Decoding Newborn Vomiting – Identifying Causes, Solutions, and Prevention Strategies
Hello there! Hope you are enjoying that special phase as a new mother. Yes, everything…
Hello there! Hope you are enjoying that special phase as a new mother. Yes, everything might seem a bit overwhelming right now, especially if this is your first baby. For instance, seeing your baby vomit right after a feeding session might seem alarming for first-time mothers although it is a fairly common occurrence among newborns.
Just as the term suggests, newborn vomiting after feeding refers to the regurgitation of stomach contents through the mouth (soon after feeding. Although this is normal among newborns, it can be distressing for parents, especially if they have no idea what is causing it.
For this reason, parents need to be equipped with an understanding of the causes and solutions of newborn vomiting after feeding. It helps you identify normal vomiting from unusual ones, discover the potential causes of vomiting and implement necessary measures to prevent it.
Normal Feeding Behaviour In Newborns
Your newborn has a tiny stomach. As a result, they need to be fed small amounts at regular intervals. Newborns have a natural instinct to latch on, suck and swallow breast milk or formula milk. Although every baby has their own feeding pattern, most newborns need feeding every two to three hours.
During the first few weeks after birth, newborns consume between one to three ounces in every feeding session. This volume increases as the baby continues growing. Generally, newborns need to be fed about 8-12 times a day to keep them healthy and growing.
Spitting up a small amount of milk shortly after feeding is a common occurrence among newborns. You can easily identify this by the effortless regurgitation of milk. However, if the expulsion is frequent, forceful, and accompanied by other unusual symptoms, it might be a case of abnormal vomiting that demands immediate medical attention.
Common Causes of Newborn Vomiting After Feeding
Now let us explore some of the common causes of newborn vomiting after feeding.
Gastro-Esophageal Reflux (GER)
The stomach and the oesophagus are separated by a muscle barrier called the esophageal sphincter that prevents the flow of stomach contents back into the oesophagus. Newborns have underdeveloped sphincter, making them more vulnerable to this backflow known as GER. Its usual symptoms include spitting up after feeding, expressing discomfort during feeding, frequent hiccups and irritable behaviour
GER-related vomiting can be managed with these simple tips:
- While feeding and for a while after feeding, hold the infant in an upright position.
- Make the baby burp after feeding.
- Frequent and smaller feedings are better than feeding a large volume in one go.
When babies swallow more milk than their tiny stomachs can hold, it is termed overfeeding. In such cases, the excess may be expelled through vomiting. If your infant is gaining excess weight, spitting up often, appearing fussy and seems to have a bloated abdomen, these may be signs of overfeeding.
Here are some proven tips to avoid overfeeding:
- Observe hunger cues from the baby and feed them on demand.
- Allow the baby to finish feeding on a breast or bottle.
- Do not use feeding as a soothing technique when the baby is irritated or uncomfortable.
Immature Digestive System
Your newborn’s digestive system is still developing its ability to digest milk. Due to this immaturity, digestive muscles sometimes fail to coordinate properly, leading to vomiting or spitting up. However, you can try these ways to support the maturation of the digestive system:
- Seek the expertise of a lactation specialist if you feel the baby has problems with latching and feeding.
- Choose the right-sized nipple if the baby is being bottle-fed.
- When the baby is awake and active, help them practise some tummy time that aids in strengthening abdominal muscles.
Allergies Or Sensitivities
Newborns are prone to developing allergies or sensitivities to different substances such as pet dander, dust mites, pollen and cow’s milk protein, wheat or soy in baby formulas. So how do you know it is an allergic reaction? Here are some early indications to look out for:
- Vomiting or spitting up soon after feeding
- Incessant crying or expressing general discomfort
- Respiratory issues such as nasal congestion, coughing or wheezing
- Skin reactions such as eczema or rashes
- Digestive problems like diarrhoea or traces of blood in stool
Here are some tips to follow if you suspect your baby might be allergic to certain substances:
- Maintain a detailed feeding diary and meticulously record the time of feeding, type of feed and any symptoms you notice after feeding.
- If the baby is being breastfed, it may sometimes show reactions to certain substances like fish, eggs or peanuts that the mother consumes. In such cases, the mother may have to eliminate these triggers from her diet.
- Use hypoallergenic bedding and avoid exposure to pets if the baby is allergic to dust mites or pet dander.
- Consult a paediatrician to evaluate symptoms and conduct tests to determine the cause of allergies. Then follow the doctor’s guidance regarding intervention and medication.
Newborn vomiting after feeding may be an indication of underlying medical conditions such as pyloric stenosis or gastrointestinal infections. Let’s look a little closer at these two issues.
Pylorus refers to the opening of the stomach. When this opening thickens, it narrows the passage between the stomach and the small intestine, causing blockage known as pyloric stenosis. As a result, the stomach contents may not properly empty into the intestine. This leads to numerous symptoms that include:
Surgical intervention known as pyloromyotomy may be required to treat pyloric stenosis. During the process, the surgeon makes a small incision on the pylorus to stretch the opening so that food can comfortably pass through it. The surgery is totally safe and reliable.
An immature immune system implies that newborns are more vulnerable to gastrointestinal infections caused by various pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or parasites. Some of the more common infections include those caused by bacteria such as E. Coli or salmonella and viral infections such as norovirus, gastroenteritis and rotavirus.
Watch out for these signs that may indicate a possible gastrointestinal infection:
Medical intervention for gastrointestinal infections generally depends on the specific diagnosis and severity of infection. Advanced stages of infection may lead to complications such as weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. In such cases, the infant may need to be hospitalised for intravenous fluids and round-the-clock monitoring. Additionally, the hospital may also provide antibiotics or antiviral medications to help clear up the infection.
It’s time to review some scenarios when you must not hesitate to seek medical attention for your newborn vomiting. If your baby is vomiting persistently, forcefully and in excessive amounts, seek medical help immediately. You must also consult a healthcare provider if the baby is losing weight or not gaining weight as expected. If the vomiting is accompanied by fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, inactivity, decreased urination or traces of blood in vomit, seeking medical attention is crucial.
Maintaining a feeding diary will help you provide the right answers to the paediatrician’s questions such as:
Then the healthcare provider may perform various diagnostic tests such as physical examination, blood tests, imaging tests or even more advanced tests such as endoscopy. Additionally, the doctor may also review the medical history of your baby.
Practical Solutions for Newborn Vomiting After Feeding
Now here are some proven tips that will come in handy to minimise newborn vomiting after feeding:
- Feeding Position and Technique: Hold your child in a side-lying, semi-upright position while feeding to prevent backflow of stomach contents. After feeding, hold the baby facing your chest with the chin on your shoulder and gently tap their back to make them burp. This releases trapped air within their stomach.
- Adjusting Feeding Volume and Frequency: During feeding, the baby may cease sucking or turn the head away. This is your cue that the baby may be full. If in doubt, consult the paediatrician for reliable guidance on the right feeding volume for your baby. Remember that feeding the baby smaller amounts at frequent intervals is an effective strategy to prevent vomiting due to overfeeding.
- Breastfeeding Considerations: While breastfeeding, ensure that the baby latches on properly to create a seal that does not let air into the baby’s tummy. Remember to hold the baby upright for a while after feeding to prevent regurgitation. You may have to eliminate certain allergens like eggs, soy, dairy or fish from your diet if your baby is diagnosed with an allergic reaction. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and strongly-flavoured food if the baby is found to be sensitive to these.
- Formula Feeding Strategies: Paediatricians usually recommend hypoallergenic formulas for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk protein. If the baby has gastroesophageal reflux, the doctor may suggest using reflux-specific, thickened formula to reduce vomiting. Hold the baby upright while bottle-feeding, try pace feeding and choose smaller, frequent feedings to prevent vomiting.
So as you can see, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to possess an understanding of newborn vomiting after feeding to ensure that their babies are healthy and gaining adequate weight. Today, we have explored possible causes of vomiting after feeding in newborns, solutions for these issues and symptoms to watch out for.
We have learnt how occasional spitting up of stomach contents is usually okay and why excessive vomiting may be a potential red flag indicating medical issues such as GER. However, with tailored approaches such as holding the baby upright, ensuring that the baby burps and adjusting the volume of feed, it is possible to considerably cut down episodes of vomiting.
While most of these measures can be implemented at home, your baby may require medical assistance if the vomiting is frequent, persistent and accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Get in touch with your paediatrician if you are worried about vomiting or have any anxieties regarding your baby’s overall health. Healthcare professionals are trained to conduct necessary examinations to diagnose issues that may be triggering the vomiting.
A clear understanding of the causes of newborn vomiting after feeding enables parents to take informed decisions in implementing appropriate solutions. Monitoring your baby’s feeding routine and seeking medical help when required goes a long way in ensuring the comprehensive health of your baby. So relax and here’s wishing that the feeding time be a calm and satisfying experience for both the baby and you.
Why is my newborn vomiting after feeding?
Vomiting after feeding is not unusual in newborns. It may be caused due to various reasons that may include overfeeding, gastro-esophageal reflux, swallowing air during the feeding session or an underlying infection. For a precise diagnosis, speak with a doctor.
How much vomiting is considered normal for a newborn after feeding?
Spitting up milk or vomiting in small amounts is usually normal among newborns after feeding. However, if the baby is vomiting frequently or forcefully and the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms, get in touch with your paediatrician immediately.
What should I do if my newborn is vomiting after every feed?
Vomiting once in a while is considered normal. But the situation is different if your baby is vomiting after every feed. Consult a paediatrician at once to evaluate the causes of vomiting and receive guidance on appropriate course of action.
Can overfeeding cause vomiting in newborns?
Yes, overfeeding is one of the leading causes of vomiting in newborns. Make sure that you time the feeding at regular intervals and feed your newborn in adequate amounts to avoid overfeeding.
Can I prevent newborn vomiting entirely?
It may not be possible to entirely prevent your newborn from vomiting. However, you can minimise the risk with a few precautions such as burping the baby after feeding, feeding in small amounts at regular intervals and holding the baby upright during feeding.