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Seeing a baby coughing and vomiting mucus or milk (which obtains a mucus-like texture) can be quite disturbing for parents. Spitting up is quite normal, but when mucus or projectile vomit seems to be a recurring incident, it may cause alarm. The reasons behind it can be quite varied, and it is important to figure out the actual reason why it’s happening to your child.
A baby throwing up milk or mucus is not an uncommon thing at all. Many parents have seen their children vomit mucus or milk in their infancy. While this is quite normal, a repeated occurrence may be a cause for worry. The presence of blood or any gestures by your baby indicating pain or trouble warrants immediate attention.
Such a phenomenon usually occurs in babies early on as a result of an immature digestive system. One of the most important parts of the entire tract is the area ranging from the throat to the stomach. This section requires a good amount of time to develop fully and be ready to retain the food within the body. All the spit and the milk that a baby feeds on can easily find its way back up to the mouth, causing the vomit to be yellow in colour.
Most children stop throwing up spit or milk once they begin to sit up straight. While many babies do so after completing around 7-8 months of age, some children may continue to do so even up to a year after their birth.
When a baby throws up milk or ends up vomiting mucus, there may not be just one reason that has made it happen. There could be a variety of causes for the same, ranging from illness to overfeeding.
Since the immune system of a baby is still developing in the early months following birth, he makes for an easy target for various bacteria and viruses, leading to an infection or an illness. Usually, these can affect the respiratory system, causing him to cough extensively, which could lead to intermittent vomiting. Similarly, certain bacteria can affect the digestive tract or the intestines, leading to indigestion and diarrhoea, accompanied by vomiting.
If a baby tends to vomit forcefully, which ends up emerging out in a projectile form, then there is a strong chance that the baby is suffering from pyloric stenosis. Quite a rare condition to come across in most children, it usually manifests in the weeks following childbirth. A muscle that connects the intestine to the stomach tends to swell up and become thick, which prevents any food from passing further. This condition is quite rare, with fewer than 1 million cases reported in India every year.
While pyloric stenosis occurs due to the presence of a muscular anomaly, there might be other obstructions in the pathway as well. At times, a section of the bowel might slide towards the other section and form an obstacle in between. Some cases have also been observed where the intestines themselves have twisted up, causing food to remain stuck wherever it is. Such conditions can cause a baby to vomit forcefully.
On a biological level, the act of vomiting is where the body rids itself of an undesirable element within the stomach or the digestive system. While undigested food falls in this category as well, vomiting may just as well be the result of the baby having swallowed something that is inherently toxic or unhealthy. If the ingestion of something poisonous has taken place, certain medicines can even cause the vomiting rather than treat it directly.
5. The baby may be susceptible to motion sickness.
Motion sickness is quite a common problem that plagues babies as well as adults. It is usually triggered when the brain seems to observe a disconnect between the visual and the aural signals it receives. If the eyes and the body don’t seem to experience motion the same way, motion sickness might come into play, causing vomiting to take place.
Crying is the only form of communication that babies are aware of, so they may burst into tears to convey hunger, fear, pain, or even plain irritation. However, if a baby continues to cry intensely for a long period, it can cause the gag reflex in the throat to be stimulated and lead to the baby coughing heavily, or even throwing up as a result of it.
The presence of viruses or bacteria that infect the stomach or the throat have a higher chance of resulting in vomiting. Throat infection usually causes cold and cough, both of which can trigger the gag reflex and lead to vomiting. Any infection of the digestive tract can cause the body to repeatedly throw up food, due to the weak capacity of the stomach and intestines.
Vomiting is usually a biological reaction to remove any toxic substance from the body, and the same is true for an allergic reaction as well. An allergy is nothing but the response of the body’s immune system to an allergen, which could range from anything such as nuts to milk to fish and so on. Such conditions usually occur if you have introduced your baby to a new food type recently.
9. Quick milk flow can also cause a baby to vomit.
Certain women tend to have nipples that are larger than usual or use bottles which have holes that are bigger than what’s usually available in the market. These can result in a milk flow that is fast and in copious amounts, causing the baby to drink down the milk speedily. Since the baby’s tummy is still in its development phase, it won’t be prepared for the intake of this quantity and may react naturally by throwing up.
This is rarely because of indigestion and has more to do with the baby swallowing too much air while feeding. Parents tend to use a pacifier more often than not or allow babies to suckle on an empty feeding bottle. This causes their tummies to be filled with air, which can cause reflux and lead to the milk being thrown up.
The digestive system of a baby takes quite a while to mature fully. One of the major aspects that need to develop is the valve that plays a key role in keeping the food within the stomach itself. Feeding on a lot of milk can put undue pressure on that valve, which can fail and cause the milk to rise up, leading to vomiting.
How You Can Help Prevent Your Baby From Vomiting
Thankfully, even if your baby vomits yellow mucus or milk, there are a bunch of ways you can employ to prevent it from happening often. There is a good chance it may not indicate anything serious.
While it is common to burp a baby after a feeding session has been completed, you can employ a different method for a child that vomits frequently. Make sure you encourage him to burp after he drinks 1/4th or even 1/8th the amount of milk he usually drinks, to reduce the risk of him throwing up after the whole feed.
2. Reduce the flow of milk.
If your baby is bottle-fed, make sure that the nipple on the bottle has a small hole, and nothing too big that will release a large amount of milk. This can help in controlling the milk flow and allow the baby to drink at his pace. While breastfeeding, squeeze some milk out of your breasts first to avoid a large flow and then let your child feed.
If your baby has been throwing up after drinking cow’s milk, he might be lactose intolerant. Therefore, it is best to switch to soy milk and see if there is any change in his condition. In rare cases, a special formula of milk might be required for kids who are allergic to natural milk of any sort.
4. Feed less milk but frequently.
Your baby might have trouble keeping down the amount of milk he drinks due to a weak stomach valve. Therefore, you can try giving him a limited amount of milk while feeding him, while simultaneously increasing the frequency of feeding sessions. This can keep his nutrition on track and allow him to digest the milk effectively.
The presence of allergic substances in your own diet could affect the child as well since they find their way into your milk. If you’ve made any dietary inclusions or changes recently, try removing them to see if it helps stop your baby from vomiting. Adjust your diet until you figure out the culprit and plan accordingly.
6. Allow feeding sessions to happen at a relaxed pace.
Make sure that you don’t feed your child in a hurry. Go to a quiet place and let him feed slowly and calmly at his own pace. Let him relax after he’s done feeding and burp him gradually. Even after burping, allow him to lie down in an inclined manner for half an hour.
Is It Possible for Your Baby to Choke on Vomit While He’s Asleep?
It’s only natural for you to worry whether having your baby sleep while he’s prone to vomiting could lead to him choking on his own vomit. All the same, experts think that this scenario is highly unlikely as long as your baby is sleeping on his back (as recommended). Similarly, as long as your little one does not have a particular condition that makes it difficult for him to clear his airway, such as a cleft palate, he is unlikely to choke on his own vomit.
When to Worry
As mentioned earlier, vomiting usually occurs as a result of improper feeding or foreign elements. These issues can be corrected easily and the chances of vomiting can be reduced extensively. However, certain signs you notice can definitely be a cause for worry, since they indicate the presence of a complication.
- While most vomited mucus has the same consistency as that of milk, there might be a situation when the mucus is quite thick. This can then be inhaled accidentally and cause the baby to choke on it, leading to breathing difficulty and further complications. If it finds its way into the lungs, that can be quite fatal and might need to be removed by use of an aspirator. Saline drops can be used to thin the mucus.
- At times, you may notice the vomit of the baby might seem to contain traces of blood, or may even have blood in substantial quantities. This blood could stem from an injury in his mouth, which caused him to swallow the blood earlier. In a few cases, forceful vomiting or repetitive vomiting could lead to the inflammation of the oesophagus tissue, causing it to bleed internally. However, if the blood has a dark brown colour, your doctor may ask for a sample and send it for examination. If it is found to contain bile, then it could indicate the presence of an obstruction in the intestine, which will need proper medical attention.
- Most babies tend to vomit out milk and seem to calm down or just act indifferent about it. However, if your baby cries uncontrollably and seems to be in pain after he has vomited, you need to take him to the doctor immediately. Severe pain following a vomiting session could indicate the presence of blocked bowels, or an intestinal situation that needs quick and urgent medical attention.
- In some cases, you might find that your infant’s abdomen tends to look swollen on the outside. Touching the abdomen might even make you aware of its tenderness. This is quite similar to the existence of gas in the stomach or even other substances. It could also indicate a blockage in the intestines or other issues in the digestive tract. In any case, it would be best if this was examined by the doctor.
- If your baby was not vomiting earlier (at least, not frequently) but has started doing so after having fallen down or after an injury that seemed minor, this could be a cause for concern, for sure. Your infant may have suffered a concussion (minor or major) and the body might be reacting to it by vomiting. Take your child to the hospital if the vomiting is uncontrollable and repetitive, since having fallen down.
Knowing why your baby might be throwing up milk or mucus is just as important as knowing how to solve it. Since the condition is quite normal, it is best to stay calm and figure out the reason behind it, while never hesitating to contact the doctor when required.
Also Read: How to Deal With Spitting Up in Babies?