The Symptoms of Regurgitation in Babies

Regurgitation in babies can involve certain symptoms that may indicate a more serious issue. We'll explain what they are today.
The Symptoms of Regurgitation in Babies

Written by Carmen Martín

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Regurgitation in babies that are under a year old is a very common phenomenon. To be more specific, we’re referring to the return of stomach contents to the pharynx or mouth. Unlike vomiting, regurgitation occurs without effort or nausea.

This issue is so common that it actually occurs in more than 50% of babies. However, on occasion, childhood regurgitation can be a sign of illness due to gastroesophageal reflux. In the article below, we’ll tell you about the causes and symptoms.

Regurgitation in babies: Why does it occur?

Childhood regurgitation occurs because a child’s digestive system has yet to develop completely. The esophagus possesses a valve that regulates the passing of foods to the stomach. This valve–the lower esophageal sphincter–is immature in babies. Therefore, the content of their stomachs tends to return to the esophagus. As babies grow, the valve develops and the regurgitation disappears on its own.

Furthermore, another factor that contributes to regurgitation in babies is their position. Children, before the age of 8 months, spend most of their time lying down. This also contributes to the movement of foods toward the mouth.

In addition, the fact that babies’ diet consists completely or almost completely of milk is another important factor. Therefore, once babies begin to eat solid foods, they start to spit up less. In the same way, the amount of milk that babies drink influences their likelihood of bringing it up. The “fuller” a baby is, the easier it is for him or her to bring up.

You may also want to read: Five Natural Remedies for Baby Colic

Should regurgitation in babies be a cause for concern?

A baby eating.

As we’ve mentioned, childhood regurgitation is an issue that affects more than half of all babies. In general, it’s nothing to worry about. However, you should talk to your pediatrician if your baby presents any of the following symptoms :

  • Lack of weight gain
  • Very abundant regurgitations
  • Your baby is tired, inactive, and drowsy
  • Regurgitation involves force or contains blood
  • Signs of dehydration – when babies are dehydrated, they wet their diapers less often, have sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes, etc.
  • The liquid your baby spits up is green or brown

The above symptoms could be an indication that your baby is suffering from gastroesophageal reflux. In other words, if regurgitation persists over time or you observe these symptoms, then something more serious may be going on.

Persistent reflux can produce an alteration in esophageal mucous since stomach content has an acidic pH. In fact, it can come to cause anemia and problems with the baby’s airway. Therefore, they can suffer from episodes of apnea, persistent cough, or repeated bronchitis.

In order to diagnose reflux, doctors sue complementary tests like endoscopy, esophageal pH monitoring, and radiography.

What to do about regurgitation

A baby eating mashed carrots.

Position and routine when feeding babies both play a role in the development of regurgitation.

Although regurgitation is almost always harmless and normal, it can be uncomfortable both for babies and parents. Fortunately, there are certain measures you can take to keep the problem to a minimum. First of all, you should keep your baby upright, rather than totally flat.

This is especially important for the first half-hour after eating. You can place a pillow or diapers underneath your little one’s mattress in order to create inclination. In the same way, avoid rough play after eating, as jostling can cause regurgitation.

Next, it’s important to feed your baby calmly and prevent him or her from eating too much. In the same way, it’s always a good idea to burp your baby after feedings. Burping keeps air from accumulating in the stomach and also contributes to digestion.

If you’re nourishing your baby with formula milk, then it’s important not to give him or her too much. That’s because formula is harder for babies to digest than breast milk.

If none of the above suggestions make a difference or your baby is presenting the symptoms we mentioned above, your doctor may recommend medication. These help to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. However, you shouldn’t give your baby any medication or specialized formula unless your doctor prescribes itThe most common medications for treating gastroesophageal reflux are the following:

  • H2 blockers, which reduce the production of acid.
  • Proton-pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces.

Sometimes, medications don’t help either. Therefore, there are surgical techniques reserved for these exceptional cases. Doctors will only perform the surgery if a baby experiences serious respiratory problems or has some subjacent anatomic cause.


In conclusion, regurgitation in babies is normal. However, it’s important to be aware of, and attentive to, any signs of alarm and talk to your doctor if you have any doubts.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.