Researchers at an Australian university have claimed that “an anxious mum is closely associated with a baby having reflux”.

Their study, published in BMC Pediatrics, found that first-time mothers with mental health issues – in particular, maternal anxiety – are five times as likely to have their baby noted as having reflux when admitted to hospital.

Findings suggest that “if health professionals delved a little deeper, they would find that it may be the mothers that actually need help – and sometimes, there may be better ways to deal with the issues without the need for anti-reflux medication”.

Professor Hannah Dahlen at Western Sydney University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery says: “A cycle of anxiety in the mother and unsettled behaviour in the baby, leads to more anxiety in the mother and therefore a more unsettled baby.”

“This does not mean that there is not a legitimate medical issue with the infant, or that the symptoms of reflux are in some way imagined. But it may mean that the medical issues are exacerbated when the mother is not coping.”

Separate research in 2016 also questioned whether babies are being over-treated for symptoms of reflux with stomach acid-suppressing drugs.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux can be a normal physiological process with symptoms include frequent spitting up; interrupted sleep; fussiness during or following feeds; constant or sudden crying; irritability and back arching.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a chronic condition, with symptoms that include pain; breathing difficulties; swallowing dysfunction; frequent vomiting, choking and gagging; excessive weight loss; and delayed development.

Professor Peter Dettmar – the inventor of Peptest – agrees that it is incredibly important to distinguish mild issues from pathological disease before initiating a treatment programme – especially when it comes to babies and children. Peptest can be used to detect pepsin a biomarker for reflux disease.

“Diagnosing reflux disease can be an expensive, slow and painful process with invasive diagnostic tests such as an endoscopy or 24-hour pH monitoring,” says Professor Dettmar. “And, there is clearly some unnecessary overprescribing of medication in the paediatric patient population.”

“Clinical studies have investigated the use of our saliva diagnostic test Peptest with children, so we can bring a simpler and quicker method of diagnosis. Peptest can be used to identify reflux in babies and prevent the unnecessary use of PPIs, as well as reducing the stress that reflux causes to both babies and their parents.”

“Pepsin can be detected in gastric /oral secretion collected from babies and in the saliva from older children.”