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What does my baby's spit-up mean?

 

Gayle Horvitz, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Question: My 3-month-old baby seems to spit up frequently and has been crying more than usual. Could she have reflux, and if so, what can I do to help her?

Answer: Your daughter may be experiencing reflux, but rest assured this is very normal for most infants. Reflux occurs when food or liquid comes up the esophagus from the stomach because the muscle that connects the stomach to the esophagus is not yet developed enough to keep everything down. Sometimes the food or liquid reaches the mouth and the baby will spit up, and other times it never passes beyond the esophagus, which is called "silent reflux."

In babies, we diagnose reflux by considering their symptoms, including spitting up regularly, fussiness, hiccupping, arching or stiffening as a sign of discomfort, coughing, or congestion. Reflux can be very irritating and uncomfortable for a child; in fact, that fussiness may be a result of the baby having a sensation of heartburn.

You can provide your child with relief by using some simple home remedies, including having her sleep on an incline to keep her head above her feet; burping her frequently; and if she is bottle-fed, choosing a nipple that slows her feeding pace. Offering smaller bottles more often can help. If she shows signs of dehydration or lethargy, is not gaining weight, or her diapers are not wet frequently, you should take her to see your pediatrician. And, though it is not typical, choking or spitting up anything green or bloody is definitely cause for a trip to the emergency room.

Page Last Modified: 05/04/2011
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