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Is your baby throwing up? Your complete care guide to causes and treatment

Babies spit up a lot, but is that the same as babies throwing up? How much is normal and when should you be worried? We’ve collected trusted answers about what to do if your baby is throwing up, what amount of vomiting is normal for a baby, and what causes baby vomit.

It can be worrying to see your baby vomit, though many times it doesn’t end up being a cause for concern. However, you should always inform your pediatrician about your infant’s vomiting because in young babies it can quickly lead to dehydration. Learn more about what you need to know about baby throw up below.

Unhappy newborn crying
Irina Zharkova31 / Shutterstock

What is normal throwing up for a baby?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is normal for your child to vomit “several times” during their early years because they get so many viruses.

They also explain that there is a difference between vomiting and spitting up. Spitting up is “the easy flow of stomach contents out of the mouth, frequently with a burp” while vomiting is “the forceful throwing up of stomach contents through the mouth.”

It’s very common for babies to spit up small amounts of milk within an hour after their feeding; this isn’t serious if your baby doesn’t seem to mind. The AAP says “occasional vomiting may occur during the first month” but to contact your pediatrician if it happens often or is unusually forceful.

What causes baby vomiting?

The most common cause of baby vomiting is a stomach virus or stomach flu. A common one is called the Rotavirus which starts with vomiting and can be followed in the next 12 to 24 hours by watery, loose stools.

Another cause is a food allergy. In this case, a baby would start vomiting very soon after eating the food. Infants can also be intolerant to milk protein in formula or breastmilk, though that could more often lead to spitting up than vomiting.

Coughing or crying forcefully or for a long time can cause a child to throw up as well.

A serious and common cause of projectile vomiting in young babies is Pyloric Stenosis. This is caused by the pylorus (the channel between the stomach and the gut) becoming narrow and tight. The onset of this condition is between two weeks and two months and is cured by surgery. Without treatment, there is a risk of weight loss or dehydration.

Depressed-new-mother-talks-to-doctor-for-help
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When should I be concerned about my baby vomiting?

In general, vomiting should stop within 24 hours. The main concern with vomiting is dehydration.

According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, you should seek medical attention in these cases:

  • If you suspect dehydration — no urine in over eight hours, dark urine, very dry mouth, and no tears.
  • If your baby is less than 12 weeks old and has vomited (not spit up) two or more times.
  • If your baby has vomited three or more times and also has diarrhea.
  • If your baby is vomiting everything for more than eight hours while getting Pedialyte or breastmilk.
  • If your baby has had a head injury within the last 24 hours and is vomiting
  • If your baby is immunocompromised (sickle cell disease, HIV, cancer, organ transplant, taking oral steroids) and is vomiting.
  • If your baby is vomiting a prescription medicine.
  • If your baby has a fever over 104° F (40° C) and is vomiting.
  • If your baby is less than 12 weeks old, has a fever, and is vomiting.
  • If you think your baby needs to be seen.

If you can’t wake your baby or your child is not moving, call 911.

What to do after baby throws up

Trust your instincts and contact your baby’s doctor with any infant vomiting that isn’t spit up. If the cause is a common infection like a virus, it will often resolve itself without any treatment except extra fluids and extra rest, but keep your doctor in the loop.

You’ll of course want to clean up the vomit after your baby throws up. Giving your baby a bath can help not just to clean your little one but can also be mentally and physically soothing. The steam from a warm bath can help if your baby has congestion from a cold and is coughing and baths can be calming. If your baby doesn’t like baths, making your infant excessively cry can lead to more vomiting, so use a washcloth or baby wipe to clean your little one to avoid further dehydration if extreme crying from a bath is a risk.

Watch for other symptoms like if your child becomes floppy or limp, if you’re unable to wake your baby, or if a fever develops to determine if you should utilize an urgent care facility or hospital. Write down the times when your baby vomits so you can tell a doctor how often it has occurred in a 24-hour period. Do not give your baby any medication without consulting a pediatrician first.

The younger the child, the greater the risk for dehydration from vomiting, so keep your pediatrician informed. If your child has no tears when crying, no urine for eight hours, and the inside of their mouth is very dry, seek medical attention for dehydration.

With infant vomiting, continue to monitor your baby and follow the advice above. While it can be very concerning to see your child throwing up, it is a common part of childhood. Give plenty of cuddles and remember it will likely resolve in a few days.

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Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
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