What Is Reflux, What Can Help and Understanding GORD

What reflux actually is and some tips to help with ‘spilling’.



The medical name for reflux is gastro-oesophageal reflux (not to be confused with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease), but you might also hear it referred to as ‘spilling’. Reflux is a condition that occurs when a baby’s stomach contents regurgitate back into their oesophagus after a feed, due to their immature digestive system. As a result, sometimes this milk will spill out of their mouth, making quite the mess! In fact, around half of healthy babies will experience reflux or spilling regularly and it is unlikely to be harmful.

Reflux typically improves on its own as your pēpi grows and their gut matures, so it doesn’t usually need any special treatment. Although spills can be frustrating for parents to clean up, provided your baby is growing normally and isn’t in discomfort or pain, this normal form of reflux shouldn’t be a cause for concern.


  • Keep a burp cloth or muslin wrap handy to catch the spilt milk after feeding.
  • Take your time with breastfeeds.
  • Don’t force your baby to have more milk if they’re showing signs of having had enough. Some babies are simply quick feeders while others like to have smaller feeds more regularly.
  • Wind or burp your baby a few times during each feed, particularly between switching sides.
  • If your baby brings up a lot of milk, you may want to offer them another feed again shortly as they can be hungry sooner than usual.
  • Keep your baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding.
  • It can be helpful to change your baby’s nappy before a feed rather than afterwards when their tummy is full.
  • Dress your baby in onesies with zips that are easy to remove and wash.
  • Cover the area where you’re sitting with a towel to protect the furniture.
  • Be prepared with an extra set of clothes (for you and for baby) when you’re out and about.



A small number of babies have GORD, a more severe form of reflux than that of a baby who spills but is generally happy. GORD commonly causes discomfort or pain and is associated with complications such as poor weight gain, long or frequent periods of crying inconsolably, refusing to feed, severe unsettledness, or poor sleep. Other symptoms can include forceful vomiting, and a long-lasting cough or wheezy breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby, reflux that is dark yellow or green, or blood in the reflux, you should see your GP for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Not all babies with GORD require medication but it can be prescribed by your doctor if needed, otherwise the condition can be effectively managed in other ways.

If your baby has GORD and you’re looking for support, visit the Gastric Reflux Support Network NZ website cryingoverspiltmilk.co.nz.