Baby Spitting Up

Dr. Alan Greene answers the question, How can I put an end to my baby's continual reflux problem?

Question

My 3-month-old is constantly spitting up. Could this be a long-term problem? Do you have any suggestions?

Answer

When things keep coming up, we call it reflux. Some reflux is normal. It's a problem if it interferes with a baby's growth or causes pain (from the tummy acid) or a chronic cough. Reflux is more common in premature babies.

Sometimes babies spit up because of an intolerance to their formula (usually the cow's milk protein or the soy). Start by trying full-hydrolysate formulas, like Alimentum or Nutramigen.

If you've tried these formulas and your baby is still spitting up, it's probably a mechanical issue. It's likely that the valve at the top of her stomach is still loose, putting pressure on her stomach and propelling some of her food back up.

Sometimes feeding smaller amounts more frequently can lessen this; when a baby's stomach never stretches to full, there is much less force. If this doesn't work, another formula that might help (for babies who do not have a problem with milk) is Enfamil AR -- it thickens when it hits the tummy so it is less likely to slosh up.

If these simple measures do not improve the situation, a visit to the GI doctor is wise. They can figure out how much of a problem it is and prescribe medicines for it. Some medications decrease the acid in the tummy contents, and some speed food through the stomach.

Most kids outgrow reflux without a problem. It usually gets worse until about 4 or 5 months and then starts to improve. The average age it disappears is 7 months, but it's common for it to last all the way until 18 months. If it's still there at 18 months, treatment is recommended. Otherwise, it is not likely to improve until school age. Usually reflux is not serious, but it can sometimes cause real problems.

 

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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