Why Do Babies Spit Up?

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Babies come with a lot of joy—and often with a lot of mess, too. If you’ve been dealing with spit up, we’ve written this article for you.

Determining why your baby is spitting up can help you navigate the issue more easily. In this article, we’ll take a look at some things that may be contributing to excess spit up. We’ll also talk about what you can do to help avoid it altogether.

What’s Normal?

It’s fair to say a certain amount of spit up is entirely normal and totally appropriate. Occasional spit up may happen—no matter what kind of steps you’re taking. As long as that spit up amounts to less than an ounce, there’s probably nothing to be concerned about.

Even though it’s normal for babies to spit up sometimes, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate it. Knowing why your baby is spitting up can help you better understand what you need to change.

What Causes Babies To Spit Up?

There are several reasons your baby may be spitting up after meals. Below are some of the more common causes.

Some of these problems you’ll be able to rectify at home with a few small changes. Others may need a pediatrician consultation. The great news is—there’s definitely something you can do about it.

Acid Reflux

Spit up in babies can be an indication of acid reflux. Also known as Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, this can be one of the more serious reasons your baby is spitting up. A baby suffering from this type of reflux may also experience vomiting and weight loss. 

Acid reflux can happen for a number of reasons, including an immature digestive system. Most children outgrow this condition. If you suspect your child has GERD, your doctor can help create an ongoing treatment plan with you.


Overfeeding can easily cause your baby to spit up. Unfortunately, your baby may eat too much to begin with, feel uncomfortable, and seek more food for comfort. This can be an unfortunate cycle for your little one.

To avoid overfeeding, pay attention to how long you’re nursing for or how many ounces have been consumed. If you can, break up your feedings by distracting your little one in the middle. This may give them enough time to digest a little or even to realize they are no longer hungry.

Another benefit of not overfeeding your young child? Overfeeding as a baby can lead to later obesity, as children get used to that overfull feeling. Successfully avoiding it early on can lead to better health in the future, as well as less spit up.

Food Sensitivities Or Allergies

Babies’ systems are still developing. Their immature digestive systems can have difficulty processing foods early on that won’t be a problem in the future.

Whether your baby is on formula or is nursing, there may be something they’re eating that just isn’t agreeing with them. If you’re nursing, you can keep a food journal to help keep track of what you’re eating and if your child is spitting up. This journal can help you identify any patterns.

If your child is on formula, it may just be that one of the ingredients doesn’t agree with their digestive system. If other approaches haven’t diminished the occurrences of spitting up, you may want to consider changing formulas.


Tips On Preventing Spit Up

Looking to minimize spit up? The following tips may be helpful:

  • Feed your baby in a slightly upright position: Whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding, keeping your baby upright can help prevent spit up.
  • Burp your baby: If feeding from a bottle, plan to burp after every ounce or two. If nursing, burp between sides. Holding your baby upright, gently rub up and down on the back for successful burping.
  • Avoid pressure on the stomach: Tight clothing and diapers can cause pressure on a full stomach that leads to spit up. Also, avoid any carrying positions that create uncomfortable pressure.
  • Skip vigorous bouncing: Whether it’s playtime or a bumpy car ride, you may want to hold off on them directly after eating.
  • Consider altering your diet: Nursing and notice there’s a correlation between what you’re eating and when your baby is spitting up? You may want to consider cutting it out from your diet.
  • Opt for a gentle formula: If your baby is being formula fed, you may want to consider swapping your current formula for a more tummy-friendly option.
  • Avoid overfeeding: Babies’ bellies are quite small. Not only does overfeeding cause discomfort, but it can also lead to spit up.
  • Use a slow flow bottle nipple: If your baby is bottle feeding, you may find success in choosing a slow-flow nipple. This helps prevent too much milk or formula from getting into your baby’s system too quickly.
  • Pump before nursing: If you have a strong letdown, your baby may be having difficulty keeping up. Pumping before feeding can help avoid this.
  • Don’t wait until your baby is hungry: A hungry baby is more prone to gulping and crying. Both of these behaviors can increase swallowed air, which can lead to more spit up and stomach upset.

When To Seek Professional Help

Spitting up can be quite normal for babies and young children. Unfortunately, spit up is not always normal. It can also indicate there’s a problem that needs medical attention. If you suspect, for any reason, that your child is suffering from something more serious than just spit up, consult your pediatrician.

Here are some signs that shouldn’t be ignored and indicate you need to seek medical intervention:

  • Your child spits up forcefully
  • Spit up is green or yellow
  • Your child is not gaining (or is even losing) weight
  • There is fresh blood or “coffee grounds” in the spit up
  • Your baby doesn’t spit up initially but begins spitting up after the 6-month mark
  • There is blood in your baby’s stool
  • Your baby cries for more than 3 hours a day or is excessively irritable
  • There are few wet diapers
  • Your child refuses meals
  • There is difficulty breathing or any other signs of illness
mom and baby

How Long Do Babies Spit Up?

The older your baby gets, the easier navigating meals will become. Their stomachs become larger. They are able to more easily handle stomach discomfort. Their systems also become more capable of digesting meals.

Early on, your child has little on his or her daily agenda. They spend their time looking for food and cuddles. As they grow and begin to more regularly engage in their surroundings, they’ll also be more comfortable going longer between meals. This can help you avoid overfeeding-related spit ups.

Many children begin to outgrow spit up as early as three months. Others will stop spitting up once they are able to sit up or around 6–7 months of age. Have a child who continues to spit up beyond that time? The great news is spit up usually resolves by the time your child reaches a year old—even in the case of GERD.

Limiting Spit Up

Baby spit up may be a fact of life with babies. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a constant experience. There are ways you can help cut back on baby spit up. You’ll be making your baby more comfortable while saving yourself a little extra work.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to identify some potential causes for your baby’s spit up. Making a few small adjustments to your feeding routine can make all the difference for your little one—and for you.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.