The Fussy Baby Site

The Gastrocolic Reflex

*Note: The section below refers to the Gastrocolic Reflex, not reflux

The gastrocolic reflex is the reflex that is triggered when we eat, which stimulates the colon to start emptying itself to make room for more food. Or, in even simpler terms: When we eat, the gastrocolic reflex tells our colon it’s time to poop!

In adult digestion, the gastrocolic reflex typically starts kicking in around 15 minutes after eating, and lasts for up to several hours. In infants, however, the reflex starts to kick in while they eat. This is why babies will often have bowel movements during or immediately after feeding.

According to Dr. Harvey Karp, this is one reason why many infants are mistakenly diagnosed with reflux. You may find that when you begin feeding your baby, he starts to pull up his legs, and may fuss, cry or even scream. Do not necessarily assume that he is in pain, or that he has reflux.

Most babies and adults don’t know when they’re having that reflex. Some babies overreact to it. So in the middle of the feeding they feel this reflex, and their stomach is giving the message to the intestine to have a bowel movement, and they overreact to it. They start to cry and twist and arch, and doctors overdiagnose that as being acid reflux. -Harvey Karp

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