Why Does My 3 Month Old Spit Up So Much? What Causes It?

Do you feel a little worried that your little one spit-up again? Is it happening almost every after feeding? Spit-ups are pretty normal for babies. In fact, 50% of newborns up to 3 months old spit-up at least once each day. It usually peaks around 4 months, and they should be able to outgrow spit-ups when they age roughly 7-8 months.

For first-time moms like myself, I remembered how it concerns me if my little one is feeling fine or if he is getting enough milk since he would spit-up once or twice within the day, but as long as your baby feeds according to his age and is continuously gaining weight, all should be fine.

What causes spit-up?

There could be several reasons why your baby would spit up, and it may also depend on how much and how often they do, but experts estimate 40% of normal and healthy babies spit-up after feedings. The most common cause is overfeeding or sometimes what they call physiological or uncomplicated reflux in infants. Causes may also vary if your baby is breastfed or formula-fed.

  • Immature Digestive System – The simplest reason is that our babies’ digestive system is just not developed enough; the milk tends to “overflow,” which causes the contents to flow backward and up to the esophagus. Their stomach will slowly mature, of course, but for the first few months, keep your washcloth handy.
  • Overfeeding – Our little ones don’t usually stop feeding even if they are already full. Sometimes they will continuously feed because they’re trying to relieve pain, stress, or wanted to sleep. Once their tiny stomach is full and they shift positions, you can almost expect your baby to spit-up.
  • Food sensitivity – If your baby is breastfed, you might also want to check what you eat since it will reflect in your milk. For formula-fed babies, you might want to consult your doctor for another formula option if your baby is spitting-up excessively. Up to half of all GERD cases in babies under a year are associated with cow’s milk protein allergy.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – This condition occurs in less than 1% of infants. Compared to a normal spit-up, GERD also comes with heartburn from acid; therefore, babies usually cry or are always in discomfort.

Ways to Reduce Spit-Ups

A 3-month baby just spit up some milk.
  • Avoid overfeeding – Feeding your baby 1 full time might be the reason he/she spit-up so much; try small frequent feedings and see which better works for your baby. Your baby’s digestive system will eventually mature in time, but until then, feed him/her just enough.
  • Keep your baby upright – Babies love exploring and moving around as they learn and discover new ways to move and that they can roll over or crawl. Still, you must give your baby a couple of minutes after feeding to stay in an upright position for the milk to sink in and avoid backflow, leading to spit-up.
  • Take time to burp – Every time that your baby feeds, they’ll most likely gulp the milk with some air which would not sit well inside their tiny stomach and is another cause of spit-up. Make sure that they let these air out by taking time to burp every after feeding.
  • Watch out for formula or food intake – If you are breastfeeding your baby, you might want to monitor what you eat too, especially those with cow’s milk ingredients that could cause or trigger spit-up for some babies. For formula-fed babies, you might want to consult your pediatrician and other formula options if your baby is spitting-up excessively.

What is the difference between spitting up and vomiting?

Spit-up can be misinterpreted as vomiting especially if a baby spit-up so much. While spit-up can (sometimes) be taken lightly, vomiting should always be taken seriously because it usually indicates an issue that needs urgent action for your baby. Spit-up is an easy flow of baby’s milk, while vomit is a more forceful flow, usually shooting inches from the mouth and not just dropping slowly.

When should I take my baby to the doctor for vomiting?

A young mom is trying to console her baby boy, who went from spitting up to vomiting. She's considering taking him to to doctor to get checked.
  • Vomiting several times – Once your baby starts to vomit, be ready to get in touch with your doctor, but if your baby vomits several times, it’s time to rush to the hospital and prepare to answer the doctor’s question accurately. The main thing that we are trying to prevent is for our baby to be dehydrated due to vomiting too much, second is the cause of the vomit.
  • Feeding little to none – After they throw up, it’s usually not advisable to feed your baby right away. It is best to wait for a couple of hours, and once you feed them, try small but frequent feedings so their stomach will not be forced to take the milk in and trigger vomit again. But if they refuse to feed even if you know that they are hungry, it’s best to call the doctor because again they can get dehydrated, and we don’t want that.
  • Has a fever or other signs of being sick – Vomiting is one thing but pair it with fever is something that moms don’t want together, ever. At this point, your baby might need a prescription from his/her doctor to make the fever and vomit stop. Remember to always consult your doctor first before letting your baby drink any kind of medicine.
  • Cries excessively and feels irritated than usual – Your baby’s vomit could be the only sign that you see, but your little one might be feeling something from inside like acid reflux or stomach craps, and you will not have a clue besides them crying, which is what they use for all other things that they feel. They are trying to communicate that something doesn’t feel right, and it’s best that you listen and don’t make assumptions that it’s because of something small or irrelevant.
  • Vomits something that doesn’t look like milk – Anything at all that doesn’t look like milk, may it be yellow or green fluid or worst, blood. Just rush to the doctor and save yourself from thinking what might it be or something normal. If it doesn’t look like milk, it’s not normal.
  • Poops and vomits at the same time – Excessive vomiting and pooping is usually a sign that your baby is eating something that is not good for him/her or that your baby has an allergy to the milk that he/she is drinking.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). It is mild acid reflux that occurs at least once every week. Some of the symptoms include heartburn, a burning sensation in your chest usually after eating or before you sleep at night.

GERD is usually being associated with a simple spit-up due to the similarities of symptoms except with GERD, babies tend to be more irritable or in discomfort most of the time because of the acid reflux that is not present in normal spit-up. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP):

Parents of healthy infants should be reassured that most regurgitation resolves spontaneously by the end of the first year of life. For children and adolescents, gastroesophageal reflux treatment should incorporate lifestyle changes and, in the absence of GERD, does not routinely require pharmacologic intervention.

Conclusion

I think worrying about anything out of the ordinary or normal for our babies is one part of every moms’ job that is both stressful and eye-opening. Stressful because we always want our babies to be comfortable and at the top of their health, that’s why we go the extra mile most of the time taking care of everything for them, what they eat, what they do, how they develop, every little thing. But also eye-opening because each time these unusual things happen, we learn something new from them.

Spit-up is just one of the many things we have to go through and get over with, but with the right and knowledge and guidance from experts (doctors), what seems scary or complicated will make sense and be bearable. I hope we answered most if not all of your questions about spit-up for your little one. Always feel free to share your insights in the comments down below; stay happy and healthy!

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