Why does my baby spit up so much?
Your baby is probably just getting the hang of feeding. And he or she isn't alone: About 40 percent of young babies spit up regularly. The peak age for spitting up is 4 months.
This happens when your baby takes in air along with breast milk or formula. The air has to come up, and when it does, so does some of what your baby just drank.
Babies take in a lot of nourishment in relation to their size, and some of them really like to eat, so sometimes they become overfilled and, well, overflow.
A newborn's digestive system isn't fully developed, either. The muscles at the bottom of your baby's esophagus, which control whether food is coming or going, may still be getting up to speed. It's no wonder your baby creates so much laundry.
Is there anything I can do about it?
Try these tips to help your baby keep food down:
• Hold your baby in a fairly upright position when you feed him or her. Feeding a slouching baby (one who's curled up in your arms or sitting in a car seat, for example) doesn't give the formula or breast milk a straight path to your baby's tummy.
• Keep feedings calm. Minimize noise and other distractions, and try not to let your baby get too hungry before you start feeding. If your baby is distracted or frantic, he or she is more likely to swallow air along with the breast milk or formula.
• If your baby's taking formula or expressed breast milk from a bottle, make sure the hole in the nipple isn't too small, which will frustrate your baby and make him or her swallow air. On the other hand, if the hole's too large, your baby will be gagging and gulping because the fluid will flow out too quickly.
• Burp your baby after each feeding. In fact, if your baby takes a natural pause during a feeding, take the opportunity to burp before you continue. That way, if there's any air, it'll come up before even more liquid is layered on top. (Don't forget to put a soft cloth on your shoulder first!) If you don't get a burp up within a few minutes, don't worry. Your baby probably doesn't need to burp just then.
• Keep the pressure off your baby's tummy. Make sure your baby's clothing and diaper aren't too tight, and don't put his or her tummy over your shoulder when you burp. Try to avoid car trips right after feedings, because reclining in a car seat can put pressure on your baby's stomach, too.
• Don't jostle your baby too much after eating, and try to keep him or her in an upright position for half an hour or so. This way gravity will help the food stay down.
• Don't overfeed. If your baby seems to spit up quite a bit after every feeding, he or she may be getting too much to eat. You might try to give a bit less formula or breastfeed for a slightly shorter time, and see whether your baby is satisfied. (He or she may be willing to take less formula or breast milk at a feeding but want to eat more frequently.)
• If your baby tends to spit up while sleeping, elevate his or her head. It's unsafe for your baby to sleep with a pillow, but you can place a foam wedge (or a few books) under one end of the crib mattress.
When will my baby outgrow this?
Most babies stop spitting up by around 6 or 7 months of age, or once they learn to sit up on their own, but a few will continue until their first birthday.
How can I tell if it's spitting up or vomiting?
Vomiting is usually more forceful and of greater quantity than if your baby is just spitting up some of his or her latest meal. If your baby seems distressed, it's probably vomiting. Spitting up doesn't faze most babies at all.
Is spitting up ever a sign of something serious?
Spitting up is usually just par for the parenting course, but if your baby isn't gaining weight as he or she should be, your doctor will let you know.
Call your doctor immediately if your baby begins projectile vomiting. Projectile vomiting is when the spit-up flies out of a baby's mouth forcefully – shooting across the room, for example. This could be a sign of a condition called pyloric stenosis, in which the muscles at the bottom of the stomach thicken and don't allow food to pass into the small intestine.
Also phone your doctor right away if you see green bile in your baby's vomit. This could be a sign of a blockage in your baby's intestines.