My baby is bringing up milk!

My baby is bringing up milk after every feed

It’s not uncommon for many babies to bring up a little milk at the end of a feed.

However, some babies bring up a lot more than that – sometimes, it could be at every other feed, or you may find that this is happening at every feed! If this is happening to your baby, it can be a little disconcerting.

However, if your baby is generally well and not unduly uncomfortable with this, then it’s very likely to be a typical kind of reflux.

It’s important to know that your baby’s digestive system is quite immature for at least six months, so it is easy for milk to backtrack up from the stomach into the esophagus (this is the tube that connects the stomach with your baby’s mouth).

If this happens to your baby, please recognize that this type of reflux is perfectly normal.

However, some babies bring up milk for other reasons, for example, if you have a fast let-down of milk.

In this situation, you may find that your baby will do the initial fast sucks to call the milk down, then the milk will come shooting down, and this flow can be very fast!

Your baby is likely to start coughing and spluttering and sucking in air. When babies suck in the air, they will often bring up milk as a consequence.

It’s also possible that your baby is bringing up milk because your breasts are engorged, which means that they are becoming full and possibly painful.

Close up of baby looking at camera

Your baby may also be an aggressive feeder and is causing this problem himself. 

It’s also possible, although certainly less common for a baby to have a milk intolerance to cow’s milk protein, which is possible because dairy products come into your milk via your diet.

If you’ve considered these possibilities, you may still feel that you haven’t yet identified why your baby is bringing up milk.

If you believe the symptoms are getting worse, it could be that your baby has what is called GERD, which is Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease.

While this sounds rather daunting, it merely means that the contents of your baby’s stomach are backtracking up into the esophagus and causing some irritation to the lining of the throat. 

However, should your baby be diagnosed with GERD, it isn’t a permanent condition, and over the weeks and months, the symptoms nearly always improve.

So what kind of symptoms would you expect with GERD?

It’s very likely that from the third or the fourth week after birth, your baby may have been displaying increasingly upset symptoms, and it’s likely that he could be gagging, coughing, spluttering, burping, and appearing to be very uncomfortable. 

There may also be some intense crying and not just at the normal fussy period in the evening, where the majority of babies do a lot of cluster nursing/frequent feeding.

You may also feel unable to place your baby on his back without milk coming up.

Some babies can bring up milk even after half an hour or an hour after feeding.

Consider raising your baby’s mattress a little and keep your baby in an upright position to avoid bringing up milk.

It’s also possible that your baby might have what is called silent reflux.

With silent reflux, you wouldn’t expect to see milk coming out of your baby’s mouth.

However, the milk may still backtrack up the esophagus, up to the mouth area, causing your baby to have a lot of uncomfortable symptoms, so it’s essential to have your baby checked out by a doctor to get a diagnosis. 

A baby sucking on their hand

There is also a medical condition called pyloric stenosis where your baby may have projectile vomiting, usually occurring in newborns between three to five weeks. 

With this condition, a very forceful amount of milk may come out of your newborn’s mouth at least once per day, so a doctor must make a diagnosis because pyloric stenosis is a serious condition that requires surgery.

So apart from pyloric stenosis, if your doctor is suspecting GERD, then he’s likely to start your baby on a course of medication to settle the symptoms, or may suggest some further tests.

Because we know that babies often feel so much more comfortable when they’re upright, it’s a good idea to feed your baby in vertical positions too.

Consider that your baby can feed in all positions, so consider what would be the most comfortable for you and your baby.

If your baby’s head is higher than the rest of his body, this can help him to feel more comfortable.

Your baby is also likely to benefit from short, frequent feeds because breastmilk is very digestible.

It will go through his system very fast. Also, those frequent feeds mean that milk won’t sit around in the stomach for too long and then be able to backtrack.

Even if the milk does backtrack up the esophagus, it is less irritating than formula milk is.

Also, watch out for your baby’s feeding cues and determine which strategies work best to ease your baby’s symptoms.

Do bear in mind that not all babies will lose weight in this situation. Many will happily follow their growth charts according to their normal centiles.

Some babies WILL lose weight, however, and your doctor will need to monitor the situation.

Also, note that the medications doctors give to babies for this condition can sometimes take two to four weeks to take effect.

Be assured that if your baby HAS been diagnosed with GERD, and started medication, over the next few weeks and months, and also as you begin to introduce solids around six months of age, you will generally see an improvement. 

Do seek out skilled support from a health professional who understands about GERD and seek help from your family members who can offer support to you during this difficult time.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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