How to Reduce Spit Up in Breastfed Babies
New moms google a lot of questions when their babies are newborns. OK, who are we kidding…most moms look online for answers well into toddlerhood and childhood! But one of the most frequent issues new moms might read about during their baby’s first few months of life involves spitting up (with sleeping issues also a hot topic). Questions like: Why is my breastfed baby spitting up? My breastfed baby spits up frequently–is my diet causing her to do this? Did she have some sort of intolerance? Did I need to eliminate dairy or soy? Could it be reflux? Or was this perfectly normal?
Some pediatricians suggest that even frequent spitting up is rarely a sign of any serious condition. “It’s usually a laundry problem, not a medical one,” they might say. So long as your baby is steadily gaining weight and otherwise developing properly, you more than likely have nothing to worry about and the spitting up will decrease as your infant gets closer to one year of age.
All the same, it can be disheartening when your nursing baby continues to spit up often. It’s normal for moms to wonder if there’s something they need to do differently, if their baby is getting enough milk, if their let-down reflex is too strong, or if there is some issue with their breast milk altogether.
Always speak to your baby’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant if you feel there is a problem. And here are a few tips that might help prevent or lessen the frequency of spit ups:
1 – Let gravity help when feeding your baby.
Generally, any feeding position that helps milk to go with gravity will help keep your baby’s stomach contents down. Try nursing your baby in a position where she is able to look at your breast while partially sitting up, facing you. When she is finished feeding, hold her upright for a few minutes.
Some moms find that wearing their baby in a sling or a carrier after feeding (or nursing in a sling or carrier altogether) helps reduce the frequency of post-feeding spit ups.Basically put, gravity helps.
If reflux is suspected, holding your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after each feeding will also help her keep her stomach contents down.
2 – A good latch will help your baby swallow less air.
Make sure your newborn is properly latched onto the breast while feeding. A good latch will help your baby swallow less air. It will also help make breastfeeding comfortable for you. His mouth should cover a lot of the areola–not just the nipple but the surrounding tissue as well.
If his cheeks remain full, round, and smooth while he is sucking, he probably has a good latch. But if his cheeks dimple or he makes clicking noises, he might not be latched on well. In this case, gently unlatch him and try again. When your baby is latched on properly, you shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort.
3 – Empty the first breast before offering the second breast.
Some breastfeeding mothers have a very strong let-down reflex or an oversupply of milk. This can make it difficult for your baby to feed. Try giving your baby an opportunity to completely drain the first breast by keeping him on one side for an entire feeding. Let him decide when he’s done with the first breast. He will show you that he’s done by pulling away (or sometimes falling asleep). Once he finishes feeding on the first breast, if he is still awake you can try offering the second breast.
4 – Give your baby ample opportunities to burp.
If your baby feeds on both breasts, give him an opportunity to burp when he finishes the first breast. Sometimes that extra burp will help prevent spit up later.
5 – Relax and remember your newborn has a developing body.
Your newborn baby’s body has a lot of growing to do. Sometimes frequent spit ups are caused by an underdeveloped esophageal sphincter–the muscle that helps keep food contents in the stomach. This muscle continues to strengthen and grow while your baby is an infant. So if your baby spits up a lot, the problem could simply resolve itself as your infant grows.
6 – Consider an elimination diet.
In some cases, an elimination diet can help identify foods that, when eliminated from your diet, reduce the frequency and occurrence of spit ups. Although spit ups are rarely caused by food ingested by the mother, it’s still a possibility worth mentioning to your baby’s pediatrician if you suspect there might be an issue.
And if you have a strong family history of allergies, then there’s a slight chance your baby could also be allergic to something in your breast milk. Your health care provider and your baby’s pediatrician can offer recommendations about adjustments to your diet.
7 – Have your baby evaluated for reflux.
While frequent spitting up can be perfectly normal, it’s important to keep your baby’s pediatrician updated if you suspect it could be caused by something bigger like reflux. Symptoms of reflux include difficulty gaining weight, frequent spit ups while prone, arching the back while breastfeeding, frequent coughing or wheezing, choking or gagging while breastfeeding, and frequent crying and fussiness (colickly behavior).
Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about his symptoms if you see any combination of these and are unsure of the cause.