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Baby Spitting Up Curdled Milk? Learn Why & When To Worry

by olbaby

Mom’s question:
My baby boy is 5 weeks old. He is eating 4 oz every 3-4 hours. He is spitting up a lot. He was on breast milk, but after he was spitting up what looked like curdled milk his doctor said to try formula. He is doing the same thing, so switching to formula didn’t help at all. I’m not sure what to try now?

What Does Normal Baby Spit Up Look Like

I wonder if maybe you and the doctor have misunderstood each other.

For babies that are fully breastfed or formula-fed, normal baby spit-up will look just like the formula or milk that he or she just had or may appear more or less curdled.

The milk becomes curdled when mixed with the acidic stomach fluid. So a baby spitting up curdled milk in itself is completely normal and not a problem. Many young babies spit up a bit of curdled milk now and then.

However, curdled milk in combination with very frequent vomiting may be a sign that something is not completely right.

Whether the milked is curdled or not is more a matter of how quickly they spit up after feeding! If the baby swallowed the milk, and it is mixed with the stomach fluids, it will come back up curdled. If your baby spat up immediately after swallowing, the milk will come back up just like regular milk.

However, curdled milk in combination with very frequent vomiting may be a sign that something is not completely right.

Baby Spit-Up Color

As you have already noticed, baby spit-up is likely to be whitish as long as the baby only eats formula or breastmilk. Once solid foods are introduced, the spit-up color will, of course, depend on what the baby is eating.

However, there are a few colors to watch out for.

Red (indicating blood) or coffee-ground color (also indicating blood) needs to be addressed by a doctor immediately since some sort of internal bleeding is going on.

Yellow or green colored baby spit-up could mean that your baby either is vomiting phlegm or bile. Both indicating that your baby is ill.

Babies can also spit up clear liquid, which is usually less of a concern. The spit-up can be saliva or stomach content, and it can indicate acid reflux or possibly pyloric stenosis, which you can read more about below.

But again, a baby spitting up curdled milk is not in itself an issue.

When Do Babies Stop Spitting Up?

When babies stop spitting up is quite individual and depends on if they have any underlying problems or just “normal” baby spit-up”.

But in general spitting-up peaks at around 4 months and then stops at some point between 6 months and 12 months of age. Most babies more or less stop spitting up when they have become strong enough to sit up without support.

Reasons For Excessive Spitting Up Of Curdled Milk In Babies

Here are a few possible reasons for excessive spitting up of curdled milk:

1. Intolerance

Your boy may have an intolerance to for example lactose or milk protein. If this is the case, then switching to some formula will not help at all unless you give him a special formula that caters to these problems.

Two possible types of formula that may work are hydrolysate formula, which is hypoallergenic and most often tolerated by babies with milk protein allergy, or low lactose formula, which can help your baby if he is lactose intolerant. (Links to Amazon, where you can check them out.)

However, it is entirely possible to continue breastfeeding a baby who is allergic to cow’s milk! All you have to do is to eliminate cow’s milk from your own diet.

2. Acid Reflux

He may suffer from acid reflux. This is quite a common condition among newborn babies, where the gastric juices containing acid can travel back from the stomach into the throat – painful.

Switching to formula can sometimes help slightly since the formula is a bit thicker than breast milk. This is probably why the doctor suggested it. But it is a fairly minor difference – or no difference, as in your case!

Instead of quitting the breastfeeding, which obviously has a lot of benefits, try things like not feeding your baby too much at the time, feeding him in an upright position, avoid foods (for you if you breastfeed) that can aggravate reflux such as citrus, tomatoes, fatty foods, spicy foods, and carbonated drinks.

3. Pyloric Stenosis

Pyloric Stenosis is a condition where the outlet of the stomach is too narrow for the foods to travel over into the intestines.

Projectile vomiting of milk that may or may not is curdled, weight loss, and constipation are some of the signs of pyloric stenosis.

This is not a full list, of course, but some examples. It may very well also be that nothing is wrong with your baby and that he simply is a baby who spits up a bit more than the average infant. If he is gaining weight and doesn’t appear to be in pain, he is likely to be fine.

Warning Signs Of Excessive Spitting Up In Babies

The reason I say that the doctor and you may have misunderstood each other is that it should be the excessive spitting up rather than the curled milk that is the main problem.

Here are some indicators from Mayo Clinic of problematic excessive spitting up in babies:

  • Your baby isn’t gaining weight
  • The spit ups are forceful, more like real vomiting
  • The spit-up contain green or yellow fluid
  • Your baby spits up blood or material that looks like coffee grounds (which is likely to be blood, and in this case you need to take your baby to a doctor immediately)
  • Your baby refuses to eat repeatedly
  • There is blood in his or her poop
  • Your baby has difficulty breathing or other signs of illness (again, call the Dr or an ambulance, depending on the situation)
  • Spitting starts late – at age 6 months or older (this could, for example, be due to a food intolerance)
  • If your baby cries a lot –  for more than three hours a day and is more irritable than normal
  • Shows signs of dehydration and has fewer wet diapers than usual

I think you should take him back to his doctor (or maybe to another one if you don’t think you get enough support from this one).

Simply telling you to stop breastfeeding is not, in my opinion, good advice. And you need to understand what the Doctor actually thinks is the problem.

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