Why is My Baby Spitting Up?

Baby being bottle fed

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.1,2,3,4,5

In fact, 70 – 85% of babies under three months experience some sort of regurgitation of their milk2 and 50% of all babies spit up daily.1

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!).5,6,7

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.6,8,10 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 into the stomach) or is overstimulated, bounced, or played with too soon after a feed.6

Read more: Top Latching Tips

Learn about: Choosing the Right Bottles and Nipples

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!)10
  • If baby is happy, not in any obvious discomfort or distress, eating and gaining weight well, and having enough wet and dirty diapers.3
  • Peaks around 4 months of age, but can continue up to the first birthday3,5

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 foods3,5,8

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 distress1,2,4,5,8,10

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 dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). 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?

Burp frequently

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.5, 11

Read more: How Do I Relieve Gas in my Formula or Bottle-Fed Baby?

Feed upright

Keeping your baby as upright as possible during feedings will help prevent the food from traveling back up into the esophagus.1,5,11

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).13 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 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.1,5,11

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.6,7

Avoid overfeeding

Smaller, more frequent feedings may help reduce spitting up by not allowing the tummy to become overfilled.1,5,11 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!

Let’s Chat!

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-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). 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:

Paced Bottle Feeding

Tips for bottle fed baby gas

How do I manage gas in my breastfed baby?

How much formula is enough?

Baby Hunger & Feeding Cues

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