Your Baby Spits Up a Lot -- What Should You Do?

by Julie Snyder

Baby Spit UpThose blobs of dried up milk decorating your shirt give it away. Congratulations, you have a normal baby; you're also the parent of a spitter. When does too much spit up signal a problem? What can you do to help your baby keep things down?

Most babies regurgitate part of their meals. Think back to your baby shower. Even though you said you were using disposables, your best friend -- the one with a 9-month-old -- gave you a dozen soft pre-fold diapers. She said they'd be perfect spit-up cloths.

We know you rolled your eyes back then, but now you know what she was talking about. Aren't you glad you have them?

What's to Know About Spitting Up

Babies spit up because they swallow air along with the milk or because they eat more than a tiny stomach can hold.

Picture a balloon with layers of air and milk. Since babies don't have strong muscles holding the top of the stomach closed, you're not holding your balloon neck very firmly either. Now someone comes along and gives your balloon a little squeeze. Did you have a milk bath? That's what happens in your baby's tummy.

Spitting up usually worsens between two to four months of age. Your baby will probably learn how to keep that food down about the same time sitting up. You might see the first birthday come and go before they stop spitting up; it all depends on the baby.

When Do You Call the Doctor?

Spitting up is typically more of a laundry issue than a medical problem. If your baby is a "happy spitter," gains weight, shares a meal with your shoulder, plays contentedly and doesn't have respiratory problems, you probably don't need to worry.

For some babies, spitting up does indicate a problem, like GERD or reflux. Signs that spitting up or reflux is causing a problem include that a baby:

  • Is fussy or irritable all the time
  • Isn't gaining weight
  • Frequently chokes, has wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Refuses to eat more than normal
  • Arches his or her back during or right after feedings
  • Has a chronic cough, hoarse voice or cry

Does one or more of these describe your baby? Talk with your pediatrician to discuss treatment options.

Settling the "Happy Spitter"

Some babies regurgitate their milk or formula several times a day. To reduce spitting up, consider trying these tips.

Slow down the feeding. Some babies do better with small and less frequent meals.

Burp during and after each feeding. Burp your breastfeeding baby between sides and during a lull in nursing. Burp a formula-fed baby every three ounces of milk and at the end of a feeding.

Gravity is your friend. Keep your baby upright while you're feeding and for a half hour after. If your hands are busy, plop your little one into a sling.

No pressure on the stomach after eating. Dress your baby in loose clothes. Don't buckle him or her into the car seat for a half hour after nursing or a bottle.

Don't bounce or jostle your baby right after a feeding. "Definitely, don't hold them right above your face while tipping the baby back and forth!" Lee, an experienced dad suggests.

If you're nursing, experiment with your diet. Occasionally, a baby will be sensitive to a food you're eating. Talk with a lactation consultant about how your baby's feeding pattern can affect spitting.

If you're formula-feeding, check the nipple. If the hole is too small, your baby might get frustrated and gulp air. If it's too large, the milk flows too fast. A nipple just the right size allows a few drops of milk to fall out when you hold the bottle upside down.

Wear prints or light colors. Your wardrobe choices won't help your baby, but you'll hide when baby spits up better -- the smell is another story.

Did or do you have a mini volcano? Did you find a solution or just wait it out?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.