Baby Spit-up: Myth Versus Truth

Does spit-up affect your baby’s nourishment and development? Here's what you need to know.

Spitting up is common in babies. But why do babies spit up—and does it spell any problems for a baby’s nourishment and development? Here are the facts you need to know. 

If your baby spits up a little (or even what seems like a lot), you’re not alone. In fact, 50% of all babies spit up repeatedly during the first 3 months of life. Spit-up, also known as reflux, is not uncommon, and often there’s nothing to worry about. 

What other facts should you know about why babies spit up—and what myths should you overlook?

If your baby is spitting up a lot, there’s probably something wrong.  

Myth. If your baby is a “happy spitter” and he’s not bothered by the reflux, there’s no need to worry. However, if he’s arching his back, excessively irritable, or has difficulty eating, it’s smart to check with your doctor to see if he might have more serious reflux.

Spit-up can be part of development.

Truth. Usually babies who spit up have an immature valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach. When working properly, this valve keeps food in its proper place, but little babies need time for the functionality to mature. In the meantime, try giving your baby smaller amounts at each feeding.

Too much spit-up or reflux will affect my baby’s nutrition.

Myth. As long as your baby seems happy and is growing in height and weight as documented in the growth chart your pediatrician keeps, there’s no reason to think your baby is losing nourishment from spitting up. While it may seem like a lot of spit-up, many parents overestimate the amount.

Burping can help with your baby’s spit-up.

Truth. Frequent burping—both throughout and after feeding—can help alleviate any air build-up in your baby’s belly, thus decreasing the amount of spit-up.

If your baby is spitting up a lot, you should place him on his belly to sleep.

Myth. Babies should always be placed on their backs when sleeping, to decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Even if your baby is spitting up a lot, putting him on his back is the safest position.

Using the wrong size of bottle nipple can increase spit-up.

Truth. Drinking too much, too fast can contribute to spitting up. This scenario can happen when the nipple size is too large and a baby is gulping too quickly. Check that you have the right nipple size (this often correlates to the baby’s age), and be sure to burp your baby often.

To Learn More

For the latest research on baby spit-up, read “What Causes Babies to Spit Up: The Latest Research”.