Baby Spitting up Through the Nose – Is It Normal?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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As you embrace motherhood, you will come to the realisation that raising a child is not an easy task. Over time, you will get acquainted with the different problems that your baby might face. His cries will be different, his poop colour will change, and he may even vomit occasionally. As you start coming to terms with all of this, a new problem of spitting up of milk can make you worry about your baby’s health. Babies spit up milk generally after burping, but sometimes you may observe your baby spit up through the nose. Is this a serious condition, and should you worry about it? Let’s find out.

Is It Normal for an Infant to Spit up Through the Nose?

For a newborn baby, spitting up is a common activity since the substance that comes up is usually nothing but reflux. Most babies do not know how to feed correctly, and they often end up taking in a lot of air along with the milk. Hence, when you try to burp the baby, a little milk also gets thrown up with it.

Since this activity of spitting up is based on reflex, the baby has barely any control over how fast and from where the spit up will appear. The throat and the nose are connected internally within the mouth, somewhere closer to the roof. Therefore, if any spit up emerges quickly, it could enter the nose from the connection and come outside.

Difference Between Spit up and Vomit

Most parents also notice that if their baby vomits, it comes out through the nose as well. In this case, the parents might get confused about whether it is vomit or spit up.

The cardinal rule in this regard is to look at your baby. Vomiting is a forceful expulsion of food–the stomach muscles contract and forcefully push the food outside. This may irritate your baby, and he might cry when it happens. On the other hand, spitting up is reflexive. It happens on its own and, once the baby spits up, he will feel more relaxed and might even doze off once he’s done.

Why Do Babies Spit up Through Their Nose?

The primary reason for spitting up is the presence of excess milk, but there are other causes why the reflex might be triggered.

1. Presence of Various Distractions

Improper feeding remains the primary cause for spitting up. This usually happens if the baby gets distracted by something else present in the same room where he’s feeding. It can divert his attention from drinking the milk, which might result in him swallowing a lot of milk in a single gulp and choking on it, causing it to come out of the nose accidentally.

2. Swallowing Air With Milk

This is one of the common reasons for milk or formula showing up in your little one’s nose. Sometimes, babies tend to feed hurriedly if they are really hungry, and this results in taking in the air along with the milk. After a while, the air tries to escape, and it also pulls some milk with it, which might show up in the mouth or the nose.

A baby sneezes

3. Spit up Combined With Coughing or Sneezing

Babies rarely have proper control over their body parts and other reflexive activities. At times, the spit up may emerge up the throat and all of a sudden, the baby might start hiccupping, coughing or even sneezing. All these reflexes open up the nasal cavity causing the milk to emerge out of the nose instead.

4. Immature Stomach Valve

The oesophagus and the stomach are connected with a valve present in between. In babies, this valve is still developing, which is why it lacks the strength to hold back any excess food. Therefore, when a baby drinks milk in large quantities, the excess milk could easily rise back up and emerge out of the nose.

How Does Spitting up Through the Nose Affect a Baby?

Most of the times, the quantity of spit up is very minimal. And even if it emerges from the nose, there’s no reason to worry since it is simply milk or formula. However, if the quantity seems a lot more than usual, then there are chances your baby isn’t getting as much nourishment as he should.

How to Reduce Your Baby’s Spit-Ups

Taking appropriate steps to reduce the frequency of spitting up in your child is not a difficult task. Here are a few ways you can help prevent your baby from spitting up too much.

1. Watch His Sleeping Position

Spitting up milk could even cause the baby to choke on it at times. The chances of the same can be reduced by letting him sleep on his back, which also reduces the tendency of the spit up to emerge reflexively.

A baby sleeping

2. Refrain From Using Tight Clothes

Wearing tight clothes or putting on a diaper right after you are done feeding the baby could put undue pressure on his stomach. So, don’t make him wear tight clothes, immediately after feeding him. Wrap him in a blanket or use a nappy for some time.

3. Burp After Feeding

Babies cannot burp by themselves when they are young. They lack the muscle control needed to burp. By ensuring to burp your baby, you reduce the chances of spit ups emerging later on.

A mother tries to burp her baby

4. Maintain an Upright Position

Try your best to keep the baby upright while you are feeding him and after you are done feeding him. This allows the milk to enter the stomach easily and reduces the chances of a spit-up.

5. Create a Distraction-Free Environment

Make sure there is no loud music or any activities going around your child when he’s feeding. Maintain a peaceful atmosphere, and he will feed properly.

Mom breastfeeds her baby

6. Feed on Time

Avoid delaying the scheduled feeds of your baby. Too many delays could make him gulp down the milk hurriedly, which can result in spit ups.

7. Never Overdo the Feeding

Trust your baby’s decision when he is feeding. If he pulls away earlier than usual, don’t force him to drink more milk.

8. Use a Proper Nipple

For bottle-fed babies, choose a nipple that has a small hole. A larger hole in the bottle’s nipple could deliver more milk than needed, and cause him to spit up.

When Do Infants Stop Spitting Up?

By the time your baby completes 24 weeks or learns to sit up straight, the frequency of spitting up will start reducing by itself.

When to Consult a Doctor

Spitting up through the nose is not a problem. But you may need to contact your doctor if:

  • Your baby keeps spitting up even as he’s approaching the one-year mark.
  • Your child tends to choke or cough when he spits up.
  • The spitting up through the nose happens regularly.
  • The spit-up contains weird colours or even blood.
  • Your child spits up a lot and isn’t gaining weight properly.
  • Your baby cannot suck or swallow milk properly.
  • Your little one starts crying each time after spitting up.

Seeing a baby spit up milk through the nose could be bothersome. However, there is no need to fret about it as most of the times this condition fades away with time. Make sure you burp your child after every feed and follow the right tips to reduce the spit-up. Very soon, he will be able to keep his food down, and he will grow up to be a healthy child.

Resources & References: Parents, Babycentre

Also Read: Benefits and Drawbacks of Cup Feeding

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