Parents are often worried about their babies’ spit-up, but it’s actually completely normal and something to get used to. In this article, we’ll explore what causes your baby’s spit-up, why it happens so frequently around the time of their feedings and how you can prevent or minimize it.
Spit-up is a natural part of the digestive process that babies go through as they learn how to eat. It also happens more often when your baby eats because they’re swallowing air while feeding which causes them to spit up some milk or formula.
The best way to prevent or minimize spit-up is by burping your baby after every feedings and limiting their intake of liquids before bedtime. You should also avoid giving them too much food at once and always offer small amounts so that they don’t feel stuffed.
What causes frequent spit-up in babies?
Spit-up is a natural part of eating and digesting for infants. Spitting up occurs when pressure builds in the stomach from overeating, drinking too fast or laying down after consuming food which causes excess air to come out through your mouth and nose as it tries to escape (gasp!).
Babies who spit up after every feed could also be suffering from reflux, or GERD. (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) Reflux occurs when stomach contents flow back up, usually caused by pressure or eating too quickly. It may also be a way for the baby’s body to get rid of milk that is not fully digested. This reflux is often acidic, which can irritate baby’s developing esophagus.
Breastfed babies could possibly be having an allergic reaction to something in mom’s diet – the composition of mom’s breast milk changes depending on what she’s eaten that day. Common allergenic foods include egg, dairy, soy, nuts or wheat.
How often is too often for baby to spit up?
Baby spit-up typically occurs during or after feedings – so younger babies who are feeding more regularly will likely spit up more often.
If you have concerns about how frequently your baby is spitting up, seek advice from a pediatrician. Your pediatrician will find out whether your baby’s spitting up is related to allergies, poor feeding technique, excessive swallowing of air, or another problem.
Generally speaking, if your baby is gaining weight and is showing no signs or symptoms of discomfort, your pediatrician will not be overly concerned about frequent spit-up.
When will my baby stop spitting after feeding?
The good news is that as babies get older, they start to eat more and more efficiently: the amount they consume goes down per feeding, so there’s less in their stomachs when they spit up. Also, over time you will likely find the spitting episodes are less frequent.
By 6 months of age most babies have developed better swallowing control and are feeding themselves. And by around 9-10 months of age the amount they can consume between feedings is less so there’s less in their stomachs to come up during a spitting episode.
For most babies, the frequency of spit-up will lessen as they grow and learn to eat more efficiently – but this does vary for each child. Consider speaking with your child’s doctor for advice, particularly if your baby has stopped gaining weight.
How can I stop my baby from spitting up after feeding?
If your baby spits up after every feeding, there is a variety of things that you could do to stop the problem. You can try placing the baby upright after eating, burping them, and avoiding feedings close to bedtime or other activities. You may also be able to reduce spit-ups by feeding smaller amounts more frequently. If all else fails, consider talking to your pediatrician about what might be causing this behavior and how you can help.
Consider these things:
- Keep your baby upright after feeding – Your baby has an immature digestive system, and one of the parts still developing is the lower esophageal sphincter. This is the part at the bottom of the esophagus before it hits the stomach, and it is responsible for stopping your meal from traveling back upward. If you keep your baby in an upright position after feeding for a little while, gravity will help your baby’s body do it’s thing.
- Spend more time to burp your baby – By keeping your baby upright, you will have given them a better chance to burp. A well-positioned burp can help prevent many spit-up issues and keep your baby feeling comfortable.
- Try feeding smaller, but more frequent meals – Slowing down the overall pace of feeding can help, and one of the main methods is ‘paced bottle feeding.’ Paced bottle feeding is when you hold the bottle horizontally and raise and lower it over the course of a feeding, stopping the flow of milk, and reducing the risk of the flow of milk being too fast.
- Avoid overfeeding – Paced bottle feeding helps here too – when your child stops trying to suck from the nipple, they are likely full. Sometimes, babies will continue to drink out of convenience, despite being full.
- Try to move feeding times away from sleep time – Engage them in active play after meals instead – this strategy will be easier when they’re a bit older (from 6 months or so when they’re sitting independently, too) but the extra activity after feeding will help reduce the likelihood of baby spitting.
Should I switch from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding in order to reduce spitting?
Switching from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding won’t necessarily prevent baby from spitting because the same pressure is put on the baby’s body when drinking from a bottle. The difference would be if your breasts have a strong letdown reflex, and you move to combination feeding or a bottle that has smaller holes in the teat.
Why does my baby keep spitting up her formula?
Many babies spit up their formula when they’re first started on solids as they are trying to get used to the consistency of the food. The spit-up can also be caused by overeating, drinking too much or too quickly, and swallowing too much air when eating. Babies can also have reflux which causes them to vomit their formula back up.
If you have noticed that your baby is spitting up after every feeding, it can be a sign that the baby is chewing and swallowing too much air. Spitting up may also be caused by reflux, a milk allergy, or lactose intolerance. Monitor your baby’s weight gain to make sure they’re still on track from a developmental point of view.
Will my baby’s spit-up stop when they eat solid food?
When you start to feed your baby solids like rice cereal or mushy vegetables, you may notice more spit-up. This is normal because your baby’s stomach can’t handle the big chunks of food yet and they don’t have a great way to control their swallowing reflexes.
If there hasn’t been much time between baby eating and them spitting up, it may be that the food was simply kept in their mouth and they’re just pushing it out. (My youngest could keep food in his mouth for literally hours!) If it has been a while though and the food has hit baby’s stomach, it will come up with some of their stomach contents too – so possibly some acidic content like with reflux.
If your baby spits-up their food after eating, try these things:
- Give them smaller bites of soft foods so they don’t have a lot in their mouth at any given time
- Try feeding them when they are calm (not just before bed)
- Hold or entertain them with something else while they eat (a toy, another meal, etc)
Spit up is normal, but get medical advice if you’re concerned
It is normal for babies to spit up after feeding. If you are having a hard time with your baby spitting up after every feeding, it may be caused by swallowing air when feeding from the bottle or breast. Spitting up may also be caused by milk allergy, lactose intolerance or having an overactive gag reflex. (a very common issue in children) On the more extreme end, regular spit-up could be a sign of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) which could need medical attention.
The good news is that most of these issues will go away once your little one is eating solids and has got used to it! If you’re still struggling with finding a solution for spit-up in general though, we suggest talking with your pediatrician. They will have recommendations about how best to manage the symptoms and what specific treatment options are available. Your doctor will likely recommend changing their diet first before prescribing medication.