby weight,  CMPA,  Family,  Silent reflux

The scream of Silent Reflux

Ironic really.

The grunts, whines, screams and chokes we have heard form this “silent” affliction have never been on the quiet side.

In fact, even when my baby is sleeping I can still hear acid rise up his throat and him gulp it back down most nights.

Dexter like his brother has cows milk protein allergy. We got this sorted pretty early after trying a couple of milks and thickeners. This however didn’t alleviate the constant grind of being awake from 2am onwards until breakfast time, of Dexter fighting a losing battle against his body producing acid whilst last propped on my shoulder. I felt guilty every time I fed him knowing what was coming.

What is it?

Dexter has silent reflux, he doesn’t throw up his bottles like in acid reflux, in fact he would feed and feed to soothe the burn of acid in his throat. Silent reflux is the flow of acid up from the tummy into the mouth or throat. It’s normally swallowed back down rather than vomited out as milk like in acid reflux. He comfort feeds to fight the pain of the burn and as such doesn’t struggle with losing weight. He aspirates frequently on his feed and acid mucous, this caused extreme burning to his throat/ lungs which causes him to shriek in pain and choke.

His problems present themselves in the day as a constant chesty wheeze, he struggles for breath, he coughs, he chokes, he stops breathing. This sounds over the top dramatic. In fact it’s a constant reality that scares me everyday. When dexter was three weeks old we almost lost him when he choked on his acid reflux. He choked, went red and silent, then blue, floppy, unresponsive and foamed at the mouth. The ambulance was on the way but we could not bring him to, we back slapped him, we screamed, we panicked. I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t help him. I am a nurse and yet seeing your child in this state destroys your person. I was powerless. My husband was calmly struggling to help him, screaming underneath “Dexter come on come ON” like I was outwardly.

My husband fished his fingers into Dexters through a few times and the third attempt he brought up a big thick string of acidic mucous.

And Dexter gulped. And breathed. And cried.

The ambulance showed up 14 minutes later. He was checked over but doing well. They warned he may get a chest infection from aspirating, but on the whole he was fine, daddy saved his life.

What have we tried?

We have been through a range of medications to try and help. Initially he was offered Infant Gaviscon to thicken is dairy free Neocate milk and reduce acid. This did absolutely nothing but constipate him. Constipation and reflux..we had one sad baby!

Then we were switched to Carobel to thicken the Neocate with Omeprazole Losec MUPS dispersble tablets. This was a struggle for a good two weeks of Dexter being too small to easily take in the granule formula. This left us to our biggest struggle. Getting prescribed the Omeprazole but in suspension form. This is extremely expensive and so it was a fight to convince the GP and pharmacy to prescribe. If the medication is ordered and not used the pharmacy foots the bill. It has to be specially ordered and has a short shelf life. Dexter still has this morning and evening, but ordering is a challenge every single time. I am always advised it’s expensive so can’t be ordered in advance, I can’t order when he runs out as it takes almost a week to order in and it’s dispensed in small bottles so it needs to be ordered about every week and a half. I understand how expensive it is, but he needs to have it. Why should it be such a struggle and fight?!

We have seen consultants numerous times anywhere from increasing his dose, check his wheezing (initially passed off and treated as asthma with an inhaler until someone believed me that he was aspirating) and trying different medications mixed in. Ranitidine was tried and failed.

Most recently he was prescribed Domperidone, which helps the gut move quicker and there for it should reduce the amount of time for acid to be present in the stomach. Dexter had to have an ECG as there are links with Domperidone having cardiac side effects of people with existing heart conditions. Luckily we were ok to take.

At present we are awaiting another GI consultant appointment as Dexter is still chesty, wheezing and struggling with acid gulping. The Omeprazole has been increased by myself and the consultant, we are almost four times over the original dose we were on and it also increases with weight chane, we have Domperidone three times a day also. We are weaning early to help with the symptoms and find that Dr Browns bottles help him feed more comfortably. We continue to use the Snuza Hero to alert us for any choking/aspiration over night. He is fed upright and kept upright after feeds. I can often tell if there is going to be a flare up as there is a strong acid smell in his mouth. He is much better controlled overnight and sleeps through, our main problem times are during/ after feeds in the day and around 5pm.

Support and what to look out for

We have had some fabulous support from Reflux/Silent reflux groups on Facebook, if you are struggling please have a read as it helps just to hear that someone has been where you have.

The symptoms for us were/are

  • A constant grinding/growling noise
  • Thrashing of head and arms whilst asleep
  • Hearing the acid being gulped down normally followed by a scream and complete inconsolable crying as it burns
  • Choking on mucous
  • Acid smell to the breath
  • A constant chesty wheeze
  • Aspirating on feed/ acidic mucous
  • Weight gain due to comfort feeding

If your little one has struggled with Silent reflux what worked for you?



  • Carole nunn

    This totally made me well up, you could have written this about my son, there’s certainly nothing silent about it! And people think oh u just have such a sticky baby! No, I have a very sick baby, a one, who like dexter, has help his breath and cokes on so many occasions. I’ve had the omeprazole suspension battle and comments like, your so lucky you done have to pay for your milk!!! Seriously!?!?! I would pay as much as it takes to have my baby on normal formula and medication fee and go at least a week without a gp, hospital or some kinda medical intervention! However William still continues to melt me with his smile and strength! People say I don’t know how you do it but I don’t do it, William does x

  • refluxbabyjourney

    Your post is totally relateable to us, very devastating to go through and 14 months into the journey it is only now that I have started to search for support and insight from other moms. What a fanstantic way to help cope with the situation ‘I’m not alone’. What helped us ease the pain was a mixture of omeprazole, Dr Browns feeding bottles, a babacush pillow, Peppa Pig seemed to almost distract from the pain (wonderful), a tilted cot so that he wasn’t lying flat at night and keeping him as upright as possible all day long. Glad I read your post today it is a lot like my own, great writing.

  • Cardiff Mummy Says - Cathryn

    Oh, I had a close friend go through silent reflux with her son and it was horrendous for the whole family. It took months to even get a diagnosis as the medical staff didn’t take it seriously. Like you, they have gone through all sorts of medication and different milks. They found a really good specialist eventually… Sadly their second child had the same but thankfully they were able to move through the system a lot quicker with the specialist’s support. So sorry to read what a difficult time you have had x

  • Keren Polland

    Gosh this was tough to read. My baby girl is going through trouble with reflux too. This began silent but she has started to vomit up during and after feeds now. She cannot settle and nothing really helps. We went to baby massage classes and the tummy massage does aid her digestion but it doesn’t take her pain away. She comfort feeds and this can make it worse as she takes too much and will spit up and thrash around in pain. If I stop her feed, she screams. It’s a lose, lose situation. Being upright is helpful to her and I carry her around in a sling a lot. I hope your family is all good now and wish
    you all the best.

  • lisakunk

    This is extremely helpful to me as I sit up in bed with my chest on fire from reflux aspiration that woke me. This is not my first experience with this and it never gets easier coughing the burning acid back up and out of the lungs and hoping it doesn’t remain in there causing pneumonia. I have four grown kids with digestive issues even in their twenties. Our oldest was in gastric pain that went undiagnosed properly until
    At 21 she was finally diagnosed with celiac. Her world has changed for the better. A tough diet to maintain, it is worth it to feel well. She and two of her siblings were power shooters as babies, doing lots of screaming and sending their stomach contents across the room. I’m sitting here really horrified that their screaming might not have been from the gas pain and IBS we’ve all been diagnosed with. My father died from stroke induced aspiration leading to pneumonia. Here I sit enlightened that perhaps my poor babies were feeling the horrible burn of acid from not just reflux but aspiration. I’m sorry you and your baby have had such a hard time but how wonderful that you are wise and resourceful and have nursing knowledge. Your child is so fortunate to have you.

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