Reflux & Spitting Up: What to do when your baby can’t keep food down
Nearly half of all GERD cases for babies under one year of age are caused by milk allergies. Keep reading to find out why your baby is spitting up, and how you can help them keep food down.
Babies gurgle, cry, blow bubbles and of course spit up. From time to time your baby is likely to spit up or exhibit a reflux when feeding. Young babies do not have a developed digestive system. Food can sometimes travel from the stomach back into the esophagus. This may happen for a few different reasons.
In this article we will cover:
- What causes infant reflux (GER)
- What is normal spit up
- Tips to reduce infant reflux
- How Ready, Set, Food! can end infant reflux in older babies
Why is my baby spitting up?
For young babies spitting up is common, especially during the first three months. This condition, known as infant reflux, infant acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is due to a still developing valve at the esophagus. This valve, the esophageal sphincter muscle sits between the esophagus and stomach entrance. When a small baby’s stomach is too full, stomach contents easily pass the valve into the esophagus and travel up causing infant reflux.
As your baby’s body grows and develops so does this tricky valve, meaning less spitting up.
Breastfeeding and bottle feeding can both cause infant reflux. For strategies on how to best feed to avoid infant reflux in both cases we recommend this article.
Is my baby’s spit-up normal?
The appearance of the spit up can vary with the amount of time your baby had to digest it.
While the stomach contents may look like breastmilk or whatever was ingested, it is mostly made up of saliva and stomach acids. If concerned your baby is not eating enough because of how much they spit up do not rush to re-feed them. They are likely spitting up from eating too much or eating too quickly.
Spit up that has had some time to digest in your baby's stomach may have a more vomit like appearance. The smell may be sour, and the texture will likely be curdled.
Babies that exhibit the above when spitting up are “happy spitters”. If your baby remains comfortable during and after spitting up they are likely not affected by their gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Gaining weight normally and a casual disposition are both signs of a happy spitter. You can expect your baby to grow out of their GER within the first year. Less than 10% of babies still spit up regularly after this point. In these cases there could be an allergy or gastrointestinal (GI) issue.
When should I be worried?
Any vomit that is forceful or projectile is cause for alarm. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is much more severe than a “happy spitter”. If you notice any of these symptoms alongside reflux intervention is necessary:
- Weight Loss
- Failure to thrive
- Blood in spit up
- Baby is visibly distressed
- Muscle contractions when spitting up
Babies who suffer from GERD should not wait to grow out of infant reflux. Spit ups for sufferers of GERD might not lessen. The correlated symptoms can also damage their small bodies if not addressed. Call your doctor if your baby suffers from any of the symptoms above for the best course of treatment.
Your baby may have another GI issue if GERD is not detected. To learn more about GERD, we recommend this article.
How can I prevent my baby from spitting up?
If you are certain your baby is a “happy spitter” there are safe ways to ease their discomfort. Here are some tips for helping your baby keep food down:
- Burp your baby
- Keep your baby vertical
- Don’t overfeed
- Feed more slowly
- Don’t bounce baby or play 20-30 min after meals
GER peaks at 2-4 months and usually lasts until 8 months. If your baby begins to spit up more after 6 months you should consider what foods have been added to their diet. As babies get older their valve should be able to keep more food down. Reasons for increased infant reflux after 6 months include:
- A cold where mucus causes more spit up
- Growing babies swallowing more air due to eating more quickly
Nearly half of all babies suffering from GERD have a milk allergy. While GER is common, GERD should not be taken lightly. If your babies GER worsens with age or develops into GERD you may be dealing with an allergy to milk proteins.
Inspect the ingredient list in your babies formula for possible allergens. If you have recently changed brands your baby may have a sensitivity to a new ingredient. For breastfeeding mothers consider any new foods that have been added to your diet. If your baby is transitioning to solid foods and spitting up more, they may have a food allergy.
If your baby has other symptoms of not being well you should contact your family doctor.
Using Ready, Set, Food! For Reflux Babies
Half of GERD cases are due to milk allergy or intolerance. If your baby has a milk intolerance, Ready, Set, Food! is safe to use if you believe your baby may have a milk intolerance. For those babies with a diagnosed milk allergy, Ready, Set, Food! offers peanut only and peanut + egg systems, perfectly customized to your family’s needs.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.