How to Prevent Baby Spitting Up Curdled Milk? Is it harmful? Find the answers to these in this definitive guide on spitting up for new parents
Breastfeeding can be a challenge for many new parents, and it can take quite a bit of effort to make it work. Now just as you’ve got the hang of it and are beginning to enjoy it, you find that your baby is spitting up the milk your body worked so hard to make!
Yes, spitting up can be messy, but it can also be distressful for new parents who aren’t sure if this is normal or if their baby is missing out on valuable calories and nutrients. If the spit-up has a curdled appearance, parents become even more alarmed
If you’re worried about this too, don’t worry – spitting up is quite common among babies, especially in the first few months, and generally subsides by the baby’s first birthday.
What causes spitting up in babies?
1. Immature digestive systems – The human body possesses a muscle between the stomach and the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, which is responsible for keeping food down in the stomach. This muscle is still underdeveloped in babies, which results in some of the stomach contents coming up. This effect is more pronounced since babies’ stomachs are small and can only hold a little at a time.
2. Acid reflux – Acid reflux is common in young babies, and occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t close completely, causing some of the stomach acid to come up and lead to spitting up.
3. Food allergies – Some babies can have an allergic reaction to something in the formula they are consuming or even in the mom’s diet. However, in such cases, the spitting up is often accompanied by symptoms like diarrhea.
4. Pyloric stenosis – The pylorus is at the bottom of the stomach through which food passes into the intestines. If the pylorus muscles are enlarged, it can lead to spitting up. This is a serious condition that requires surgery, but it is an extremely rare condition, occurring only in 3 out of 1,000 babies.
Types of spitting up
Normal spit-up – This spit-up has a smooth texture and looks almost identical to the milk the baby has had, whether it is breast milk or formula. This kind of spit-up is generally seen during or immediately following feeding.
Curdled spit-up – This spit-up has a chunkier, curdled appearance and is usually seen a while after the baby’s feeding. The curdled appearance is due to the action of the stomach acids on the breast milk or formula while it is in the baby’s stomach.
Colored spit-up – For young babies who consume only milk, the spit-up is likely to be whitish in color. For older babies who’ve started solids, the color of the spit-up will change depending on what foods they eat. However, red could indicate the presence of blood, while green or yellow could indicate the presence of bile or phlegm.
Vomit – Vomiting is actually completely different from spit-up and is generally a sign of the baby being unwell. For instance, spit-up usually occurs close to the baby’s body, while vomit travels farther. Spitting up is gentler, while vomiting requires more force and can be painful for the baby.
Should I worry about my baby spitting up?
Seeing the baby spit up can worry most new parents, but it is generally harmless. In fact, your baby may appear to be more comfortable after spitting up and getting that release. Spitting up can also free up space in the baby’s tummy, making room for more milk.
One thing to remember is that the spit-up milk usually appears more than it actually is. It may seem like your baby has spit up everything she ate, but that is very unlikely. The mess on your clothes is no indication of how much your baby has actually spit up!
In a nutshell, spitting up is not harmful and should not affect your baby’s growth and well-being. As long as your baby seems fine otherwise, there is nothing to worry about. However, if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, it is better to consult a doctor:
- Forceful spitting up
- Spit up that is red, brown, green, or yellow
- Spit up that looks like coffee grounds
- Suddenly starts spitting up after 6 months of age
- Refusal to feed
- Insufficient weight gain
- Blood in the stool
- Increased irritability or crying
- Cough or difficulty breathing
- Fewer wet diapers
If you notice any of these signs, it could be a sign of an illness, so it’s best to see the doctor right away. As for regular spit-up, you can reduce its occurrence by following a few simple tips.
How to Prevent Baby Spitting Up Curdled Milk
1. Choose the right feeding position
Babies who feed in lying positions tend to spit up more than babies who feed in other positions. While feeding your baby, keep the baby’s head at a higher level than the feet. Ensure that the baby stays in this position throughout the feeding and doesn’t dip down. This helps the milk to flow down easily and reduces the likelihood of it coming up.
2. Ensure a good latch
A good latch is essential for multiple reasons – reducing pain, improving suction, and also reducing the intake of air. Swallowing air while sucking can increase the likelihood of spitting up as well as acid reflux. A good latch means that the baby’s mouth is open wide around the areola and not just the nipple. The baby’s chin touches the breast and the lips appear turned out.
3. Avoid overfeeding
Feeding too much or too fast can both result in spitting up. Rather than feeding a lot few times a day, increase the number of feedings and feed a little less at each feeding. This ensures that the baby’s little tummy doesn’t get stuffed beyond capacity. Keep an eye out for the signs of fullness, like slowed sucking, relaxed hands, or getting distracted.
4. Control the flow of milk
Along with ensuring that the baby isn’t overfed, you also need to control the flow of milk into the baby’s mouth. This can be an issue for mothers who have an oversupply of breast milk or a powerful let-down, which can cause a sudden rush of milk that the baby can’t handle. Express some milk before starting the feeding, so your baby gets a more controlled flow of milk. If you’re bottle feeding, choose a nipple with a smaller hole.
5. Avoid distractions while feeding
As your baby starts becoming more aware of the world around her, she may start stalling during feeding and getting distracted. This can lead to a loosening of the latch and swallowing more air, increasing the likelihood of spitting up. Try to feed in a quiet environment without distractions around, and try to keep the baby focused on the feeding. If she is too distracted, she may be full, so you can remove her from the breast.
6. Remember to burp your baby
Burping the baby is one of the best ways to reduce spitting up, although if you’ve overfed the baby, burping could lead to more spit up! Burp frequently during feeding as well as after, by holding the baby up and patting on the back to release any trapped air. If bottle feeding, burp after every 30 ml of milk.
7. Keep your baby upright after feeding
Even after burping your baby, it helps to hold him in an upright position for the next 20-30 minutes so the milk has a chance to settle down in his tummy. Avoid any active play like bouncing or swinging since this can lead to spitting up or even vomiting. Instead, simply sit down with the baby or walk around holding him.
8. Put baby to sleep on her back
Experts recommend putting babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. This is also helpful for another reason – it reduces pressure on the tummy and reduces the chances of spitting up.
9. Raise the head of your baby’s mattress
Keeping the head in a raised position is a great way to reduce the chances of spitting up or acid reflux. However, it is not recommended to use pillows for babies, so an easy way to achieve this is to roll up some blankets and place it under the baby’s crib mattress. This keeps the head elevated without hurting the baby’s posture.
10. Reduce pressure on baby’s tummy
While placing the baby on her back is a good way to reduce pressure on her tummy, it also helps to dress her in comfortable clothes. Avoid anything that is tight at the waist, like pants with tight elastic bands. This also applies to diapers – fasten the seals in a comfortably loose manner, leaving some room for the baby’s tummy.
11. Look at your own diet
If you are breastfeeding your baby, your diet may have an impact on the baby’s spitting up. Some babies react adversely to certain foods in their mothers’ diets, like tomatoes, citrus fruits, spices, and carbonated drinks. You can try avoiding these foods and see if it’s reducing your baby’s spitting up.
12. Change your baby formula
If you are bottle feeding, it may help to look at your baby’s formula. Switching to a formula with low-lactose content or a hypoallergenic formula may help reduce spitting up. Always consult your pediatrician before changing your baby’s formula.
If you’ve tried all these methods but your baby is still spitting up, there may be another problem. Please watch out for any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, and if you notice any of them, consult your doctor right away.