Many pediatricians are often faced with the question from new parents, “Why does my baby throw up after eating?” This is a big concern for parents and pediatricians alike. While some spitting up after feeding is considered normal, reflux disease has recently come to light in small infants. This has led to almost an overtreatment of the issue with medications that may not even be safe in young babies. This article will explain the reason for you baby spitting or vomiting after eating and when you should worry.

Why Does My Baby Throw Up After Eating?

It is normal for babies to “spit up” small amounts after feedings and is not harmful. This tends to be at its worst around 4 months and goes away about 1 year of age. This spitting up can usually be attributed to feeding in the beginning. Babies have tiny stomachs and too much milk can cause them to spit up. 

Precaution: It is not uncommon for newborn babies to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux within the first 3 months of life. Gastroesophageal reflux in infants is caused by the lower esophageal sphincter valve that lies between the stomach and the esophagus. This valve is supposed to keep fluids in the stomach, but tends to be weak early on. This will cause babies to spit up after eating, even more so if overfed or fed too fast.

Any baby with projectile vomiting after feeding needs urgent evaluation by a specialist. It is caused by the sphincter muscle into the esophagus is too tight to allow food into the stomach. Anything you feed your baby will be vomited right back up. This can cause severe malnutrition and death if untreated.

How can I tell if my baby is spitting up or vomiting?

When your baby spits up it is just a gentle release of fluids and only in small amounts. This usually doesn’t bother the baby at all. When they vomit, it tends to be large amounts and comes out of the mouth with great force. When they vomit, they will often cry and get upset.

Is it normal for my baby to vomit?

During the first few weeks of life, your baby may vomit a little more due to feeding adjustments and the development of the esophageal sphincter. There may be large amounts and your baby may cry and be fussy.

During stressful conditions your baby may vomit more than normal. When your baby is sick your baby may vomit. Crying can even cause some vomiting in babies. This may happen from time to time in the first couple of years.

Vomiting should go away anywhere from 6 to 24 hours. There is usually not treatment needed with the exception of making sure you give your baby extra fluids. If your baby is in good health and gaining weight there usually is no cause for concern. If vomiting lasts longer than 24 hours, is very forceful and interfering with feedings then you should check with baby’s doctor.

Baby Throw Up After Eating-- What to Do?

1. Keep Your Baby Hydrated

If your baby is unable to tolerate feedings, make sure you are giving him or her an oral electrolyte solution often. Use a few sips every hour with or without formula and water. It is important not to use sugared or sports drinks for babies.

2. Ease Back Into Feeding

Give your baby at least 12 to 24 hours after vomiting has stopped to try regular feeding. Take it easy and offer feedings of formula along with extra fluids. If your baby is eating solids, feed a bland diet at first such as baby cereal or yogurt. If your baby is over one-year of age you can offer popsicles or frozen treats.

3. Rest

Sleep can help the digestive system empty via the intestines and calm down. Encourage as much rest and sleep as possible for your baby.

4. Elevate Baby’s Head and Upper Torso

Make sure you feed your baby while upright. Allow him or her to stay upright for at least 15 minutes after eating. You can also prop baby in an infant seat or hold them up over your shoulder. Try not to encourage play or play them in moving toys like infant swings.

5. Feed Smaller Amounts, Frequently

Overfeeding can cause spitting up and  vomiting. Try to feed small amounts often to prevent them from spitting up.

6. Don’t Forget To Burp Your Baby

Air trapped in the stomach after feeding can force it back up. Take time to burp your baby to get rid of excess air. Place your baby up over your shoulder, support the head while patting the back.

7. Check Your Bottle Nipples

If the hole in bottle nipples is too large then baby may get too much too fast. Nipples that have too small of holes can cause the baby to swallow air. To make sure the hole is the right size, turn the bottle upside down and look for just a few drips while inverted.

8. Make Sure You Are Eating Right

Breastfeeding moms need to pay attention to what they are eating. Food intolerances to foods mom is eating could cause tummy upset in breastfed babies.

When Should I Worry About Baby Throw Up After Eating?

Spitting up and vomiting that comes on quickly is often caused by stomach viruses. Gastroenteritis can cause both vomiting and diarrhea. Other illnesses and infections include:

  • Ear infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Colds

Vomiting can also be caused by a food allergy or intolerance. This is easy to tell when babies refuse to eat certain foods. When eaten you will notice the signs of an allergic reaction, one of which could be vomiting. If you think allergies are the cause of your baby vomiting, check with your doctor to see about a food elimination diet.

From time to time, vomiting can be caused by serious illness in babies. There is one instance where you need to contact your doctor immediately and that is very forceful vomiting that does not stop within the first 30 minutes after feeding. This can be caused by a very serious condition known as, Pyloric Stenosis. This can show up anywhere from a few weeks of age and up to the fourth month of life. Without surgery, babies who have this condition cannot survive. It is treatable with surgery, but needs to be properly diagnosed right away. 

Other symptoms that need to be evaluated by your pediatrician include:

  • Symptoms of dehydration
  • Sunken fontanelle
  • Weak and floppy
  • Not as many wet diapers, no tears and dry looking mouth.
  • Bile or blood in the vomit. (This may happen from forceful vomiting tearing blood vessels. If your baby is well, usually no need to worry)
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bulging fontanelle
  • Not wanting to feed
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Skin rash

If you do need to see your doctor, you may need to collect and save a sample of the vomit. This may help the doctor with diagnosing what is wrong.