Spitting up - self-care

Definition

Spitting up is common with babies. Babies may spit up when they burp or with their drool. Spitting up should not cause your baby any distress. Usually babies stop spitting up when they are about 7 to 12 months old.

Why Babies Spit up

Your baby is spitting up because:

  • The muscle at the top of your baby's stomach may not be fully developed. So baby's stomach cannot hold in milk.
  • The valve at the bottom of the stomach may be too tight. So the stomach gets too full and milk comes out.
  • Your baby may drink too much milk too fast, and take in a lot of air in the process. These air bubbles fill up the stomach and milk comes out.
  • Overfeeding causes your baby to get too full. So milk comes up.

Spitting up is usually not due to a formula intolerance or an allergy to something in the nursing mother's diet.

Spitting up is Usually Normal

If your baby is healthy, happy, and growing well, you don't need to worry. Babies that are growing well usually gain at least 6 ounces a week and have wet diapers at least every 6 hours.

How to Reduce Spitting up

  • Burp your baby several times during and after feeding. To do so sit the baby upright with your hand supporting the head. Let the baby lean forward slightly, bending at the waist. Gently pat your baby's back. (Burping your baby over your shoulder puts pressure on the stomach. This might cause more spitting up.)
  • If you are breastfeeding, try nursing with just one breast per feeding.
  • If you are bottle feeding, feed smaller amounts of formula more frequently. Avoid large amounts at one time. Be sure that the hole in the nipple is not too large.
  • Hold your baby upright for 15 to 30 minutes after feedings.
  • Avoid a lot of movement during and immediately after feeding.
  • Slightly elevate the head of babies' cribs so babies can sleep with their heads slightly up.
  • Talk to your doctor about trying a different formula or removing certain foods from the mother's diet (usually cow's milk).

When to Call the Doctor

If your baby's spit up is forceful, call your baby's doctor. You want to make sure your baby does not have pyloric stenosis, a problem where the valve at the bottom of the stomach is too tight and needs to be fixed.

References

Orenstein S, Peters J, Khan S, Youssef N, Hussain SZ. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011;chap 315.

Review date:
December 07, 2016
Reviewed by:
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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