Spit Happens

By Susan Pennell-Sebekos on May 05, 2008
So, you didn’t know what you were going to do with all those receiving blankets and bibs you got as shower presents? Four months of age is prime time for baby spit up. Welcome to the ‘PreGumbrian Era’ (soon to be followed by the ‘Messyzoic Era’, after which you’ll be finding fossilized socks for years). Although it’s often upsetting for parents, spitting up is usually nothing to be concerned about (unless your washing machine is on the fritz). Spitting up often occurs when babies drool and burp (babies do not notice that they’ve spit up). Vomiting, on the other hand, can be powerful and often painful.

Why it happens

The medical term for ‘spitting up’ is reflux. Babies have immature digestive systems. The muscles at the base of a baby’s esophagus have yet to fully develop. The food in the stomach comes back up the esophagus.

Another factor contributing to the eruption is that, basically, the baby is overflowing. The baby has taken in too much food and is brimming over. Often, it’s caused by sucking in air. When babies are nursing, either from the breast or a bottle, they draw in air at the same time. When a baby burps that air often comes up with liquid.

How to have less mess

Avoid overfeeding. Instead of larger meals, give your baby smaller, more frequent feedings. Feed calmly. If your baby is frantically hungry, or crying and gulping, she’ll be taking in more air. Keep the feeding calm and as leisurely as possible. Do your best to eliminate distractions. Don’t jostle. Minimize moving your baby too much during and after feeding. Don’t walk around or rock. Sit baby up Feeding while your baby is lying down or reclined worsens the problem. Keep your baby as upright as possible during meals. Burp often. If bottle-fed, burp your baby every three or four minutes during feedings. Check the bottle’s nipple. See that it is neither too big nor too small.

Too small will make your baby suck in harder and draw in more air. Too large can lead to their feeding too fast and often too much.

When to call the doctor

Spitting up is normal, although it can be distressing for parents. If, however, your baby exhibits any of the following, call your doctor.
  • Is not gaining weight.
  • Vomits forcefully.
  • Is not wetting many diapers.
  • Seems overly tired.
  • Gagging or choking.
  • Spits up brown or green liquid.
  • Wheezes, coughs or makes hoarse-sounding cries.

Getting the spit out of there

A baby wipe can take care of most spills, but baking soda also works wonders to remove stains and odours. Dab the offending area with a moist cloth sprinkled with baking soda.




By Susan Pennell-Sebekos| May 05, 2008

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