Baby Spit-up: Myth Versus Truth

Is your baby’s spit up trying to tell you something? Separate the myths from the truth.

If your baby spits up a little (or even what seems like a lot), you’re not alone. Many infants will have the spits. It is important to check with your health-care provider.

1. Alarm bells! Spit up means something's wrong.

Myth—usually. If your baby is a “happy spitter” and isn’t bothered by the reflux, there’s no need to worry. Spit up, also known as infant reflux, usually happens when food backs up from a baby’s stomach.

But if your little one starts arching their back while spitting up, becoming irritable and angry, or has difficulty eating, check with your doctor to see if your baby has more serious reflux issues. In very rare cases, spit-up can be an indication of an allergy, a blockage somewhere in your baby’s digestive system, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to the Mayo Clinic.

GERD is serious but treatable, so keep an eye out for issues like these:

  • Projectile vomiting (forceful spit up)
  • Blood or green or yellow fluid in spit up
  • Not eating, not gaining weight

2. Spit up is usually just part of your baby's development process

Truth. Some babies just haven’t fully developed the valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach and keeps food in the right place. No need to worry — spit up just means your baby’s valve is developing and growing. To help avoid spit up, try smaller spoonfuls and less food at each feeding.

3. Spit up could be an indication of food intolerance

Truth. Some babies spit up because of a protein in cow’s milk, even if they’re getting it through breast milk. Your doctor might suggest that you switch up your diet to eliminate dairy products for a while if they suspect your baby is intolerant.

4. My baby will be malnourished if they keep spitting up all the time.

Myth. All that spit up can make you wonder if anything is staying down. But not to worry, as long as your child is growing (according to the growth chart your pediatrician keeps) and overall seems healthy and happy, they’re probably getting plenty of nutrients, even with all that spit up. If your baby stops gaining weight or refuses food consistently, check with your doctor. 

5. Burping can help limit spit up

Truth! Get the extra air out of your baby’s belly with frequent burping, and you might see less spit up.

6. Belly sleeping helps reduce spit up

Myth. Spit up or not, babies should always be placed on their backs when sleeping to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

7. Bottle size matters

Truth. Drinking too much too fast can mean more spit up. If your baby is drinking from a nipple that flows too fast, they’ll gulp too quickly. Check that you have the right formula flow (a bottle held upside down allows one quick drop at a time, but not a steady stream) and burp your baby often.

Plus, the amount that you feed your baby per feeding can make a difference. If your little one tends to spit up a lot after feeding, try feeding smaller amounts more frequently.

8. Feeding techniques can help reduce spit up

Truth. There are absolutely things you can do before, during and after feeding to keep as much food down as possible. Hold your baby while bottle-feeding, instead of using an infant seat. Don’t prop the bottle up -- hold it instead so that you can control the flow of formula. Burp your little one throughout the feeding and check the flow of formula.

After feeding, try not to play too much or too roughly.

Hungry for more spit-up wisdom? Read What Causes Babies to Spit up: The Latest Research.