Why Babies Vomit—and What You Can Do About It

There’s nothing less fun than throwing up, except maybe when it’s baby who’s the one suffering. Not only is she miserable, but you’re also probably worried sick, wondering what to do and how to care for her. As unpleasant as it is, witnessing a baby throwing up is something all parents go through—and more than just once. For the most part, baby vomiting isn’t a major cause for concern. Read on to learn the difference between baby spit-up and vomit and what to do for a baby throwing up.

In this article:
Baby vomit vs spit-up
Why do babies throw up?
When to be concerned about baby throwing up
What to give baby after vomiting
How to stop baby from throwing up

Baby Vomit vs Spit-Up

It can be tough to tell the difference between baby vomit vs spit-up at first—especially if baby is on a milk-only diet, since infant vomit and spit-up look pretty much the same at that point. Once baby starts solid foods, the difference will be more clear: Vomit will often contain regurgitated food and therefore have a thicker consistency. Plus, babies tend to spit up way less frequently once they’re eating solids. But until then, the clue to telling apart baby vomit vs spit-up may lie in baby’s mood immediately after.

“Baby vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the stomach’s contents. The baby is usually irritable and upset by it,” says Anthony M. Loizides, director of the Aerodigestive Center, a division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. “Spitting up usually looks like the stomach contents are ‘pouring out’ of the mouth, and the baby isn’t bothered by it and instead goes about his business.”

Why Do Babies Throw Up?

Babies throw up for a number of reasons, and although a stomach bug is often to blame, that’s not always the case. Here are some other things that can lead to baby vomiting:

A milk or food allergy. “[If the child has a] milk protein allergy, baby vomiting can be related to the exposure to milk proteins either via breastmilk or formula,” says Melanie Greifer, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone in New York City. If baby is throwing up formula, consider switching to a soy-based formula or a hydrolyzed formula, which breaks down the milk particles and makes them easier for baby to digest. Similarly, baby throwing up after breastfeeding can indicate that he’s allergic to something in your diet. If the problem continues, contact a pediatrician or lactation consultant, who can help you begin an elimination diet.

Eating too much too quickly. Wondering what causes baby vomiting after eating? Both vomiting and spitting up can occur in babies who need to be burped more frequently or are being fed too much milk (either via breast or bottle) to comfortably fit in baby’s small stomach, Greifer says.

A triggered gag reflex. If baby has a sensitive gag reflex, he’ll be more likely to throw up after a coughing spell or even after tasting food or medication that he really doesn’t like. In these cases, you’ll notice baby coughing and throwing up immediately after swallowing.

Motion sickness. Just like adults, babies can suffer from motion sickness. This may be the culprit behind baby throwing up if you or your partner suffers from motion sickness as well.

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