How to avoid baby spitting up after feeding
Why Babies Spit Up - HealthyChildren.org
By: Alejandro Velez, MD, FAAP & Christine Waasdorp Hurtado, MD, FAAP
All babies spit up. Some babies spit up more than others, or at certain times.
Typically, babies spit up after they gulp down some air with breastmilk or formula. A baby's stomach is small and can't hold a lot, after all. Milk and air can fill it up quickly.
With a full stomach, any change in position such as bouncing or sitting up can force the flap between the esophagus (food pipe) and stomach to open. And when that flap (the esophageal sphincter) opens, that's when some of what your baby just ate can make a return appearance.
So, what can you do―if anything―to reduce the amount of your baby's spit up? How do you know if your baby's symptoms are part of a larger problem? Read on to learn more.
Common concerns parents have about spit up
My baby spits up a little after most feedings.
Possible cause: Gastroesophageal reflux (normal if mild)
Action to take: None. The spitting up will grow less frequent and stop as your baby's muscles mature—especially that flap we talked about earlier. It often just takes time.
My baby gulps their feedings and seems to have a lot of gas.
Possible cause: Aerophagia (swallowing more air than usual)
Action to take: Make sure your baby is positioned properly during feeds. Also be sure to burp the baby during and after feeds. Consider trying a different bottle to decrease your baby's ability to suck in air.
My baby spits up when you bounce them or play with them after meals.
My baby's spitting up has changed to vomiting with muscle contractions that occur after every feeding. The vomit shoots out with force.
I found blood in my baby's spit-up or vomit.
Possible cause: Swelling of the esophagus or stomach (esophagitis or gastritis), or another health problem that requires diagnosis and treatment.
Action to take: Call you pediatrician right away so they can examine your baby.
Remedies for spitty babies
Regardless of whether or not your baby's spit up warrants watchful waiting or medical intervention, there are some simple feeding suggestions that can help you deal with the situation at hand.
5 tips to reduce your baby's spit up
Avoid overfeeding. Like a gas tank, fill baby's stomach it too full (or too fast) and it's going to spurt right back out at you. To help reduce the likelihood of overfeeding, feed your baby smaller amounts more frequently.
Burp your baby more frequently. Extra gas in your baby's stomach has a way of stirring up trouble. As gas bubbles escape, they have an annoying tendency to bring the rest of the stomach's contents up with them. To minimize the chances of this happening, burp not only after, but also during meals.
Limit active play after meals and hold your baby upright. Pressing on a baby's belly right after eating can up the odds that anything in their stomach will be forced into action. While tummy time is important for babies, postponing it for a while after meals can serve as an easy and effective avoidance technique.
Consider the formula. If your baby is formula feeding, there's a possibility that their formula could be contributing to their spitting up. While some babies simply seem to fare better with one formula over another without having a true allergy or intolerance, an estimated 5% of babies are genuinely unable to handle the proteins found in milk or soy formula―a condition called Cow Milk Protein Intolerance/Allery (CMPI and CMPA). In either case, spitting up may serve as one of several cues your baby may give you that it's time to discuss alternative formulas with your pediatrician. If your baby does have a true intolerance, a 1- or 2-week trial of hypoallergenic (hydrolyzed) formula designed to be better tolerated might be recommended by your baby's provider.
If breastfeeding, consider your diet. Cow's milk and soy in your diet can worsen spit up in infants with Cow Milk Protein Intolerance/Allergy (CMPI and CMPA). Removing these proteins can help to reduce or eliminate spit up.
Try a little oatmeal. Giving babies cereal before 6 months is generally not recommended—with one possible exception. Babies and children with dysphagia or reflux, for example, may need their food to be thicker in order to swallow safely or reduce reflux. In response to concerns over arsenic in rice, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends parents of children with these conditions use of oatmeal instead of rice cereal. See Oatmeal: The Safer Alternative for Infants & Children Who Need Thicker Food for more information.
Vomit vs. spit up: what's the difference?
There is a big difference between vomiting and spitting up:
Vomiting is the forceful throwing up of stomach contents through the mouth. This typically involves using the abdominal muscles and is often uncomfortable, leaving you with a crying child.
Spitting up is the easy flow of stomach contents out of the mouth, frequently with a burp. Spitting up doesn't involve forceful muscle contractions, brings up only small amounts of milk, and doesn't distress your baby or make them uncomfortable.
What causes vomiting?
Vomiting occurs when the abdominal muscles and diaphragm contract vigorously while the stomach is relaxed. This reflex action is triggered by the "vomiting center" in the brain after it has been stimulated by:
Nerves from the stomach and intestine when the gastrointestinal tract is either irritated or swollen by an infection or blockage (as in the stomach bug)
Chemicals in the blood such as drugs
Psychological stimuli from disturbing sights or smells
Stimuli from the middle ear (as in vomiting caused by motion sickness)
Always contact your pediatrician if your baby vomits forcefully after every feeding or if there is ever blood in your baby's vomit.
The best way to reduce spit up is to feed your baby before they get very hungry. Gently burp your baby when they take breaks during feedings. Limit active play after meals and hold your baby in an upright position for at least 20 minutes. Always closely supervise your baby during this time.
- How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained
- Gastroesophageal Reflux & Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Parent FAQs
How Much and How Often Should Your Baby Eat
About Dr. Velez
Alejandro Velez, MD, FAAP is a second-year gastroenterology fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who is interested in practicing general gastroenterology with a focus in motility and functional GI disorders, has a love for medical education at all levels, and harbors a passion for supporting and uplifting those that identify as unrepresented minorities in medicine.
About Dr. Waasdorp
Christine Waasdorp Hurtado, MD, MSCS, FAAP is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and practices in Colorado Springs.
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
How to Prevent and Stop a Baby from Spitting Up
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How to Prevent and Stop a Baby from Spitting Up
Spit-up, or reflux, is common and usually a normal part of infant development. But there are some simple ways you can reduce spit-up and give your baby relief.
Spit-up is a common part of infant development, but you may be concerned about how much your baby is spitting up. Find some simple methods to prevent your baby from spitting up and to keep them comfortable.
In fact, 50% of all babies will spit-up repeatedly in their first 3 months
A fair amount of spitting up is natural when you consider:
- There’s a valve between the esophagus and stomach that keeps food down, but in babies this valve still has to mature and develop.
- Babies’ tummies are quite little and overfeeding them can result in spit-up.
- Most babies spend a good chunk of their time lying flat on their backs, which makes reflux more common.
Spit-up or reflux usually peaks at 4 months.
While it’s not uncommon for babies to spit up the entire first year, reflux usually ends (or is greatly reduced) by a baby’s first birthday. As you wait for your baby’s digestive system to mature, these tips on how to prevent spitting up can help you give your baby reflux relief.
Breastfeeding? Check your diet.
Some moms have found eliminating certain things—like dairy products—reduces the amount of their baby’s spit-up.
Try a formula switch.
If you’re formula-feeding or supplementing, ask your pediatrician if a change to a rice-thickened formula may help. Enfamil A.R.™ is clinically proven to reduce spit-up by more than 50%*, while still providing the complete nutrition your baby needs.
Stop spit-up with a hold.
When feeding, hold your baby in an upright position. After feeding, keep your baby upright for 30 minutes. During this time, don’t put them in the swing or do too much active play.
Slow their feeding flow.
If you’re bottle-feeding, check the nipple size—your baby might be drinking too much formula too fast. Most nipples are marked to match to an appropriate age.
Try smaller meals more often.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, try limiting his time at the breast, but feed them more often. If you’re bottle-feeding, try decreasing the amount given in each feeding, but feed them more often. That way he’s still getting the same overall amount ehttps://www.enfamil.com/products/standard-flow-nipple-latex-free/ach day, but in smaller, more manageable amounts.
Make burping a priority.
If your baby has air bubbles—or gas—this could cause spit-up or "wet burps." Be sure to burp them throughout and after feeding. Try one of these burping positions:
- Hold your baby against your chest (their body facing yours), with their head on your shoulder. Then pat and rub their back.
- Have your baby sit on your lap and support your baby’s chest and head with one hand while patting their back with the other. Make sure you’re holding your baby’s chin, not their throat.
- Lay your baby flat against your lap, their belly facedown. Support your little one’s head and make sure it’s higher than their chest. Gently rub or pat their back. If you can’t produce a burp in your baby with one position, then try another.
Want to check with your doctor about your baby’s spit-up? Learn what questions to ask your pediatrician about spit up the next time you’re in the office.
*Based on a clinical study of Enfamil A.R. infant formula before the addition of DHA, ARA, and prebiotics with infants who spit up frequently (five or more spit-ups per day), comparing frequency and volume of spit-up after feeding Enfamil A.R. with the same babies at the beginning of the study.
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Why does the baby spit up after feeding?search support icon
Regurgitation is a common condition in newborns and infants and is most often a normal variant. However, it is not uncommon for parents to worry if their baby is spitting up frequently, believing that it is due to nutritional or health problems in general. Sometimes these fears are not unfounded, and regurgitation really has a pathological origin. What is its cause and when should you really consult a doctor about this? nine0003
Regurgitation - Return of a small amount of food (uncurdled or partially curdled milk) from the stomach up the digestive tract: into the esophagus and further into the oral cavity. According to statistics, at least 1 time during the day, at least 50% of babies from 0 to 3 months old can spit up, more than 60% of children 3-4 months old, and in 5% of children spit up continues up to the year 1 .
Regurgitation in newborns is considered a physiological process. It is caused by a number of factors, including:
- Features of the structure of the upper digestive tract in babies
- In newborns and infants up to a year of life, the stomach has a spherical shape. It holds a small amount of food, besides, the release from it into the duodenum is slower in comparison with children after the year 2 .
- Weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter that separates the esophagus from the stomach
- Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter should tightly "close" the esophagus, allowing food to pass into the stomach and not allowing it to enter back into the upper digestive tract. However, in young children (up to a year), the muscles of the esophageal sphincter are poorly developed, and it does not do its job very well 2 .
- Slow movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract
- The neuromuscular system of newborns is immature. It does not ensure the proper movement of food through the esophagus, causing regurgitation.
One of the important risk factors contributing to regurgitation in newborns is aerophagia. This is the swallowing of large amounts of air during feedings. This happens when the baby is not properly attached to the breast, the mother has a lack of breast milk, or the bottle is in the wrong position in the child who receives the mixture. The size of the opening in the nipple also matters - if it is too large, the newborn swallows a lot of air 3 .
With aerophagia, the baby becomes capricious, restless immediately after feeding. Noticeable bloating. If the baby spits up immediately after a feed, the milk (or formula) remains practically fresh, uncurdled 3 .
Promotes regurgitation after feeding and a predominantly horizontal position of the baby during the day, combined with relatively high intra-abdominal pressure 4 . Therefore, the correct position of the baby after feeding is so important. To avoid regurgitation of an excessive amount of stomach contents, after feeding, it is necessary to hold the baby in an upright “column” position for some time (10-20 minutes), lightly patting on the back and allowing excess air to “exit”. nine0003
Regurgitation in many newborns can be provoked by other situations in which pressure in the abdominal cavity increases and stomach contents are thrown into the esophagus, in particular 3 :
- tight swaddling;
- stool disorders, in particular constipation;
- long, forced cry and some others.
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How can you tell the difference between normal spitting up and vomiting?
Sometimes regurgitation is considered a manifestation of disorders in the digestive tract of children. Due to the constant reflux of acidic stomach contents into the upper sections, inflammation and other complications may develop, including growth retardation, a decrease in hemoglobin levels, and others. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand where the line is between physiological and pathological regurgitation 1 .
If the mother is worried that her baby is spitting up, keep track of when this happens and count the total number of spit ups per day. Normally, regurgitation usually occurs after eating (the child burps after each feeding), lasts no more than 20 seconds and repeats no more than 20-30 times a day. With pathology, the problem manifests itself at any time of the day, regardless of when the baby was fed. Their number can reach 50 per day, and sometimes more 1 .
The amount of discharge during regurgitation also matters. With normal, physiological regurgitation, it is approximately 5 - 30 ml. If this volume fluctuates between 50 and 100 ml, it is already defined as profuse vomiting. When the range of the jet of vomit is up to 50 cm, doctors talk about "vomiting a fountain." A variant of atonic vomiting is possible, when the contents of the stomach flow "sluggishly". It occurs with atony of the stomach (decrease in muscle tone of the stomach wall) and disruption of the esophagus 1 .
Vomiting in babies is a warning sign. Doctors are especially alarmed by repeated vomiting, a fountain, with an admixture of bile, in combination with constipation. Vomiting can lead to the development of dehydration, acid-base imbalance and other consequences, therefore, if it occurs, you should urgently contact a pediatrician to find out the cause and begin treatment. A doctor's consultation is necessary if the child is spitting up a lot (more than 15-30 ml at a time), with a frequency of more than 50 episodes per day 1.3 .
Physiological regurgitation: symptoms
Regurgitation in newborns, which is considered a normal variant and does not cause concern to pediatricians 3 :
- usually continues for a certain period of time;
- is characterized by slow, "passive" leakage; if the baby spits up a fountain, it is better to consult a doctor;
- has a sour smell of curdled milk;
- occurs without the participation of muscles - the baby does not strain during regurgitation;
- does not affect the general well-being of the baby.
How to help a newborn who spit up often?
If the baby is healthy, no medication is prescribed for spitting up. To help the child allow simple measures based on lifestyle changes and feeding.
- Frequent feeding of the baby
It is known that the baby is more prone to spit up if his stomach is full. To improve the situation, it is recommended to feed the baby more often, avoiding oversaturation, best of all - on demand 5 .
- Correct feeding technique
Every feeding, the mother must ensure that the baby does not swallow too much air during suckling. When sucking, there should be no loud, smacking, clicking sounds. You also need to control that the baby captures the nipple along with the areola.
- Choosing the right bottle and nipple
If the newborn is bottle-fed and receiving formula, it is important to choose the right bottle and nipple. The hole in it should be such that the milk flows out in drops, and not in a stream. The nipple must not be filled with air
New Anti-colic bottle with AirFree valve
The AirFree valve prevents air from entering the baby's stomach.
- Baby standing upright after eating
To allow air that has entered the digestive tract during meals to escape, it is important to keep the newborn upright for 10-20 minutes after feeding 4 .
- Ensure the correct position of the baby during sleep
To reduce the negative impact of the acidic contents of the stomach on the esophagus, it is necessary to put the baby to sleep in the supine position. The side or prone position, which many pediatricians used to recommend, is no longer recommended. It was found to be associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome 5 .
If parents notice alarming symptoms, such as spitting up too often or large volume, etc., it is important to consult a pediatrician without delay. This will allow you to identify the real problem in time and help the baby grow up healthy and happy. nine0003
1 Zakharova I. N., Andryukhina E. N. Regurgitation and vomiting syndrome in young children // Pediatric pharmacology, 2010. V. 7. No. 4.
Nagornaya 2900 V., Limarenko M. P., Logvinenko N. G. Experience with the use of domperidone in suspension in young children with regurgitation syndrome // Child Health, 2013.No. 5 (48).
3 Zakharova IN Regurgitation and vomiting in children: what to do? //Pediatrics. Supplement to Consilium Medicum, 2009. No. 3. S. 58-67.
4 Zakharova I. N., Sugyan N. G., Pykov M. I. Regurgitation syndrome in young children: diagnosis and correction // Effective pharmacotherapy, 2014. No. 3. P. 18-28.
5 Vandenplas Y. et al. Pediatric gastroesophageal reflux clinical practice guidelines: joint recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) //Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. 2009; 49(4): 498-547.
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Preventive measures against regurgitation in children
Regurgitation is the spontaneous reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus and mouth. This condition is not uncommon in infants and is often a cause for concern for parents. The frequency of regurgitation syndrome in children of the first year of life is 18-50%: up to 4 months - 67%, up to 6 months 24%, up to 1 year 5%. In most cases, regurgitation is "benign" and disappears on its own after 12-18 months. At the same time, “benign” or physiological regurgitation characterizes: nine0003
the age of the child is up to 12 months;
spitting up 2 or more times a day for 3 or more weeks;
sufficient weight gain;
The child has no signs of metabolic disorders, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract or the central nervous system. The child does not experience difficulty in swallowing or feeding, there is no forced position of the body. nine0003
Do not confuse regurgitation with vomiting. When a child burps, the abdominal muscles do not tense up. With vomiting, on the contrary, muscle tension occurs and food is ejected by pressure not only through the mouth, but also through the nose. In some cases, there may be general anxiety, pallor, cold extremities. Often with vomiting, the temperature rises, loose stools appear, which is a sign of an infectious disease. Vomit may contain unchanged milk, mucus, blood or bile. nine0003
What causes physiological regurgitation
What is the tendency of babies to spit up? This phenomenon is explained by the peculiarity of the structure of the gastrointestinal tract of young children. At the age of one year, the esophagus is shorter and wider, physiological narrowing is weakly expressed. The stomach is located horizontally, its capacity is small, and the muscles that close the entrance to the stomach and prevent the contents from being thrown back into the esophagus are poorly developed. As the child begins to walk, the axis of the stomach becomes more vertical. The capacity of the stomach increases by the year from 30-35 ml to 250-300 ml. The secretory apparatus matures, the work of the closing muscles (sphincters) improves, which leads to a gradual decrease in the frequency and disappearance of regurgitation. These features explain the predisposition of young children to regurgitation and even the inevitability of this condition. However, there are measures to help reduce the frequency of regurgitation. nine0003
Factors contributing to physiological regurgitation include:
Overfeeding. As a rule, actively sucking babies begin to suffer from overfeeding, with abundant milk secretion, as well as when switching to artificial or mixed feeding with an incorrect calculation of the required amount of milk formula. Regurgitation appears immediately or some time after feeding in the amount of 5-10 ml. Milk can flow out unchanged or curdled. nine0003
Swallowing air during feeding (aerophagia). A similar situation arises if the child suckles greedily at the breast, and the mother's milk is not very plentiful; due to the retracted, flat nipple of the mother's breast, since the child fails to fully capture the nipple and areola; with artificial feeding, if the hole at the nipple of the bottle is large enough or the nipple is not completely filled with milk. Babies with aerophagia often experience anxiety after feeding, bulging of the abdominal wall (belly inflates). After 10-15 minutes, the swallowed milk flows out unchanged, which is accompanied by a loud sound of air eructation. nine0003
Intestinal colic or constipation. These conditions lead to an increase in pressure in the abdominal cavity and a violation of the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, causing regurgitation.
Until the child is four months old, spitting up up to two teaspoons of milk after feeding, or one spitting up of more than three spoons during the day, is considered the norm. You can check the amount of spitting up in the following way: take a diaper, pour one teaspoon of water on its surface, and then compare this spot with the spot formed after the next spitting up. nine0003
Abnormal regurgitation may be due to:
surgical diseases and malformations of the digestive system;
pathology of the central nervous system, trauma of the cervical spine during childbirth;
food intolerance, lactase deficiency;nine0017
increased intracranial pressure.
Such regurgitation is characterized by intensity, systematicity, the child spits up a large amount of milk. At the same time, there is a violation of the general condition of the baby - the child is whiny, loses or does not gain weight, cannot eat the amount of food necessary for his age. In such a situation, a pediatrician, gastroenterologist, surgeon, allergist, neurologist should be examined. It also requires examination and exclusion of anomalies in the structure of the upper gastrointestinal tract, the preservation of regurgitation for more than 1 year. nine0003
Scale for assessing the intensity of regurgitation:
Less than 5 regurgitations per day with a volume of not more than 3 ml - 1 point.
More than 5 regurgitations per day with a volume of more than 3 ml - 2 points.
More than 5 regurgitations per day up to half the amount of formula or breast milk, not more often than in half of the feedings - 3 points.nine0017
Spitting up a small amount of milk for 30 minutes or more after each feeding - 4 points.
Regurgitation from half to full volume of formula or breast milk in at least half of the feedings - 5 points.
Regurgitation with an intensity of 3 or more points requires a visit to a doctor.
Preventive measures against regurgitation in children
If regurgitation is physiological in nature, then it is not worth treating or correcting in this case. It is necessary to deal with the elimination of the cause, if possible, and carry out prevention.
Prevention of regurgitation in children includes the following measures:
Postural therapy: when feeding, it is necessary to hold the baby at an angle of 45 °, make sure that he completely grasps the nipple with the areola; after feeding, hold the baby in an upright position ("column") for 20 minutes - to drain the swallowed air. Due to this, the air that has entered the stomach will be able to go out. If nothing happened, then put the baby down and after a minute or two, lift him upright again. nine0003
Make sure that the opening in the bottle is not too large and that the nipple is filled with milk. Experiment with nipples - perhaps the other will be better. Milk should come out in drops, not a trickle.
Before you start feeding your baby, lay him belly down on a solid base.
After feeding, try to minimize the baby's physical activity, do not disturb him unnecessarily, and change clothes only if there is an emergency.