Regurgitation in newborns: here are the symptoms, causes and remedies

Regurgitation in newborns: here are the symptoms, causes and remedies


It's a classic: change your puppy's onesie, everything is beautifully clean and fragrant after bath time, it's time for baby food, two seconds pass and… a “fantastic” regurgitation arrives, punctual as a Swiss watch. In the worst case scenario, you too could be affected by the "evil" and stinking splash of milk. And what does it matter if this is the first time you wear your beautiful new blouse: the regurgitation spares no one!

Regurgitation in newborns is a completely normal phenomenon in the first few months of life and, if not accompanied by other symptoms, such as stunting, should not cause any concern. The only drawback may be to "arm" yourself with dozens of clothes and bibs (which generally a newborn does not lack, especially if you have made a birth list).

What is regurgitation in newborns

Regurgitation is the movement of stomach contents (milk along with gastric juices) up the esophagus. Regurgitation does not occur because the baby has eaten too much, although the rush with which he feeds can sometimes make matters worse. The cause of the regurgitation is different.

Causes of regurgitation in newborns

Regurgitation is caused by the immaturity of the digestive system of the young. In particular, the cardia, the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, still does not work perfectly: when it does not close well, it allows the rise of food or, as in this case, of milk. Therefore, it is easy to understand that regurgitation is only a temporary problem, which usually disappears after a few months: around one year of age (with the due exceptions) it is only a memory.

Regurgitation affects both breast-fed and formula-fed babies, although it seems that the former suffer less from it because breast milk is lighter (which does not mean less substantial) than formulated. On the market there are different types of anti-regurgitation milk suitable for those who most often have the discomfort. Sometimes the milk is "weighed down" with some thickener to prevent it from rising.

When regurgitation in newborns is a concern 

In some cases, regurgitation in infants can be worrying and it is worth talking to your pediatrician: 

  • The regurgitation is very abundant and frequent (it looks more like vomiting and appears as a jet);
  • the child shows signs of being unwell (cries and complains) before eliminating the milk from the stomachin; 
  • when he is not growing well (for example, soiling a few nappies) or has other symptoms, such as cough. 

These signs could indicate a problem with gastroesophageal reflux, a more serious condition that needs to be treated by your doctor.

Preventing regurgitation in infants

Although this is a physiological fact, something can be done to avoid the regurgitation of newborns. To begin with, during the feeding make sure that the baby is not completely stretched out, but has his head and trunk a little raised. A trick is to choose well the positions to breastfeed, for example rugby, that is, the one with the baby's body placed under the arm of the mother, with the feet turned towards the back and the head at the height of the breast and supported by her hand.

It is also advisable to have frequent and perhaps shorter feedings, so that the stomach does not get too full and the baby has the opportunity to digest between one and the other. This clearly applies to breastfeeding. For the formula, look for the milk that is best for your child: get help from the pediatrician.

Regurgitation in infants and burping

Do not forget the burp: the emission of the air swallowed during the meal removes the risk of regurgitation a little. But sometimes that's the moment when it happens. Hold the baby upright and lightly tap the back. And remember to put a handkerchief or tea towel on your shoulder to "save" your clothes.

Advice against regurgitation in infants

After the meal, do not immediately lay the baby down, but wait for a while. For the same reason, a diaper change should be done before eating: raising his legs causes pressure on the stomach which could promote regurgitation. Of course, the situation changes if he poops during the feed.

And finally, a fundamental recommendation: babies must sleep on their stomach. It is rare for a baby to choke from regurgitation, but the supine position is the one that gives greater security to prevent cot death (we talked about it HERE). Always remember that.

Text updated on 23 September 2022

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