Spit-up in Babies: What Doctors Are Learning

Spitting up in babies is an age-old issue. But research continues into what causes babies to spit up—and how to get relief for your baby.

Spit-up is a condition that affects many babies in their first year of life. Normally, it’s not a serious condition, and time plus a few feeding adjustments can help your baby. Here are some deeper findings from the medical community on what causes babies to spit up.

Baby Spit-up: What’s Behind It

There’s a valve between the esophagus and stomach that keeps food down, but in babies, this valve still has to mature and develop. In the meantime, your little one may frequently regurgitate his food. While spit-up usually happens after feeding, it can pretty much happen anytime—when a baby burps, coughs, cries, strains, or is very active. Now you know what causes babies to spit up—and that it can strike at any time—don't get caught without burp cloths or wipes.

Diet’s Role in Baby Reflux

If you’re breastfeeding, you might consider checking your diet. Some moms have found eliminating certain things—like dairy products—reduces the amount of their baby’s spit-up. If you’re formula-feeding or supplementing, a change to a rice-thickened formula may help. Enfamil A.R.™ is clinically proven to reduce spit-up by more than 50%*, while still providing the complete nutrition your baby needs.

Is Spitting Up Cause for Concern?

Research has shown that spit-up is normal due to an infant’s immature digestive system. However, if you’re noticing these symptoms, you should call the doctor:

  • Your baby refuses to feed from the bottle or breast.
  • He looks like he’s losing weight.
  • You see blood in his stool.
  • He’s vomiting forcefully.
  • He’s crying inconsolably and looks like he’s in pain.
  • He’s spitting up a green or yellow fluid.

Surprising Spit-up Research

A recent study showed that doctors who labeled normal spit-up as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) prompted parents to ask for medication, even though it wasn’t warranted or recommended by the doctor. In fact, many parents were counseled that medication would probably not be effective in reducing spit-up.

Remember that spitting up is generally normal in babies under a year and often the solution is time and small feeding adjustments—from gentle formula designed to ease spit-up to frequent burping.

To Learn More

Clear up some common misconceptions about what causes spit-up in babies by reading “Why Do Babies Spit Up? Myth Versus Truth”.

*Based on a clinical study of Enfamil A.R. infant formula before the addition of DHA, ARA, and prebiotics with infants who spit up frequently (five or more spit-ups per day), comparing frequency and volume of spit-up after feeding Enfamil A.R. with the same babies at the beginning of the study.