Baby Spitting Up Curdled Milk: What’s Normal, Causes And Treatment


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Babies may spit up curdled milk due to various causes. The milk gets curdled when it is mixed with stomach acid. It is a normal occurrence during digestion. Occasionally, babies may spit up curdled milk or milk due to an immature digestive system.

Excessive spitting up of curdled milk or any stomach contents is a cause of concern. You may consult a pediatrician since this can be due to underlying causes that may require medical or surgical care.

Read this post to know more about the possible causes and tips to manage spitting up curdled milk in babies.

Possible Causes Of Spitting Up Curdled Milk

Babies may spit up curdled milk occasionally without apparent causes. However, excessive spitting up of curdled milk can be due to any of the following reasons (1).

1. Acid reflux

Acid reflux can be a common cause of spitting up curdled milk in new borns and young babies. Immature gastroesophagealsphinctersmay cause stomach contents to come up through the esophagus and reach the mouth.

Babies with severe acid reflux may require formula feeding since formula can be slightly thicker than breastmilk. Feeding in an upright position and avoiding overfeeding may help reduce acid reflux in some babies.

You may seeka pediatrician’s advice to choose the best method to manage acid reflux in your baby. Some may require medications to prevent acid reflux.

2. Food intolerance or allergy

Lactose intolerance or milk allergy could cause frequent spitting up of curdled milk in some babies. Switching from breastmilk to specific formulas, such as low-lactose formula or hypoallergenic formula (hydrolysate formula), may improve the baby’s condition.

Some babies may spit up curdled milk if they are drinking cow’s milk. Eliminating cow’s milk from the diet could resolve this problem. You must only introduce cow’s milk once the baby is older than 12 months.

3. Pyloric stenosis

Pylorus is the outlet of the stomach. Pyloric stenosis is a condition where the pylorus is narrowed and obstructed. The condition interferes with the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines. It can cause the baby to regurgitate curdled milk from the stomach.

Babies may have projectile vomiting of curdled milk, no bowel movement or constipation, and weight loss due to pyloric stenosis. You may seek medical care for diagnosis and treatment.

4. Overfeeding

Babies fed more than the required amount tend to spit up curdled or regular milk since their stomach is full. The gastroesophageal sphincters may open due to pressure and cause the backflow of stomach contents in overfed babies.

5. Immature gastrointestinal system

Immature or underdeveloped gastrointestinal structures and functions can be a reason for frequent spit-up in many babies. Newborns and premature babies are more likely to have an immature GI system.

6. Feeding position

Babies fed in lying down positions may quickly spit up when compared to babies who are mostly fed in an upright position. Milk tends to move down promptly in an upright position, and the position may also help keep the esophageal sphincters closed.

7. Swallowing air

Swallowing air while feeding may increase the chance of spit-up. The gastroesophageal sphincters may open for burping, and babies may spit up milk or curdled milk along with burp.

Try to identify and avoid the possible causes of spitting up curdled milk. Seek medical care if the baby continues to spit up curdled milk regardless of interventions.

What Does Normal Baby Spit-up Look Like?

Spit-up can be whitish in breastfed and formula-fed infants. Older infants who are eating solid foods may have spit-up of other colors, depending on what they eat. Sometimes, babies may spit up saliva or stomach acid that may look like a clear fluid.

The red color and coffee-ground color may indicate bleeding in the stomach or upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and yellow or green color can be due to bile or phlegm. You may seek medical care if spit-up has these colors.

When To Call A Doctor?

You may contact the healthcare provider if your baby spits up excess curdled milk or spits up frequently. You may seek medical care for both curdled spit-up and normal spit-up.

Seek medical care if your baby has any of the following conditions with excess spit-up (4).

  • No weight gain
  • Forceful spit-up or vomiting
  • Green or yellow fluid
  • Blood in spit-up or coffee-ground appearance of the spit-up
  • Refuses to eat or drink
  • Blood in stool
  • Breathing problems after spit-up
  • Dehydration
  • Continuous or frequent crying

Stopping or reducing breastfeeding or changing to formula feeding without consulting a pediatrician is not an ideal decision. Spitting up curdled milk can be due to various reasons. The doctor will diagnose the underlying cause and commence the necessary treatment for relief.

Tips To Reduce Spitting Up Curdled Milk

The following tips may help to reduce spitting up curdled milk in babies (2) (3).

  • Feeding in an upright position may help to minimize spit-up.
  • Do not overfeed since babies tend to spit up more when the stomach is full.
  • Do not let the baby lay on their stomach immediately after feeding.
  • Manage milk flow or adjust feeding positions if you have an oversupply of milk.
  • Avoid dressing the baby in tight clothes that may put pressure on their belly while feeding.
  • Feed in regular intervals; long gaps between feedings may increase stomach acid build-up.
  • Give medications on time if prescribed.
  • Modify the diet of infants who are on solid food as per recommendations.
  • Breastfeeding mothers may modify their diet as per recommendations.
  • Do the necessary surgery if spitting up is due to certain conditions, such as pyloric stenosis.

Spitting up of curdled milk can be avoided in many babies. However, if your baby tends to spit up more than usual, you may seek medical care.

Spitting up of curdled milk is usually a normal event. Most babies stop the habit as they grow older and as their digestive system becomes mature. You may try to identify the possible causes, such as erroneous feeding positions or overfeeding, and make changes accordingly. If your interventions don’t work, consult a pediatrician for the diagnosis of any underlying issue.


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