Is it normal for babies to spit up their milk?

It is normal for babies to spit up their milk during the first months of life; however, most parents may find this issue a bit worrisome. This happens because, sometimes, regurgitation can bring some complications.

In relation to this, a study by the Hospital Universitario de Canarias affirms that this normally occurs sporadically in any healthy individual, but in babies it happens in a significant percentage. So that, in infants up to 4 months it appears in 75% of them, and up to 7 months in 15%.

When is it normal for babies to spit up their milk?

Regurgitation is a normal process in newborns and young babies.

It is normal for babies to spit up after eating or even while eating. In this sense, it is something that can happen both with breast milk and with formulas.

In general, it can be considered normal when they spit up, but they feel comfortable and this does not cause respiratory problems, does not hinder weight gain and allows optimal growth. It is worth highlighting this problem resolves spontaneously between 12 and 18 months of age.

Why do babies spit up?

As expressed in the study Physiology of nutritional sucking in newborns and infants, the swallowing process, understood as the passage of food (in this case, milk) through the esophagus until it reaches the stomach, is altered because in newborns the digestive system is still developing.

The esophagus is connected to the stomach through a series of muscles that relax and contract; their scientific name is «lower esophageal sphincter». East it opens so that the food descends and then it closes again to prevent food from returning to the mouth.

In newborns and even young babies, this mechanism is not mature. Consequently, milk reflux or regurgitation may appear.

See also How to introduce meat into the baby's diet?

What is the difference between spitting up and vomiting?

While regurgitation does not cause discomfort, vomiting does; in this case, medical consultation is recommended.

It is important to learn to tell the difference between spitting up and vomiting, as it can sometimes be difficult to determine which situation is occurring. Fortunately, there are several distinguishing factors that can help tell the difference between the two.

Let's see what they are below:

  • Spitting up usually comes on quickly and is silent. Spit-up babies are happy before, during, and after this event.
  • Spitting up of breastfed and formula-fed babies, in general, it looks similar to what they just consumed.
  • It occurs less frequently as the child approaches one year and, from there, it happens only on specific occasions.
  • On the other hand, vomiting is usually a symptom of a major illness and not a disease in itself. Therefore, it can be accompanied by episodes of fever or diarrhea.
  • Vomiting usually comes and goes quickly, but often involve arcades and have a greenish appearance due to the presence of bile.

When should I be concerned?

While it is normal for babies to spit up their milk, there is a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that can cause certain complications. Fortunately, there are signs that may indicate that you are in the presence of it, so knowing them is necessary to prevent problems

In relation to this, the study Management of the most common functional digestive disorders in healthy infants suggests that you should be concerned when the following symptoms appear:

  • There is weight loss.
  • The baby shows fussiness and irritation during the day due to the discomfort of reflux.
  • The liquids that come out do not resemble "curdled milk" and vary in color (either green, yellow or brown) and textures.
  • The baby spits up an excessive amount of milk.
  • Regurgitation takes effort.
  • The child is tired and slow.
  • The feeding is rejected.
  • Respiratory complications such as apnea appear.

Keep in mind that if you have any doubts, it is advisable to consult a professional specialized in the subject.

Other causes of babies spitting up milk

The baby may regurgitate from different situations such as air intake or overstimulation.

In addition to the lack of development of the digestive system of babies, there are other reasons that cause regurgitation. These include the following:

It may interest you My baby fell out of bed: what should I do?

Eat excessively

This is a common cause. Since babies have small stomachs, if they drink an amount of milk that exceeds this capacity, in addition to being full, they will regurgitate.

Sensitivity or allergies to certain foods that the mother eats

The allergens contained in some foods, such as peanuts, almonds, wheat or others, can be transferred to breast milk and make the baby spit up.

Overstimulation

Overstimulation can occur due to excessive bouncing, from placing the baby on his tummy after feeding or by locating it with an excessive forward inclination, among other possible causes.

Aerophagia or air intake during feeding

When the baby feeds quickly, he may also swallow air along with the milk. In fact, this is more likely to happen when the mother produces a high milk supply or has a strong output or 'milk ejection'.

Pyloric stenosis

A less common cause than the previous ones may be pyloric stenosis. This condition obstructs the transit of food to the small intestine because the muscular valve (pylorus) that connects the stomach and the small intestine has narrowed. Consequently, the stomach contents return to the esophagus and cause regurgitation.

It It can also trigger forceful vomiting, dehydration, and weight loss. For this reason, once diagnosed, this problem must be corrected urgently with surgery.

Tips to avoid reflux

There are a number of tips to consider when ruling out gastroesophageal reflux disease and concluding that the baby only has spit-up. In this way, it will be avoided that they are excessive or at inappropriate times.

Let's see then, what are the aspects to consider:

  • First, do not force the baby to eat if he is not hungry. This applies to children who are breast or bottle fed, even more so if they have frequent spit-up.
  • In case of bottle feeding, avoid that the formula is concentrated or has an excess of water.
  • Ideally, you should feed your baby when he is not too hungry.Because if this happens, it is likely that it will suck strongly and, with it, swallow air.
  • Try to feed the child in an environment that is calm and relaxed, without rushing. In this way, you will avoid discomfort or crying that will cause him to swallow air.
  • When you finish eating, that is, while the digestion process begins, let the child rest. Don't start to move it or jump and bounce; on the contrary, let it be calm so that it regurgitates calmly.
  • Adopt a simple postural measure for the baby, this means that you should not knock it down completelyBut let him be semi-leaning forward on your lap or in a chair. This will help the stomach contents stay in place.

It is normal for babies to spit up their milk

Avoid worrying about a natural and normal process in the vast majority of babies. Of course, you should go to the doctor if you notice that the baby does not spit up "happy", you have weight loss, you feel tired, if you vomit, or any of the aforementioned situations.

Remember that you can always consult a professional to tell you which would be a normal situation and which would not. No one better than your child's pediatrician to provide you with timely diagnosis and advice.