Why Your Infant may be Throwing Up and What to Do

infantHaving an infant can be a lot of work. There are a lot of things that parents have to think about, diaper changes, feedings, what does every cry mean, lack of sleep, etc.

There are a lot of things that can make one feel a bit concerned; one of them is when an infant is throwing up. But when do you consider it throwing up or just merely spitting up and when is it time to be concerned?

Well, here is some helpful information that may help you make a decision as to what can you do to help your infant feel a little better.

How to Tell if it’s Spit-up or Vomiting

Generally, spit-up isn’t really something to be concerned about. That’s when the baby experiences reflux[1] (like adults but children actually spit up).

This could be from overfeeding the infant (they have smaller stomachs, the size of a marble at birth[2]) or it could just be their digestive system figuring out on how to operate in life.

Spit Up: When babies are young, they can’t hold that much food, which explains their frequent eating. According to Similac babies could be spitting up due to wet burps, eating too much, and swallowing too much air.

The swallowing of air can be something that is rectified by giving them a different bottle, or a different position to eat in. Spitting up isn’t a concern in general as long as they are still eating, and still developing at the right pack.

It might seem like a lot to you as a parent but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Vomiting: Vomiting is different from spit-up. Unlike spit-up, vomiting is more violent.

The baby will notice that they are doing it and will be more uncomfortable. If it happens more than once, it could be a virus.[3]

While they are not necessarily always harmful, they could cause dehydration, especially in children under 1 year of age. That is when it could become a concern.

Why Vomiting Could be Happening

The body is amazing at cleaning itself out. As an adult, think about food poisoning and a hangover. It’s the baby’s way of trying to rid itself of all the toxins that have entered the system.

However, there are times that vomiting is caused by something more serious such as a blockage in the stomach or intestine or intracranial hypertension.[4]

Excessive vomiting can be a sign of congenital abnormalities including pyloric stenosis, birth defects, intussusception (sliding of one segment of intestine into another) and food intolerances.[5]

Healthy Children also shows that there are additional reasons that could cause vomiting which has nothing to do with the stomach or digestive area at all; it has to do with the brain.

This could be when there is a psychological stimulus from disturbing sights or smells and motion sickness.[6]

When to Be Concerned

Even though vomiting can be something that happens once in a while, if it becomes more frequent or is associated with additional symptoms then parents can start to worry and consider making a call to the doctor.

Let’s take a look at some of the warning signs.

Vomiting after feeding: If this occurs on a regular basis, there could be a few reasons for this. But if it occurs for two days in a row, you’ll want to get it checked out.

It could be pyloric stenosis or if associated with a rash, it could be a food allergy (even if the infant is on breast milk, foods that the mom eats will transfer to the infant).[7]

The persistent vomiting after eating generally occurs within fifteen to thirty minutes after they have eaten.

Associated with fever and screaming: This could point towards bacterial meningitis, which is the infection of membranes surrounding the brain tissue. This is generally prevented by getting the Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine. [8]

But if you don’t get them your baby can contract the disease. If your baby is vomiting and screaming at an ear-piercing volume then you should call your pediatrician immediately.

There are some symptoms that you don’t want to wait to see how long they last for, they are ones you just want to call the doctor immediately or go to Urgent Care/ER.

These symptoms include Blood or bile is in the vomit, severe abdominal pain, strenuous and repeated vomiting, swollen abdomen, lethargy or severe irritability, convulsions, dehydration, and continuous vomiting for longer than 24 hours.

Any of these symptoms should be considered serious and require immediate medical attention.

What will the Doctors Ask?

The doctor will ask some general questions that you want to be prepared with answers for. They are going to want to know when it started, how often they are vomiting, what it looks like (color as well), was it forceful, and how much is vomited approximately.

Having these answers ready and available will give the doctor an idea as to what caused it, especially if it occurs at specific times. Also, knowing if it happened after certain foods could be essential to helping doctor in making a diagnosis.

They could also run tests such as X-Rays, CT scans, allergy testing, GI series, endoscopy, as well as others. But there is a range of testing they can do depending on what symptoms are presenting.

While it can be concerning when the baby brings up something you have to, as the parent, discern the difference between spitting up and vomiting and when to start getting worried.

The information above can be helpful in determining when you need to consider taking a trip to the doctor, but this information should not be in place of medical advice. If you are concerned, call the pediatrician.


  1. Similac. Baby Spit Up & Vomit – How to Tell the Difference. [Link]
  2. See above #1
  3. See above #1
  4. Merck Manuals. Vomiting in Infants and Children – Children’s Health Issues Merck Manuals Consumer Version. [Link]
  5. See above #4
  6. Healthy Children. Infant Vomiting. [Link]
  7. Parents Magazine (Gordon, S.) Vomiting: A Symptom Guide. [Link]
  8. See above #7
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