Is your baby throwing up a lot after feeding? There’s usually no need to stress. William Byrne, M.D., chief of pediatric gastroenterology at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, says, “It’s completely normal for 70 percent of babies under 3 months of age to spit up three times a day, or even 10 to 12 times a day.” . Read on to learn what causes infants to vomit and what to do about it.
Why do babies throw up?
If your baby keeps spitting up for two hours after a feeding and seems very happy, they probably have GERD. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Control and Prevention, this condition peaks around 4 months of age, and 2/3 of all babies have symptoms. The ring of muscle separating the bottom of the infant’s esophagus from the stomach is still developing, allowing the stomach contents to rise again.
Infants need to consume a lot of calories to support their rapid growth – three to four times the weight of an adult per pound. In addition, they have a tendency to swallow air while sucking. As a result, their stomachs become so full that they can easily spit out what they eat (they may also spit it out strongly after crying or coughing).
Is my baby eating enough?
Even if your baby spits up after every feeding, they may be getting enough. Your pediatrician will evaluate your baby’s weight gain during their well-baby checkup. If everything is normal, they’re getting the calories they need. Dr. Byrne says: It looks like they’re getting their whole meal back, but it’s probably less than a tablespoon. So if your baby is throwing up after eating, don’t give him too much milk. In fact, overfeeding can lead to more reflux.
When does my baby stop spitting up?
Don’t worry, there will come a time when you don’t need to do laundry after each feeding. GER symptoms will lessen around 6 months once your baby’s digestive system matures and he/she starts to sit upright to eat solid foods. The problem usually disappears by your baby’s first birthday, when the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus become stronger (some babies will keep throwing up until they are 24 months old). Don’t be surprised if GER worsens before it gets better; some children’s symptoms reappear when they learn to crawl, and their stomach contents move around, causing the baby to throw up more than usual.
Dealing with your baby’s vomit
Even if you can’t actually prevent GER, you can reduce the mess by investing in an extra bib and following these tips
Avoid overfeeding. Overfilling is a major cause of reflux, so don’t overfeed your baby, says Aeri Moon, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist in New York City.
Burp your baby. Swallowing too much air while eating can cause bubbles to form in the stomach, trapping some food. When air comes back in the form of burps, so does breast milk or formula. Making sure your baby is latching on properly and burping before, during and after feedings can help reduce this problem.
Use products for formula-fed babies. If your baby is secreting formula, consider using a product that reduces the amount of gas caused by the bottle, such as the Playtex drop-in (the liner collapses when your baby sucks). If your baby is 4 months or older and your pediatrician agrees, you can try increasing the consistency of the formula to help keep them in the stomach better (one tablespoon of rice flour for every 4 ounces of formula).
Keep your baby’s body upright after feeding. Gravity is on your side when it comes to reflux, and it can play a big role in helping food stay down. Place your little spit up at an angle of about 30 degrees during a feeding. Then keep your baby upright for at least 20 minutes, either in your arms or on a carrier, so that the food can travel out of the stomach and into the small intestine. You can also buy a wedge to place at the head of the mattress, which will reduce the chances of your baby spitting up while sleeping (but don’t put a pillow in the crib, as this increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome).
Does my baby have gastroesophageal reflux disease?
GER is not something to worry aboutーーeven the healthiest babies have this problem. But for about 2% of full-term infants and a higher percentage of preterm infants, reflux can cause pain and medical problems. In such cases, doctors may diagnose GERD. Obvious symptoms include lack of interest in eating, excessive irritability when eating, wheezing, coughing, hoarseness, and lack of weight gain.
GERD is a very serious form of reflux disease: the acid in the stomach irritates the lining of your baby’s esophagus. Your baby may try to relieve the discomfort by coughing, arching his back, or pulling his legs up to his stomach. If your baby has these symptoms, contact their pediatrician. Your doctor may suggest eating less frequent meals or burping more often.