Spitting Up: When Is It Something More?

All babies spit up, some more frequently than others. After a feeding, your baby should bring up a nice burp–and sometimes, part of his meal. Most of the time, babies outgrow spitting up within a few months, once their digestive systems mature a bit. Here are some tips on how to tell if your baby is just spitting up, or whether he may have reflux. If you are worried about your baby, take him to his pediatrician for a full physical exam.

Painful Vomiting

Spitting up is painless, and many times, your baby won’t even realize that anything out of the ordinary has happened. Vomiting, however, is a different story. Throwing up hurts, and not only will your baby emit her stomach contents with force, but she will likely cry and seem upset afterwards. Vomiting can also, of course, be indicative of a viral illness or another digestive disturbance, but if she’s vomiting after eating on a regular basis, consider that reflux may be the cause.

Feeding Difficulties

If your baby is in pain during or after a feeding, he may begin to refuse to eat. He might also show his discomfort by arching his back or stiffening up during a feeding, or by attempting to move away from the breast or bottle.

Poor Weight Gain

All of the vomiting and spitting up can cause your baby to consume too few calories for optimal growth. If she is not gaining weight well, it may be a sign of reflux. Other causes of poor weight gain may be that she is not receiving enough milk, or that she is not able to digest the milk or formula that you are feeding her.

Respiratory Difficulties

A baby with reflux may seem chronically congested. If your baby is constantly sniffling, sneezing or coughing, reflux may be the cause. Part of the problem may be that she is aspirating breast milk or formula when she vomits. If she aspirates stomach acid, she may cough or choke. Some studies show a link between reflux and asthma; if your baby seems to be wheezing or if she is prone to respiratory infections, ask her doctor to evaluate her for reflux.

Frequent Crying

The discomfort of vomiting, aspiration and heartburn will often cause your baby to cry a lot. Babies do cry, and for many reasons: hunger, having a wet diaper, gas, loneliness. If your infant seems to be in a lot of pain, or in pain regularly, he should be evaluated by a physician to confirm or rule out a problem such as reflux.

Blood in the Vomit or Stools

As your baby’s esophagus becomes irritated from the reflux, she may experience some bleeding. If you see streaks of blood in your baby’s vomit or black, tarry stools, indicating bleeding in the digestive tract, take her to the pediatrician promptly. Several other potentially serious illness can cause bleeding, so have this checked as soon as possible.

As a new father, you will need to learn to rely on your instincts when caring for your baby. If you are worried that something is wrong, take your baby to see his doctor. If all is well, your assurance and peace of mind will be worth the doctor’s visit.