Mom burping her baby.

What is Making My Baby Spit Up?

Newborns do a lot of interesting things but the occasional dribble of spit up is completely normal. However, it can still be concerning, especially if it happens frequently. You may worry about the health of your baby or feel helpless that you can’t seem to find a remedy to make it stop. With that being said, spit up shouldn’t be having adverse side effects on your baby’s development. To help ensure your baby stays healthy, it’s important to determine what’s making your baby spit up and when to contact your pediatrician.


Difference Between Spitting Up and Vomiting

First, it’s important to understand the difference between spitting up and vomiting. Spit up tends to occur in a gentler flow that doesn’t spark a reaction from your baby. They may be smiling or completely oblivious to the liquids coming out of their mouth. Vomiting, on the other hand, is more forceful and often leads to distress or discomfort in babies.

Vomiting can be caused by several different factors. When it occurs, the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm begin contracting with an intense force, while the stomach stays relaxed. This can either be caused by chemicals, psychological stimuli, nerves within the stomach or intestinal tract, or stimuli from the middle ear (motion sickness). Regardless, always contact your doctor if your baby begins to vomit, especially if there are any signs of blood or if it continues to occur after every feeding. A condition called pyloric stenosis may be the cause of vomiting. This condition causes intense muscle contractions that result in projectile vomiting. Surgery is needed to correct this condition.


Causes of Spit Up

A newborn’s digestive system takes time to develop and adapt to the influx of breast milk or formula. In fact, during the first few months, the lower esophageal sphincter isn’t fully functional. This muscle helps keep food in the stomach, so until it’s developed spit up can occur more often, especially if your baby eats too much, eats too quickly, or changes positions suddenly. These are all common causes of spit up in babies and they’re completely normal. Their fast movements or excessive fullness causes food to slowly come out of their stomach through the esophagus and exit their body as spit up. Allergens or intolerances in breast milk or formula may also be to blame.


Complications of Spit Up

In most instances, spit up doesn’t result in any type of complication or lasting effect. However, some infants may develop something called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you notice your baby choking on spit up, not gaining weight regularly, or seem uncomfortable during the day, they may be experiencing GERD, which is essentially heartburn. Contact your pediatrician to schedule an appointment if you notice any of these symptoms.


How to Reduce Spit Up

It can be stressful to see your baby spit up, which is why many parents want to do everything they can to help reduce the occurrence. The following can help you with feedings while reducing spit up, but if you try to use these techniques and see no change, contact your pediatrician. There may be a specific reason that your baby is spitting up, which could result in an easy fix. It’s also important to eliminate any potentially problematic causes of spit up in babies.

Avoid Overfeeding

Oftentimes, one of the biggest culprits of spit up is overeating. If your baby’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs, help them with portion control by limiting the amount of breast milk you offer. This can be difficult if you’re nursing, so it might be worth it to breast pump and bottle feed to better monitor milk input. However, it’s still possible to reduce the likelihood of overfeeding during nursing. Limit the session to one breast and use a breast pump to expel milk from the other and avoid engorgement.

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Burp Your Baby

Another way to help reduce the occurrence of spit up in your baby is to burp them after feedings. Burping can be done gently during feedings or after. This helps remove any air that swallowed form their stomachs without spit up. While bottle-fed babies tend to swallow more air than breastfed babies, it’s worth a try if your nursing baby continues to spit up. Some babies eat quickly, while other mothers have a fast let down—both of which can increase the amount of air your baby swallows. Take your time and allow for plenty of breaks during feedings, then follow them with some light burping to see if it helps.

Keep Them Upright

Actively playing with your baby immediately following a feeding may upset their stomachs and lead to spit up. This is especially true if you try to engage in tummy time too close following a feeding. While it’s important to play with your baby and provide engaging activities, try to limit the active play for a little to allow for digestion. Keeping them upright for at least 30 minutes after feedings can help this process and avoid adding unnecessary pressure to your baby’s stomach.

Change Your Diet

Another common culprit of spit up is your diet. Since what you eat gets passed to your baby through your breast milk, you could be consuming things that are difficult for their digestive system or things they’re allergic to. Try experimenting with your diet by removing dairy products, gluten, or other allergens like nuts to see if that helps with spit up output.

Check the Formula

If you’re formula feeding and your baby is spitting up after each bottle, it may be time to try a different brand. Certain formulas may upset your baby’s stomach and lead to spit up or even vomiting. This could be due to allergies, protein content, or other intolerances. If you suspect that your baby has a lactose intolerance, your pediatrician can recommend a hypoallergenic formula that may help. Try to be patient, as it may take a week or two for your baby to adjust to new formulas, but always contact your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

Prioritize Back Sleeping

Never place your baby to sleep on their stomach to try and prevent sit up. Babies should always be put to sleep on their back to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Plus, putting your baby on their tummies may actually increase spit up, as the pressure can trigger a reaction.

Consider Oatmeal

While it’s not generally recommended to give your baby cereal prior to their six-month milestone, one potential exception is if they show signs of dysphagia or reflux. Always confirm this with your pediatrician before giving your young baby any solid foods, but oatmeal may help thicken their food and reduce the occurrence of spit up. Rice used to be recommended, but due to safety concerns regarding arsenic, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends oatmeal. Again, talk to your pediatrician before trying this remedy.


When to See Your Baby’s Pediatrician

While spit up can ignite a lot of emotions, more often than not it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you feel like your baby is spitting up more frequently and isn’t gaining any weight, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician. Similarly, if your baby’s spit up seems forceful, is an odd color, or is associated with signs of discomfort or pain, see your pediatrician. You should also schedule an appointment if there’s any texture to your baby’s spit up. During the appointment, your child’s doctor will assess the symptoms and conduct a few different tests to determine whether there’s any sign of an underlying disorder such as GERD, pyloric stenosis, or alternative illness. If present, don’t worry. There are medications available to help ease your child’s symptoms.

You should always take your child to their pediatrician or an emergency room if they are vomiting, as vomiting during early life can be serious and drastically increase the risk of dehydration. If your child spits up or vomits any blood or bile-like substance, seek medical assistance immediately.

To help you provide your baby with the essential nutrients they need during development, Byram Healthcare has a wide selection of insurance covered breast pumps. Breast pumping is a great way to supplement feedings and ensure that your baby is getting what they need, whether you’re there or not. To get started with our easy, three-step ordering process, visit our breast pump selection page today.