When your baby vomits…

Vomiting is when a person forcibly expels the gastric and duodenal contents through the mouth. It is a form of a protective reflex whose purpose is to remove toxic materials

  • PublishedMarch 18, 2014

Vomiting is when a person forcibly expels the gastric and duodenal contents through the mouth. It is a form of a protective reflex whose purpose is to remove toxic materials from the gastro-intestinal tract before they are absorbed in the body. Vomiting is normally a short-lived symptom and sometimes babies tend to throw up even when there is nothing wrong with the food they have eaten. Babies vomit for a number of reasons, which may include:

Feeding problems. During your baby’s first few months, vomiting is most likely linked to feeding problems such as overfeeding or indigestion. A less common cause is an allergy to proteins in your breast milk or formula.

Viral or bacterial infection. Once your baby is a few months old, stomach flu or other intestinal illness is the most likely culprit. If a virus or bacteria has infected your baby’s stomach lining or intestines, other symptoms may include diarrhoea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and fever. The vomiting usually stops within 12 to 24 hours.

Other infections. Congestion or a respiratory infection can lead to vomiting, especially during a coughing fit. A urinary tract infection and even an ear infection can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting. Throwing up can also be a symptom of serious illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis or appendicitis.

Reflux. If your otherwise healthy baby throws up right after eating, he could be suffering gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Reflux happens when the muscle between your baby’s esophagus and stomach isn’t working properly, allowing food and gastric acid to gurgle up from the stomach into the throat. Although your baby can’t tell you about his discomfort, he may also have an upset tummy and a burning sensation or irritation in his throat and chest. The problem will probably disappear by his first birthday, when the muscle gets stronger. GERD can cause poor weight gain and other medical problems.

Pyloric stenosis. This condition is likely to occur in the first few weeks of a baby’s life and rarely shows up after a baby’s sixth-month birthday. Babies with pyloric stenosis vomit when the muscle leading from the stomach into the intestines thickens so much that food can’t pass through.

This usually causes forceful projectile vomiting. Because it can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and other health problems, it requires immediate medical attention. One in 500 babies are born with this condition, and it is more common in boys. This condition can be diagnosed before your child gets to the sixth month. Treatment of pyloric stenosis involves surgery to split the overdeveloped muscles of the pylorus.

Motion sickness. Some babies and children tend to get motion sickness, which can be a problem if your daily routine includes a car trip. Experts believe that motion sickness happens when there is a disconnect between what your baby sees and what he senses with the motion-sensitive parts of his body, such as his inner ears and some nerves.

Poisonous substance. Your baby may be vomiting because he has swallowed something toxic such as a drug, plant, medicine, or chemical. Or he may have gotten food poisoning from contaminated food or water. Vomiting from poisoning may be accompanied by diarrhoea.

Excessive crying. A prolonged bout of crying or coughing can trigger the gag reflex and make your baby throw up. Although it is troubling for both of you, throwing up during a crying spell will not physically harm your baby. If he appears otherwise healthy, there is no reason to be concerned.

When to seek medical attention…

It is important to seek medical care if your baby’s vomiting concerns you. The following guidelines will help you to know when to see a doctor:


When your baby vomits for more that 24 hours or when the baby shows signs of becoming dehydrated. These could include decreased urination, which you can tell if the baby takes more than six to eight hours without a wet diaper, has dark yellow urine, dry lips and mouth, or is crying without tears if he is more than a couple weeks old.
If the vomit contains blood, a little blood could be nothing to worry about as the force of vomiting can cause tiny tears in the blood vessels lining the esophagus. Your baby’s vomit may also have a tinge of red colour if he has swallowed blood from a cut in his mouth or nosebleeds within the last six hours. However, if the amount increases or your baby continues to have blood in his vomit, it is important to seek medical help quickly.
If your child has violent, persistent vomiting within half an hour of eating. This may signal a more serious problem, which calls for the attention of a doctor.
If you notice yellowing of your baby’s skin or the white part of his eyes. It could indicate jaundice. Jaundice accompanied by pain in the upper right side of the abdomen may signal hepatitis.

Dehydration can be a serious problem for babies and could be fatal if not attended to quickly. If the child has been breastfeeding, let him relax a little before resuming. You can also give him an oral rehydration solution, which is a mixture of water, salt and sugar made at home or bought from a pharmacy. You don’t need a prescription.

Do not give the child other liquids such as juices, carbonated drinks, teas and soups because they contain an amount of acid that might corrode the baby’s alimentary canal, which may have been lightly bruised by the vomiting. Once your baby has stopped vomiting and his appetite returns, slowly reintroduce other fluids as well as healthful foods if he is on a solid diet.

 Published on February 2013

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