Vomiting in babies: what’s normal and what’s not

Is it normal for my baby to vomit?

Yes, most babies vomit from time to time, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. Everything from indigestion to a prolonged bout of crying or coughing can trigger this reflex. So you may see quite a lot of vomiting in your baby’s first few years.

Why is my baby vomiting?

Here are some of the most common reasons that your baby could be being sick:

Reflux

If your baby’s bringing up milk after a breastfeed or bottle, he may have reflux (also known as posseting or spitting up).

Reflux happens because the tube that carries your baby’s food to his stomach (oesophagus) is still developing, so milk can sometimes leak back up after a feed, and come out of your baby’s mouth or nose. It affects up to half of all babies, and is usually nothing to worry about. It should clear up on its own as your baby’s digestive system matures, and is usually gone by 18 months.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between reflux and vomiting. If your baby’s just dribbling a bit of milk after each feed, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if he’s vomiting more forcefully after feeds, it could be a sign of something other than reflux. Take him to see your GP as soon as possible, just to be on the safe side.

Learn more about how to tell if your baby has reflux, and what to do about it.

Tummy bug

Your little one’s immune system is still developing, so he’s more likely to catch any viruses that are going around. If your baby does have a virus, his vomiting may come on suddenly and get better within a day or two. He may also have other symptoms, such as diarrhoea, fever or tummy pain.

In many cases, a virus just needs to run its course, and you can care for your little one at home. But if he has a fever or any other symptom that concerns you, or he’s not getting better within a few days, see your GP.

Other infections

If your baby gets another type of infection, such as a chest infection or urinary tract infection (UTI), he may be generally under the weather. Some babies experience symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea as their immune systems fight the infection.

Food allergy or intolerance

Your baby may be sick if he has a reaction to something he’s eaten or drunk – or something you’ve eaten if you’re breastfeeding. The most common allergens include milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish.

If your baby has an allergy, he may also have other symptoms, such as diarrhoea, and swelling or itchiness around his mouth, nose or eyes. These symptoms usually come on within minutes or hours of eating or drinking a potential allergen.

If you think your baby could have a food intolerance, don’t remove any foods from his diet (or your diet if you’re breastfeeding), without talking to your GP, midwife or health visitor first. They’ll be able to help you make sure that your little one still gets all the nutrients he needs.

However, if your baby has an obvious allergic reaction to a new food, it’s sensible not to offer it again until you can talk to your GP or health visitor.