Some babies spit up more than others, but almost all babies spit up. After your baby breastfeeds or has had formula milk, you might notice the spit-up. What exactly is happening and what should you do when this happens?
What is spit up?
Spit up is when milk (breastmilk or formula milk) comes back up and you can see it come out from the baby’s mouth. The medical term for spitting up is gastroesophageal reflux. Spitting up is quite common and is normal.
The important thing to remember is that spitting up is not the same as vomiting. Vomiting is when the contents in their bellies come out forcefully. Vomiting can be painful and uncomfortable for the baby.
As opposed to this, your baby will barely notice when they spit up. Spit up feels like the milk they have ingested dribbling out of the baby’s mouth without any force. This often happens after the baby has been fed. The milk can also come out when the baby burps after a feed or when the baby’s position is changed immediately after a feed.
What are the causes of spit up?
When your precious little baby feeds, this is what happens. First of all, know that your baby’s stomach is really tiny. It is approximately the size of their closed fist. Of course, the stomach expands when babies feed but remember that they have little tummies.
Now, when a baby swallows milk, it travels through a tube known as the esophagus and then enters their tiny stomach. The muscles that connect the esophagus to the stomach tighten once the milk is in the stomach. Since the stomach is so little, it fills up easily and the tightening of the muscles results in some milk travelling back up the esophagus. This milk oozes out of the baby’s mouth and is known as spit-up.
In infants, the muscles that connect the stomach and the esophagus are still quite weak. In addition to this, since the stomach is very small, infants spit up more often. As the baby grows, these muscles become stronger and you will find that the frequency of spitting up goes down. Eventually, the baby stops spitting up milk entirely.
Should you be worried if the baby spits up?
Spitting up is common and normal. Hence, you should not worry yourself when the baby spits up.
One of the easiest signs to tell that you need not worry is when you have a happy spitter. This means that you won’t notice the baby having any discomfort at all when he spits up. You might even see the baby smile before, during, and after spitting up. This should be enough to know that there is nothing to worry about.
If your baby spits up too often, you might be worried about whether they are getting enough milk. But don’t worry, mummy. Your baby is most likely still getting her tiny tummy filled even though she spits up a lot. If your baby is active and growing well, you can rest assured that she is getting enough milk.
When is it time to see the doctor?
If your baby is vomiting instead of spitting up, you should see a doctor. When the milk comes out in a forceful projectile motion (falls out from the mouth forcefully and away from the body), you need to get medical attention.
If you cannot tell whether the baby is spitting up or vomiting, check if you see that the baby is uncomfortable when the milk comes out. If the baby is crying or fussy, it would be better to check with a doctor.
Other signs when you should go to a doctor are -
- Baby spits up fluid that is an abnormal colour (green, yellow, reddish, etc.)
- Baby has difficulty in breathing
- Baby is refusing to feed
- Baby who has stopped spitting up suddenly starts spitting up after the age of 6 months
How can you reduce spitting up?
Here’s what you can do to reduce the episodes of spitting up in babies.
- Keep your baby in the upright position for a few minutes after every feed.
- Don’t forget to burp the baby after a feed.
- Don’t put the baby in a swing or give her tummy time immediately after a feed.
- Avoid overfeeding. Feed the baby smaller quantities of milk several times a day.
- If your little one sleeps after feeding, put the baby to sleep on her back, once you have held her in the upright position for some time.
- Breastfeeding mummies, experiment with your diet. If you notice that your baby has spit up more after you have eaten some new food, try to avoid that food and see if spitting up reduces.
Babies look so little and delicate, that as a new mum, it’s easy to get worried over small things. That’s part of motherhood. But keeping yourself informed will help you to cope with your worries. Enjoy your motherhood and cherish this time with the baby.
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