7 Reasons Why Your Baby Might Be Spitting Up

Welcoming a new baby into the world is an exciting and joyous time for parents. However, it can also come with its fair share of challenges, such as dealing with baby spit-up

Baby spit-up, a common occurrence in the early months of an infant’s life, refers to the gentle expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth. It’s typically harmless; in fact, many infants are considered “happy spitters” and show no indications of discomfort. But it can be distressing, not to mention a little messy, for moms and dads. 

Let’s take a look at seven potential reasons behind baby spit-up and tips to help reduce and manage it.

7 Reasons Why Your Baby Might Be Spitting Up

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Why do babies spit up?

Almost all healthy babies experience occasional spit-up, which is characterized by the following:

  • Small drool splashes of one or two mouthfuls of milk or formula 
  • Occurs during or shortly after feedings, often with burping
  • Typically no crying or discomfort 

Why would your little one be spitting up? There are several potential reasons, ranging from your baby’s development to what and how they eat. 

Still-developing digestive system 

The muscle that connects the mouth to the stomach is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and it stops food in the stomach from coming back up. In babies, this muscle isn’t fully developed, so when an infant’s tummy is full or when they lie flat, milk can flow back up through the esophagus and out the mouth, hence spit-up. 

Feeding too much too fast

When a baby drinks too much milk too quickly, it can put a lot of pressure on their still-developing digestive system. Their tiny tummy can only handle a certain amount at a time. When a baby feeds too fast, their stomach may be unable to process it all, leading to spit-up.

Gas

When a baby feeds, whether from a bottle or breast, they can swallow air along with the milk or formula. This swallowed air becomes trapped gas bubbles in their stomach, causing them to feel uncomfortable or bloated. It can also increase the pressure in their stomach, which when combined with a still-maturing digestive system, can contribute to spit-up. 

Overstimulation

Spit-up can be triggered when you bounce your baby or engage them in active play too soon after feeding. 

Lying down

Babies are on their backs most of the time, which can aggravate gas and reflux issues. This can also make sleep more difficult and uncomfortable.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Typical spit-up is also called reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). In some cases, however, babies may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is more severe than ordinary spit-up. Infants with GERD may experience additional issues beyond spitting up, such as irritability and fussiness, decreased appetite, and vomiting. 

Cow’s milk protein allergy or sensitivity

Some babies are allergic to the proteins found in cow’s milk. Common indicators of cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) include severe reflux problems, as well as:

  • Vomiting
  • Gassiness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Crying
  • Respiratory difficulties such as a runny nose or wheezy breathing

Tips to reduce baby spit-up

Spit happens, especially during the first few months. Always reach out to your pediatrician with any concerns, but there are some strategies you can try at home to tackle this common issue. 

Check baby’s latch to breast or bottle

Ensuring a proper latch while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding can help minimize extra air intake. A shallow latch can lead to increased air swallowing, contributing to spit-up.

If you’re breastfeeding:

  • Bring your little one close, chin first, to encourage them to open their mouth wide. You can even gently stroke their cheek or lips for an extra nudge.
  • Guide your baby’s lower lip well below your nipple, not just the tip. This ensures they get a mouthful of the breast for a secure latch. 

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Choose the right bottle nipple 

Selecting the right nipple size for your baby’s bottle is important for your little one’s comfort, safety, and feeding experience—and minimizing spit-up.

  • Too big, too fast: A bottle nipple hole that’s too large can lead to a forceful flow, causing choking or excessive air intake. 
  • Too small, too tiring: A tiny hole can tire your baby out with constant sucking. If your little one loses interest in feeding, bites the nipple, or looks frustrated, the bottle nipple could be too small.

The optimal nipple hole should allow a slow, steady drip when you hold the bottle upside down. This ensures your little one can feed at a comfortable pace, helping avoid guzzling, struggling, and spitting up.  

Remember, your baby’s needs change as they grow, so the perfect nipple size won’t be the same forever. Keep an eye out for indications your baby is irritated or uncomfortable, and adjust the bottle nipple size accordingly.

Consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s feeding or the right nipple size for their stage.

Take time to burp 

Burp your baby after each feeding. Gently patting or rubbing your little one’s back can help release any trapped air in their tummy, reducing the chances of spitting up. If your baby is a frequent spitter, consider burping them more often during feedings. 

Keep baby upright

Keeping your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding can aid digestion and may reduce the likelihood of spitting up. You can hold them against your chest or use a baby carrier for added support. If you’re looking for a comfortable option, consider trying out the best ring sling at Wildbird, or other reputable shops.

Watch for those early hunger cues

A baby who is ready for their next meal will often tell you by:

  • Sucking on their fists
  • Smacking their lips
  • Acting restless

Crying is a later sign of hunger. If you wait until your baby is crying, they may gulp air while eating, which could result in spit-up. Respond to their early hunger cues so you can feed them when they’re calm. 

Talk to your pediatrician about possible diet changes

Babies often spit up a little after feeding, but sometimes, it can be more than just a drooly burp. If your baby spits up frequently, forcefully, or seems uncomfortable, call your pediatrician. 

If you’re formula-feeding, your doctor may suggest switching to a formula with a thicker consistency, which can help reduce reflux. Your doctor can also assess your baby for a possible cow’s milk protein allergy, which could require a dietary change whether you’re using formula or breastfeeding. Don’t modify your diet or your baby’s without speaking to your doctor first. 

Final Thoughts

Occasional spit-up is expected and often decreases significantly by the time babies are one year old. But remember, every baby is unique and grows and develops at their own pace. Always consult your pediatrician for personalized guidance if any questions or concerns pop up along the way.

This article was provided by a guest author. 

7 Reasons Why Your Baby Might Be Spitting Up