Its normal for parents to worry if their child vomits. Most babies vomit occasionally and mild vomiting from time to time isn’t usually a cause for concern.
In the first few months of life, it’s common for both breastfed babies and formula fed babies to spit up milk after a feed.
The most common cause of vomiting in babies after the first few months is a virus, often gastroenteritis (stomach flu). A tummy bug like gastro can also cause other symptoms, such as fever and diarrhea. This can be dangerous in very young babies, as it can lead to dehydration.
If your baby’s vomiting lasts more than 12 hours, seek medical help.
How do I stop my baby vomiting after feeding?
Infant vomiting is common in both breastfed babies and formula fed babies, particularly before the introduction of solid foods. When your baby vomits soon after she has finished a feed, it’s mainly due to her immature digestive system.
There are ways you can help reduce the amount of spit up that occurs after a feed:
- Feed your baby in a more upright position
- Avoid over feeding your baby. For breastfed babies, try offering feeds more often, to prevent your baby having too much breast milk at once. For bottle fed babies, used the paced bottle feeding method.
For more information on this, you can read BellyBelly’s article: Paced Bottle Feeding | What Is It?
- Allow your baby to burp during and after feeds
- Avoid bouncing your baby after feeding
- Avoid any pressure on the abdomen after feeding
- Keep your baby upright for a short period of time after feeding.
How do I know if my baby has reflux?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid travels back up the food pipe and causes mild vomiting in infants. Reflux occurs in most healthy infants and usually doesn’t cause any pain or irritation.
In all infants, the sphincter at the top of the stomach remains slightly open, allowing the stomach contents to travel back up the food pipe.
Because the diet of exclusively milk fed infants is 100% liquid, and they spend a lot of time lying down, it makes sense that reflux is a normal occurrence in infancy.
As time goes on and the stomach muscles strengthen, solid foods are introduced into the diet and your baby spends more time upright (i.e. sitting or beginning to stand), the persistent vomiting starts to lessen.
For some babies, reflux is troublesome. It causes other symptoms in addition to vomiting, such as:
- Excessive irritability
- Coughing or wheezing
- Upper abdominal pain
- Faltering growth.
If you suspect reflux is causing any of the above symptoms in your baby, see a doctor for advice. It’s important not to give your baby any medication for reflux without a prescription.
How much vomiting is too much for a baby?
Vomiting caused by a virus or tummy bug is not uncommon in babies. It’s still important, though, to monitor your baby closely for any signs of dehydration. Your baby can become dehydrated from persistent vomiting or from vomiting that is accompanied by diarrhea.
Signs of dehydration in a baby can include:
- Fewer wet diapers than usual
- Concentrated urine
- A dry mouth
- Unusual sleepiness
- A sunken fontanelle.
Severe dehydration can cause weight loss in some infants. Sometimes, the signs are less obvious but parents will notice that their child is not her usual self. If you have any concerns that your baby could be dehydrated, seek medical help.
You can prevent dehydration by doing the following:
- Breastfeed your baby more often
- Offer your bottle fed baby smaller feeds, more often
- Give your baby an oral rehydration solution
- Avoid giving fruit juice or fizzy drinks to older babies
- See a doctor to treat any illness in your baby.
Oral rehydration solution can be given to both breastfed and formula fed babies.
When is vomiting serious?
There are certain health conditions where vomiting is serious.
Pyloric stenosis is a medical condition that causes a thickening in the opening between the stomach and the intestine. This prevents the stomach contents from travelling through the pylorus to the top of the small intestine.
Pyloric stenosis occurs in about 1 in 500 babies. The condition is most common in babies under 6 months old and more common in premature infants; it is also found more frequently in males. The condition is usually diagnosed within the first 6 weeks of a baby’s life.
Pyloric stenosis causes projectile vomiting. It also results in fewer bowel movements, as frequent, forceful vomiting prevents food from entering the bowel.
If you suspect your baby could have pyloric stenosis, seek immediate medical attention. This condition does not get better on its own and requires surgery to divide the thickened muscle in the pylorus.
Other symptoms that could indicate that vomiting is serious are:
- Blood or bile in the vomit; vomiting blood can indicate a bowel obstruction
- A stiff neck or rash accompanying the vomiting
- Vomiting that lasts more than 12 hours in children under 1 year or 24 hours in children under 2 years.
If you are worried about any of your child’s symptoms, seek medical care from a healthcare professional.
How do I know if my baby is lactose intolerant?
Congenital lactose intolerance is rare in babies. Secondary lactose intolerance is more common and can be related to a certain food allergy or sensitivity (e.g. cow’s milk protein allergy).
Symptoms of lactose intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods are:
- Excessive gas
- Diarrhea-like bowel motions
- Excessive irritability.
These symptoms can also appear in breastfed babies when a mother has an oversupply of breast milk.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Oversupply Of Breast Milk – 7 Signs Of An Oversupply.
Babies who are lactose intolerant can still be breastfed. For bottle fed babies, a special formula is required.
For more information about lactose intolerance, read our article Lactose Intolerance – 4 Facts About Intolerance In Babies.