Why is My Baby Spitting Up and What can I do About It?
Read time: 4 minutes
What should I know about babies spitting up
The reasons your baby may be spitting up
The age your little one may stop spitting up
Can spitting up be a sign of something serious?
Tips to help prevent and reduce spitting up
It can certainly be upsetting to see your baby spit up what appears to be a large amount of liquid from their tiny body! However spitting up, sometimes called ‘uncomplicated reflux’, can be totally common in healthy babies.12345
In fact, 70 - 85% of babies under three months experience some sort of regurgitation of their milk and 50% of all babies spit up daily.1 2
Why do babies spit up?
Normally a muscle between the esophagus and stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter, keeps the contents of the stomach where they belong. In babies, this muscle isn’t fully developed yet, allowing breastmilk and/or formula to sometimes make its way back up the esophagus and out of the mouth (and all over your and baby’s clothes!).567
Since your baby’s stomach is so small, swallowing too much air during a feeding or getting too much milk too fast, can also contribute to your baby spitting up.6810 This might happen if mom’s breasts are overfull; if baby cannot get a good seal or latch on the breast or bottle; or if the bottle nipple hole is too big and baby gets milk faster than they can control.
Spitting up might also happen if baby is crying a lot before or after a feed (which introduces more air to the stomach) or is overstimulated, bounced, or played with too soon after a feed.6
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What are signs that baby’s spit up is normal?
Normal spit up is usually only a tablespoon or two of milk (although it looks like a lot more!)
If baby is happy, not in any obvious discomfort or distress, eating and gaining weight well, and having enough wet and dirty diapers.
Peaks around 4 months of age, but can continue up to the first birthday3510
Most babies outgrow spitting up by 6 to 7 months, once they learn to sit up on their own and have started eating more solid foods.358
What are signs that baby’s spit up is NOT normal?
If baby is also refusing feedings
Baby appears to be in pain or discomfort before or after a feed
If baby is experiencing low weight gain or even weight loss
The spit up is very forceful
There is blood in the spit up
Baby is spitting up green/yellow fluid
Baby has breathing issues like wheezing and arching of the back or neck and is in pain or distress1245810
If your baby exhibits any of these signs or symptoms along with spitting up, then be sure to contact your pediatrician.
If you have more questions about your baby’s spit up, reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!
Tips to help prevent or reduce spitting up in babies
Create a calm feeding environment
Reduce stimulation, like bright lights and loud sounds, during feedings to avoid distracted eating. When a distracted baby pops on and off the breast or bottle frequently, it can increase the amount of air being swallowed.
Use paced bottle feeding
If you are nursing, feed on demand and allow baby to eat at their own pace. If bottle feeding, avoid tipping the bottle and allowing baby to “chug.”10
Pace the feeding by holding the bottle more horizontally, allowing the baby to eat more slowly, take breaks and draw the nipple back in when they are ready.
Read more: What is Paced Bottle Feeding?
Burping your baby more frequently (as opposed to waiting until the end of the feeding) will help eliminate excess air in the stomach. Burp your baby between switching breasts or after every 2 ounces if bottle-feeding.511
Read more: How Do I Relieve Gas in my Formula or Bottle-Fed Baby?
Keeping your baby as upright as possible during feedings will help prevent the food from traveling back up into the esophagus.1511
If you are breastfeeding, this may mean trying a more upright breastfeeding position, such as the koala hold (also known as saddle / straddle breastfeeding position).Note that this position requires your little one to have good neck control, so be sure to try this only if your baby is strong enough.
Hold baby upright after feeds
Keep your baby in an upright position for at least 15 minutes after a feeding to help keep the stomach contents where they belong.1511
Don’t jostle baby after feedings
Try not to move your baby around too vigorously after a feeding, such as in a bouncy seat. A full, tiny belly combined with an underdeveloped digestive system will make it easier for the milk to flow back up the esophagus.67
Smaller, more frequent feedings may help reduce spitting up by not allowing the tummy to become overfilled.511
Try to feed baby before they are overly hungry.
Keep burp cloths and bibs handy
Spitting up can be messy for the both of you. Keep the burp cloths and the bibs handy to help protect your and your baby’s clothes!
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
How do I Relieve Gas in my Formula or Bottle Fed Baby?
How do I manage gas in my breastfed baby?
How Much Formula does my Baby Need?
Understanding your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding