What to Do to Prevent Spit-up in Babies

Regurgitations have no effect on the baby's health or growth. Moreover, they disappear without treatment before they reach twelve months of age. Just the same, here's how to prevent spit-up.
What to Do to Prevent Spit-up in Babies

Last update: 11 June, 2021

Regurgitation is very common during the first few months of life. It usually occurs after feeding in about 40 percent of healthy babies. The fluid released usually contains only a small amount of milk and consists mostly of saliva and gastric juice. Today, we’ll talk about how to prevent spit-up in babies.

The vast majority of infants will no longer have this problem as soon as they reach twelve months of age or even earlier. Furthermore, spit-up will have no effect on their growth and development.

However, a small number of babies spit up to such an extent that it can affect their growth. For this reason, infants who spit up frequently should be weighed regularly.

Spitting up isn’t caused by a food allergy or intolerance. It’s very common in infants and doesn’t require further treatment, even when they seem abundant.

However, there are a few tips to help prevent spit-up in babies. Discover them below.

Causes of baby spit-up

In babies, regurgitation has two main causes: the immaturity of the baby’s digestive system and their exclusively liquid diet. However, it can also be due to other reasons. In fact, it’s a virtually unavoidable phenomenon in all young children.

The main cause of regurgitation is the poor coordination of the esophagus, i.e. the organ that allows food to pass into the stomach. This organ has the task of storing and disinfecting food and then sending it in portions to the small intestine.

Normally, this activity is perfectly regulated by the cardia, an annular muscle placed at the passage point between the stomach and the esophagus. By contracting, the cardia prevents food from returning to the mouth.

In infants, however, this muscle doesn’t function very well yet. And, as a result, the esophagus may remain partially open and allow swallowed milk to come back up into the mouth.

The problem of regurgitation resolves spontaneously when the cardia can contract perfectly to push the food into the stomach and then close the passage.

A newborn drinking from a bottle.

What can be done to prevent spit-up in babies?

Sometimes, your baby spits up more than usual, especially if he’s bottle-fed. Follow these tips to avoid this occurrence:

  • After feeding, the baby should burp to expel the air they swallowed while nursing.
  • Avoid giving them large amounts of milk at a time and overfilling their stomach.
  • Take breaks during feedings to allow for burping.
  • Make sure you use the right nipple and that your milk flow is correct.
  • Breastfeed your baby before they’re very hungry; this will prevent him from swallowing large amounts of air.
  • If the baby is bottle-fed, you can add thickening substances to the milk to make it less runny, which limits the occurrence of spitting up.
  • The introduction of solid foods at weaning usually reduces the occurrence of regurgitation.
  • You can try anti-reflux milk or dilute a thickener in their regular milk.
  • At the beginning of digestion, avoid moving the baby too much and playing with them.
  • It’s best not to offer fruit juice to your little one. Its acidity can cause gastric reflux.

“The vast majority of babies will no longer suffer from regurgitation as soon as they reach twelve months of age.”

When should you worry?

In most cases, you shouldn’t be overly alarmed. However, there are some symptoms that are worth paying attention to:

  • Your baby has growth problems.
  • Crying a lot between feeds.
  • Your baby doesn’t rest well.
  • They suffer from infections.
  • Spitting up is frequent and accompanied by diarrhea.
  • Your baby has a fever.
  • You notice traces of blood in the spit-up.

A hand wiping spit-up from a baby's mouth.

Prevent spit-up: how to distinguish regurgitation from vomiting?

Unlike regurgitation, vomiting is characterized by the violent expulsion of stomach contents. It’s important to know the difference between vomiting and regurgitation, as the former may indicate a more serious illness and may cause dehydration if repeated.

In general, occasional vomiting, if not accompanied by other symptoms, shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

All in all, this list of tips on how to prevent baby spitting up can be of great help if your baby has this problem. As a mother, you should keep in mind that if your baby spits up large amounts of milk, or if the spitting up is violent, you should take your baby to the pediatrician.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.