Most infants spit up after eating. Although messy, it poses no serious health risk. The occurrences peak when the baby reaches four months old and often last until he is approximately 12 months old. Most babies appear oblivious to the spit up and it causes them no discomfort. Parents should remember to not make a big deal about it or the baby may become frightened and begin to cry.
Babies spit up because the flap at the end of their esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, is slow to develop and mature. The flap works like a valve to keep the contents of the stomach back so it does not rise up the esophagus, into the mouth and out.
When a baby consumes its food rapidly or takes in an excessive amount of milk he is more at risk of suffering from spit up. Infants born prematurely are also more at risk from suffering excessive spit up because their esophageal flap is even more immature and weak than a full term baby.
If the baby appears to suffer excessive coughing after spitting up or shows physical discomfort the parent should contact a pediatrician immediately. Infants who do not gain adequate weight may be suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). The disorder causes excessive acid in to back up into the esophagus which can cause pain and discomfort for the infant. GERD is often difficult for a physician to diagnosis because the infant often may not actually spit up the substance but shows symptoms similar to colic.
To reduce spit up, consider feeding the infant in an propped upright position. Keep the baby sitting upright for approximately 30 minutes after feeding to help reduce the spit up. Some parents use wedges in the infant's crib to prompt his head upward so he does not suffer spit up while sleeping but placing a pillow into a child's crib can pose a serious danger to the baby. Consult your pediatrician before using a wedge to support your infants head to determine if it is safe or not.
Parents using a bottle to feed their baby should always use an age appropriate nipple. Nipples designed for older babies often have a faster milk flow rate. The faster flow rate rapidly feeds the infant and can make spit up even worse. A baby fed using a fast flow bottle nipple will also gulp excessive air which can cause him to suffer spit up, hiccups and excessive gas buildup.
After feeding the baby always take time to burp him. Some mothers stop halfway through the feeding to burp their baby which also helps reduce the risk of spit up. Reducing the amount of milk or food fed on each feeding will also help relieve spit up.
Avoid excessive play and bouncing after feeding the baby. Jiggling or bouncing the baby will increase the likelihood that he will spit up.
Keep rags on hand to rapidly wipe up the spit up. Spit up on clothing often stains if prompt care is not taken to reduce the spot's effect. Consider placing a bib under on your baby to keep his clothes clean when spit up does happen. Packing several bibs in a diaper bag will give the parent the option of swapping out the dirty bibs for clean ones when out and about.
Feeding your infant should be a calm and happy experience. It should never be rushed. Its an ideal bonding time that should always be relished. Feeding an infant in a relaxed environment will also help calm his stomach and reduce the risk of a possible spit up from occurring. A rushed feeding or distractions often cause an infant to gulp air or eat fast which will cause him to spit up when done. Consider sitting in a room with the lights soft and placing soothing music on so the infant is calm and relaxed.