Spit Up Tips that Stay Down Well

Parents have been bringing up lots of questions about their babies who tend to “spit up” a lot.  This week, let me try to keep down their concerns and provide some information on spitting up, which we call infant heartburn or reflux.

All babies will spit up or vomit small amounts of formula or breast milk after a feeding.  So, I guess we can say that “spit (up) happens” – especially after being burped or during periods of movement.  Usually, spitting up peaks when a child is 3-4 months of age, and is gone before the first year of life.

So when do we worry?  We worry when stomach acid contents repeatedly go up the food pipe – called the esophagus – such that the esophagus becomes irritated and makes feedings quite painful for infants and children.  This can result in poor weight gain, bloody vomiting, inconsolable crying and even chronic cough, wheezing and pneumonia from food going up the food pipe and down the air or windpipe into the lungs. 

The good news is that this problem can be treated with a number of approaches:

If these approaches doesn’t work, there are medications your child’s doctor can recommend that are available over-the-counter or by prescription which will often take care of the problem, so please talk to him or her for further advice on diagnosing and treating this problem.

Hopefully tips like this will burn brightly in your mind – but not in your baby’s esophagus or food pipe – when it comes to knowing what to do if your baby or child spits up because of infant heartburn. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.