Spitting up and vomiting are the most common symptoms seen in Pediatrics. Even though it might be difficult to tell the difference of each one as in both cases the stomach expels the content through the mouth, but they both have diverse causes and implications. An entirely different reason might be caused by gastro esophageal reflux. Let’s see the differences between these.
Spit-up is a simple reflux of the food your baby recently consumed, causing the food to come back up from their stomach and out of their mouth. Spit-up requires almost zero effort by your baby and often is completely unaware of the process. Spit-up is frequently observed in newborns and there is no need to be alarmed as it is a normal process and will pass with time.
Vomiting, on the other hand is a forced and abrupt expulsion of the gastrointestinal content through the mouth. This forced motion will be painful for your baby and the regurgitation will be a larger quantity than spit-up.
Last but not least, the medical condition gastro esophageal is a more serious concern, since the repetitive regurgitations and vomiting damage the esophagus membrane from the pH acid in the gastric content.
Regurgitations are normal for newborns. The most important thing is ensuring that your baby is adequately growing and gaining weight according your baby’s age ranges (weight and length percentages). If your Pediatric notices during routine check-ups that your baby is underweight and isn’t gaining weight for a certain period of time, then it will be necessary to dismiss other reasons that might be preventing weight gain. But if your baby is gaining weight, is happy and mellow, then there is no need to be concerned even if your baby tends to spit-up after eating.
Some situations when your baby regurgitates that you should be concerned about:
– High quantity regurgitations
– Abrupt regurgitations after every meal (in this case, we are not referring to spit-up, but vomiting). If this occurs with a newborn less than a month old, then it is necessary to consult with your pediatrician as soon as possible, to dismiss stenosis hypertrophic pyloric (more information later in in this article).
– If there are signs of dehydration: less urination, a decline activity level, dark circles under their eyes, more drowsy than normal, dry mucus.
– Regurgitations with blood.
First and foremost, reassure the parents: it is extremely normal for a newborn baby to frequently regurgitate. More than 50% of babies spit-up, especially if they are breast feeding or using a baby bottle (it is more common when using the latter). Regurgitation can last up to a year, but you should expect to see the symptoms to minimize within the first six months.
Your newborn baby’s regurgitations are caused from several factors:
Immature esophagus: at the end of the esophagus there is a small valve that regulates the flow of the food or liquids towards the stomach. In newborns, this valve is often too immature or weak, which causes the food that goes though the esophagus towards the stomach to back up and out of the mouth (often referred to many mothers as spit-up). As your baby begins to grow, so do the muscle layers around this valve begin to mature, for this reason the regurgitations are less and less frequent.
Baby’s posture: from 6 to 8 months of age, is when your baby begins to sit upright, as up to before they spent the majority of their time lying flat. The horizontal position along with their immature digestive system promotes regurgitation.
Types of foods consumed: a newborn baby’s diet is basically milk-based for the first few months (remember that the WHO solely recommends breast feeding newborns for the first six months of their lives). Avoid feeding your baby other types of foods that are thicker and this will help them be able to digest their liquid diet.
Even though newborn babies frequently regurgitate, they will be less regurgitation when breast-feed, because it is quickly and easily digested. Artificial formulas aren’t easy to digest. Once again, breast-feeding has more advantages and benefits for babies than man-made formulas.