Spitting up is a normal part of having a newborn or an infant; it’s something you have to expect for the first several months. What you might not expect are the times when milk comes out of your baby’s nose.
At first, seeing your newborn spitting up through his nose can be scary, especially when it pours out fast. Your baby might be upset or start to gag and choke, but it’s normal. It typically doesn’t warrant a doctor’s visit, and the whole incident can be over in minutes.
We know this can be worrisome for parents, so we want to discuss why you might see your baby spit up milk through his nose and if you can do anything to reduce it from happening.
Baby Spitting Up Through His Nose – Is It Normal?
You might notice breast milk or formula coming out of your baby’s nose because of infant reflux. It causes the milk to come back out of your baby’s stomach and through his mouth or nose. While it might be upsetting (most adults cannot imagine this happening to them), it’s rarely a serious problem.
Reflux is a common problem that infants face, and it can cause an abundance of spitting up. It’s not abnormal for babies with reflux to spit up several times per day; that includes when the milk comes out of your baby’s nose.
Your baby has no control over this, so you might see milk coming out of your baby’s nose while sleeping. Reflux pushes the milk back up, and since your mouth and nose are connected, it comes out of either one. It selects randomly, and it often can be projectile spit-up as well.
Make sure you have those burp cloths ready for the spit up!
Here are the things that increase the likelihood of your baby throwing up through his nose.
Immature Stomach Valve
As your baby drinks milk, it has to move down his esophagus into his stomach, but the sphincter muscle has to open to allow the milk to pass. Once the food is in your baby’s stomach, the muscle should close, preventing it from flowing back up.
The problem is that many babies, even full-term babies, have an immature esophageal sphincter. It’s a common problem in newborn babies, allowing food to escape from your stomach and move back into your esophagus.
Babies swallow air often, especially new babies who don’t have a proper latch yet. If your baby feels starving, he might rush when nursing, causing him to gulp in the air.
Likewise, not all bottles have anti-colic vents that push out air. If your baby is taking in pouches of air while drinking his milk, it fills his belly with air. Later, that air can push the milk back out again by spitting up.
Distractions Leading to Choking
As your baby gets older, distractions become a real problem while feeding. Noises and daily life happenings interest your baby, and that can cause the suck-swallow reflex to be disrupted.
When distracted, your baby might swallow large amounts of milk on accident. That leads to choking, and milk might fly back out of his nose.
Coughing and Sneezing
Don’t be surprised if your baby sneezes milk out of his nose. Babies have little to no control over their bodies, and all it takes is a simple sneeze or cough. The next thing you know, milk is flying out of his nose and mouth, and your baby is just as surprised as you!
How Can I Tell The Difference Between Spit-up and Vomit?
It’s easy to get worried when you see milk coming out of your baby’s nose while he’s choking. It leaves you wondering when spit-up is considered vomiting instead.
Spit-up is common, and it typically isn’t a concern for parents. Vomiting is more concerning; it’s the forceful movement of the stomach’s content out of your body. It typically comes out of your baby with more force and in larger volumes, but a spit-up can come out with a burb and only be a small amount.
All babies will vomit from time to time! It could be due to a stomach bug or motion sickness, but frequent vomiting isn’t normal. Contacting your doctor is a good idea if it doesn’t go away quickly.
Is Spitting Up Out of The Nose Dangerous?
When your baby spits up through his nose and can’t breathe, it feels like this is a significant problem, but it rarely is.
Sometimes, when your baby has small amounts of milk come out of his nose, it triggers his reflexes to cough or sneeze, which then causes him to breathe inward. That can clog up his nose for a short period.
You can use a bulb syringe to clear out your baby’s nose, but it’s a combination of natural reflexes that created this little problem. The most important things are:
- The milk that comes out is the right color.
- He isn’t spitting up entire meals every single time he feeds.
- Your baby is gaining weight appropriately.
- You don’t notice a shift in his personality.
Can You Stop Milk From Coming Out of Your Baby’s Nose?
To some degree, spitting up is expected, so you won’t be able to stop all milk from coming out of your baby’s nose. If you’re nursing and see milk coming out of your baby’s nose while breastfeeding from time to time, that’s just part of the deal.
However, you can do things to help reduce how often and how much your baby spits up.
Don’t Wait Until Your Baby Is Starving
When your baby is starving, he might take in too much air as he feeds. More air leads to more gas in his tummy, which causes milk to come right back up. Move your feedings up slightly to ensure he is hungry but not starving.
Use The Right Size Bottle Nipple
If you use bottles, make sure you use the right size nipples. If you use nipples that are too large, he will spend too much time gulping air, increasing the likelihood of reflux.
If your baby is spitting up often, you might need to burp your baby more. Burping releases pent-up gas, which we know is problematic.
Keep Your Baby Upright
After your baby feeds, keep him upright for 15-20 minutes. That can be in your arms, but you also can try a swing or bouncy seat. Laying your baby flat right after eating increases the risk of spitting up.
When You Should Call The Doctor
This situation is rarely a big deal, but it’s okay if you want that reassurance from your doctor. Hearing that all is well from your doctor is a sigh of relief.
At times, some symptoms warrant a trip to visit your doctor. Here are signs that you should see your doctor.
- Your baby’s spit-up is yellow or green rather than milk-colored.
- He spits up his entire feeding frequently. Watch the amount that comes out.
- Spitting up blood is a sign that you need to go to the emergency room at your local children’s hospital.
- Your baby isn’t gaining weight, or he is starting to lose weight.
- His stools are weird looking, watery, or bloody.
- He’s unhappy while eating and fusses often.
Be sure to keep an eye on your baby and his behavior. A happy baby who spits up and occasionally has milk coming out of his nose is no big deal.
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.