Every mom at some point has experienced baby spit ups on their shirt. Even as a pediatrician, I get spit up on me all the time when examining babies at the hospital. However, it can raise concerns to see your little one spitting up curdled milk after feeding, which leads up to the big question “is it normal for a baby to spit up curdled milk?”.
You should know that spitting up curdled milk is normal in babies, and slows over time as your baby grows bigger. Let’s get into the deets of why your baby is spitting up curdled milk.
- What is spit up and why is it sometimes curdled?
- Tips for reducing spit up
- When to call your Pediatrician
Table of Contents
What is baby spit up?
Baby spit up is when the food your baby just ate, such as milk, travels back up the esophagus from the stomach. Here, you may see semi-digested or undigested food particles like milk come out of your baby’s mouth. It’s similar to vomiting, except spit ups do not require any forceful retching or pain. Most times, your baby isn’t even aware of the spit ups.
Why does my baby spit up curdled milk?
When babies spit up during or after feeding, the content of the spit up usually resembles what the baby just ate. The question now is, why is the milk curdled?
Spitting up curdled milk is no cause for alarm. The reason your baby’s spit up is curdled, is because the milk your baby ate has had time to mix with your baby’s stomach acids in attempts to digest it. The curdling of milk spit up happens some minutes after the baby has fed and digestion has begun.
If your baby spits up during or immediately after feeding, the spit up is going to look like regular milk. However, if your baby spits up a few minutes after feeding, the milk will most likely look curdled.
Other reasons your baby could spit up curdled milk includes:
- Your baby has acid reflux: This may happen in newborns as the sphincter that separates the esophagus and stomach is not fully developed. This reflux is usually painful as the acidic content of your baby’s stomach travels to the esophagus. Acid reflux can be prevented or reduced by feeding your baby slowly and in an upright position. As your baby grows, acid reflux may subside.
- Your baby has difficulties in digesting food: Newborns may encounter difficulties in digestion as their digestive tract needs more time to completely develop. Also, some babies may have allergies to cow’s milk or lactose intolerance which can make digestion difficult and lead to curdling of spit ups. Most babies outgrow these digestive issues while some others don’t. You could change their milk formula to alternatives that will aid digestion such as soy protein formula.
- Your baby has a medical condition called pyloric stenosis: This is a condition where the outlet of your baby’s stomach is narrowed or completely blocked, preventing food from passing down to the intestine for further digestion. This causes a backflow of partially digested food back through the esophagus and out your baby’s mouth. This condition is only diagnosed by a pediatrician and should not be taken lightly.
All in all, it is important that you clear all doubts by seeing a pediatrician to rule out any serious cause of your baby’s spit ups. Read on to learn the signs to watch out for and when to call the doctor.
Should I be worried about my baby’s spit up?
Baby spit ups are nothing to worry about as it is a phase of growth for your little one. Spitting up does not make your baby sick or cause them pain in any way. On the other hand, vomiting can be distressing and uncomfortable for your baby and should be clearly differentiated from spit ups.
You should know that vomiting is more forceful and painful, leading to expulsion of larger amounts of stomach content compared to spit ups. Vomiting over time can cause your baby to lose a lot of fluids and become dehydrated, which can be very harmful to your baby. It is thus important to differentiate spit ups from vomiting in your little one.
How can I reduce my baby’s spit up?
Spitting up sometimes may cause your baby some discomfort, and you can reduce your baby’s spit up by following these steps:
- Keep your baby in an upright position during feeds and 30 minutes after eating. You can do this by holding your baby upright to your chest, baby wearing or supporting your baby with pillows to keep her upright.
- Avoid excessively playing with your baby or making sudden movements after eating. Your baby needs a little more time for food to settle and sudden or excessive movements after eating can cause her to spit up. Personally, I don’t examine babies immediately after they feed as the examination process can excite the baby and cause them to spit up their just ingested meal. So to prevent spit ups, it is good practice to keep things calm after feeding.
- Ensure you burp your baby during and after eating to prevent air from settling in your baby’s belly. Air in your baby’s belly can cause her to spit up more frequently, and burping her can significantly reduce your baby’s spit ups.
- Lay your baby to sleep on their back. Laying your baby on their belly or their side is not recommended, and can worsen spit ups. Also, research has shown that laying your baby to sleep on their belly can increase the risk of sudden infant death (SIDS). To reduce spit ups, it is advised that you lay her to sleep on her back.
- Feed your baby in smaller quantities more frequently. Sometimes, overloading your baby with milk can cause her to spit up. Giving your baby smaller quantities of milk more frequently eases your baby’s digestion and prevents spit ups.
- Loosen your baby’s diaper. Sometimes wearing a diaper that is too tight can make it difficult for your baby’s food to get to the stomach causing spit ups to occur. Make sure your baby is comfortable and not feeling restricted with a diaper that is too tight.
When to call the doctor
It is important to know when something is wrong so you could quickly seek the help your baby needs.
You should contact your doctor if you notice the following:
- Your baby spits up forcefully
- Your baby is losing weight or isn’t gaining weight.
- Presence of blood or greenish fluid in spit ups.
- Your baby has difficulty breathing after spitting up.
- Your baby isn’t urinating or defecating enough.
- Your baby loses appetite or excessively resists feeding.
- If spit ups persist till the age of two.
Spitting up curdled milk is normal in babies and is usually not a cause for alarm. Most babies outgrow spit ups by the age of 12 to 18 months as their digestive system develops. However, it is important to know when to worry by watching out for the warning signs above to quickly get help for your baby.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.