Spitting up in babies: What's normal, what's not

Spitting up is a rite of passage for many babies. Here's what's behind spitting up — and when it might signal a more serious problem.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You've just fed your baby breast milk or formula only to watch him or her spit up what seems like all of it. Is this normal? Find out the possible causes of spitting up, and what you can do about it.

What causes spitting up?

Spitting up is common in healthy babies. About half of all babies experience gastroesophageal reflux, also called infant reflux, during their first three months. Normally, a valve (lower esophageal sphincter) between the esophagus and the stomach keeps stomach contents where they belong. Until this valve has time to mature, spitting up might be an issue — especially if your baby eats too much.

How can you tell if your baby is spitting up or vomiting?

Spitting up is the easy flow of a baby's stomach contents through his or her mouth, possibly with a burp. Vomiting occurs when the flow is forceful — shooting out inches rather than dribbling from the mouth.

It seems like my baby is spitting up a lot. Can spitting up affect my baby's growth?

Normal spitting up doesn't interfere with a baby's well-being. As long as your baby seems comfortable and is eating well and gaining weight, there's little cause for concern. If your baby is gaining weight, then he or she isn't being harmed by the calories lost through spitting up.

Keep in mind that it's easy to overestimate the amount your baby has spit up based on the size of a spit-up stain.

Feb. 22, 2014 See more In-depth