Spit Up in Babies: Causes, Solutions and When to Worry

This article will explore the common phenomenon of spit up in babies. 

We will begin by defining what baby spit up is and then distinguish between normal and abnormal spit up. 

We will discuss why babies spit up and how feeding techniques can influence this. 

The latter half of the article will provide tips to reduce spit up, indications of when spit up might be a cause for concern, coping strategies for parents dealing with frequent spit ups, and insights into how spit up changes as your baby grows.

Normal Spitting Up vs. Abnormal: Understanding the Difference

Abnormal: Understanding the Difference

Spitting up, also known as physiological reflux, is a normal occurrence in babies and usually not a cause for concern. 

It typically happens because your baby’s digestive system is still developing, particularly the ring of muscle that prevents food from refluxing back up the esophagus. 

In most cases, spit-up is simply a small amount of milk that comes up from the stomach and dribbles out of the baby’s mouth.

However, not all spit up is normal. 

If your baby is spitting up large amounts, frequently, or with great force, or if the spit-up is green or yellow or contains blood or coffee-ground-like material, it may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a blockage in the digestive system. 

These symptoms warrant a visit to your pediatrician.

Why Do Babies Spit Up?


One common reason why babies spit up is simply because they have eaten too much. 

Their small stomachs may not be able to hold all the food, and as a result, some of it comes back up.

Immature Digestive System:

In the early months, a baby’s digestive system is still developing and may not function as efficiently as an adult’s. 

The lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a door between the stomach and the esophagus, may not close tightly allowing milk to flow back up.

Swallowing Air:

If a baby swallows too much air while feeding, they may spit up afterwards. 

This is often seen in babies who are bottle-fed or babies who latch poorly during breastfeeding.

Food Sensitivities or Allergies:

Sometimes, a baby may spit up because they are sensitive or allergic to certain substances in the mother’s diet (if breastfeeding) or in formula. 

In such cases, the spit-up may be accompanied by other symptoms like fussiness, gas, or a rash.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):

While it’s normal for babies to have some degree of gastroesophageal reflux, in certain cases, this reflux can become chronic and severe, leading to a condition known as GERD. 

This condition often requires medical intervention.

The Role of Feeding Techniques in Spit Up

The way you feed your baby can have a significant impact on the amount of spit-up. 

Feeding your baby too much at once can cause spit up, as can feeding them too quickly. 

Try feeding your baby smaller amounts more frequently and ensure they are not swallowing air during feeding. 

If you’re bottle-feeding, make sure the hole in the nipple isn’t too large, which can cause your baby to gulp milk too quickly, leading to spit up. 

Holding your baby upright during and after feeding can also help reduce spit up.

Tips to Reduce Spit Up in Babies

Feed in Smaller, More Frequent Amounts: Overfeeding can lead to spit up, so instead of feeding large amounts at once, try giving your baby smaller amounts more frequently.

Proper Positioning During and After Feedings: Keeping your baby in an upright position during feedings can help prevent spit up. After feeding, try to keep your baby upright for at least 20-30 minutes to help the food settle.

Ensure a Good Latch During Breastfeeding: If your baby isn’t latching well, they may swallow air, which can lead to spit up. If you’re having trouble with latching, consider seeking help from a lactation consultant.

Burp Your Baby Regularly: Regular burping during and after feedings can help release any air that your baby may have swallowed. This can be particularly helpful for bottle-fed babies.

Consider a Different Formula: If your baby is formula-fed and spitting up frequently, they may be sensitive to the formula. You might consider discussing with your pediatrician about switching to a different formula.

Avoid Overly Active Play After Feeding: Jostling your baby around after feeding can cause food to come back up. Try to keep playtime gentle for a while after your baby eats.

Talk to Your Pediatrician About GERD: If your baby is spitting up frequently and it’s causing them distress or affecting their growth, it could be a sign of GERD. In such cases, it’s important to consult your pediatrician for further advice or treatment.

When Spit Up is a Cause for Concern

While spit-up is usually a normal part of infancy, there are cases when it can be a cause for concern. 

If your baby is spitting up forcefully, also known as projectile vomiting, or if they are spitting up blood or bile, you should seek medical attention. 

Also, if your baby seems to be in distress or pain during or after feedings, isn’t gaining weight, has difficulty breathing, or is refusing feedings, these could be signs of a more serious underlying condition and you should consult with your pediatrician.

Coping with Frequent Spit Ups: Tips for Parents

Dealing with frequent spit-ups can be challenging, but there are ways to manage this. 

As mentioned earlier, adjusting your feeding techniques can help. 

Using absorbent bibs and keeping a cloth or towel handy for clean-up can also help manage spit-up. 

Remember, it’s important to stay calm and understand that this is a normal phase of your baby’s growth and development. 

Avoid laying your baby down flat after feedings, and always burp your baby after feeding to help reduce the chance of spit-up.

How Spit Up Changes as Your Baby Grows

As your baby grows, their digestive system will mature, and the frequency of spit-up should decrease. 

Most babies stop spitting up by the age of 12 to 14 months when they start to sit upright, which helps keep food in the stomach. 

However, if your child continues to spit up past this age, or if the spit-up is associated with other concerning symptoms, it’s important to consult your pediatrician to rule out any potential medical issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs:)

Q1: Can introducing solid foods affect the frequency of spit up?

A1: Yes, introducing solid foods can sometimes lead to an increase in spit up as your baby adjusts to the new diet. However, as their digestive system matures, the frequency of spit up will likely decrease.

Q2: Does spit up stain clothes?

A2: Baby spit up can leave stains on clothing, especially if not washed promptly. Rinse the clothes in cold water as soon as possible and use a stain remover before washing to help remove any potential stains.

Q3: Should I burp my baby if they fall asleep

A3: Yes, it’s generally a good idea to burp your baby even if they fall asleep during feeding. This helps to reduce the amount of air in their stomach and may prevent spit up and discomfort.


In conclusion, spit up in babies is a common occurrence that usually doesn’t signal a serious problem. 

Differentiating between normal and abnormal spit up, and understanding the role of feeding techniques can help you manage this issue effectively. 

If your baby’s spitting up causes discomfort or is accompanied by other worrying symptoms, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare provider. 

As your baby grows, spit up will naturally decrease – so, hang in there!

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