What Causes Babies to Spit Up?

While it's a fact of life that all infants spit up, there are some easy things you can do to reduce baby spit up and the after-effects of baby spit up.

What Causes Babies to Spit Up

Typically babies spit up for one of 3 reasons:

  • An under-developed esophageal valve that doesn't function as it should when pressure is placed on the tummy or the baby is in a flat-lying position

  • A reaction to something in the diet

  • Foremilk/hindmilk imbalance if the mother is breastfeeding (easily remedied)

Baby spit up caused by an underdeveloped esophageal valve

The most common reason for baby spit up (and much colic) is positioning or pressure on the baby's tummy that causes acid reflux and baby spit up due to an under-developed esophageal valve. These are the babies who can't sleep lying flat, cry or spit up when placed in swings, bouncy seats, or car seats that squish their tummies, spit up when curled in baby slings or loose front baby carriers that allow them to slump, or spit up excessively while being burped and after or during most every feeding. If these things make your baby spit up there are some simple things you can do.

  • If your baby spits up after most meals, be sure to nurse or bottle feed in an upright position with straight spine and no pressure on the tummy. A feeding wedge makes this simple to do.
  • If your baby spits up while being burped, choose gentle burping methods that don't place pressure on your baby's tummy, such as putting baby's head on your shoulder body facing in and patting the back while rhythmically bouncing up and down on your heels. Avoid burping your baby in a sitting position.
  • If your baby wakes up after only short periods of sleep, either crying or with baby spit up, consider elevating the crib at the head and purchasing a Tucker Sling to keep your baby from rolling down, or you can purchase a special sleep positioning wedge such as the Tucker Wedge.
  • If your baby spits up or seems physically uncomfortable in swings, bouncy seats, or car seats, check to see that the "well" in the seat is not so deep that it puts pressure on the tummy. A carseat positioner like the Hug Me Joey can reduce spit ups in the carseat, stroller, swing and bouncy seat.
  • If your baby spits up on you be sure you have large and absorbent burp cloths. Cloth diapers are a great and inexpensive source of protection from baby spit up. Burp catchers are also very absorbant burp cloths with large and thirsty pockets to catch spitup before it heads down the back of your clothing. We carry all these and more products in our Pollywog online store.
  • If your baby spits up during diaper changes consider elevating the changing station. Also be sure not to fasten diapers or clothing tightly on the tummy.

Baby spit up caused by a reaction to something in the diet

Babies can also spit up due to an intolerance or allergy to something in either mother's diet if breastfed, or in formula if formula fed. Read making breastmilk even easier to digest and formulas are not all alike to find out more about adjustments you can make to baby's diet to prevent this type of baby spit up.

Baby spit up caused by foremilk/hindmilk imbalance

It is easy to build up your supply, giving your baby too much foremilk. By following some simple techniques you can determine if this is the case and learn how to easily remedy a milk imbalance. Read our articles to find out more about baby spit up caused by foremilk imbalance and oversupply.

Read more about baby spit up:

Does my Baby have reflux or colic?
Feeding positions to reduce spit-ups and gas

The Best Burp Cloth

Tired of baby spit up on your shirt?

We love this thirsty burp cloth with it's large, spit-trapping pocket.

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