Why Does My Baby Vomit Everything She Eats

Lynsey Keep, RN
upset baby

A problem faced by the parents of many newborn infants is that of unexplained vomiting, and a question asked of many pediatricians is "why does my baby vomit everything she eats?" For many it is a simple case of poorly established feeding, and for others there may a medical problem which requires a degree of treatment or intervention.

Getting the Feeding Regimen Right

It often takes a couple of weeks to establish a sturdy feeding regimen for a newborn infant. Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, infants adapt at their own pace, and perseverance is the best approach for parents to adopt as there can at times be frustrations when the infant does not take to feeding as well as was hoped.

Why Does My Baby Vomit Everything She Eats: Potential Causes Explained

When a newborn begins to display a pattern of vomiting, parents often worry. Some don't seek medical advice as soon as they should through fear that they as parents have got something wrong with the feeding regimen they have developed. It is important for parents to distinguish between the normal and very common action of a baby bringing up small 'possett's' of milk compared to copious amounts of milk being vomited in much larger volumes.

There are many common reasons which answer the question "why does my baby vomit everything she eats":

Positional Vomiting

Some infants tolerate feeding far better when fed in an almost upright position. If laid down soon after a feed, many infants will vomit purely because the milk has not quite found its way into the stomach and is vomited from the upper gastrointestinal tract.

'Winding' or 'burping' is crucial for newborns, as unlike older children and adults they are not able to belch the contents of what they have just eaten if a pocket of milk or air develops on the way down. Winding allows for trapped air, which is a common feature in the newborn, to be expelled with ease. If an infant is not winded fully after a feed he may be prone to vomiting soon afterwards.

Gastric Bug

Providing symptoms do not last more than 24 hours, some babies will be able to contend with occasional gastric bugs and viruses. Particularly when mixing with other children, infants can be as prone to such problems as adults and will suffer in just the same way.

A period of vomiting and feeling generally unwell is no major concern provided the infant does not become dehydrated. Close monitoring of the output of urine in diapers is a good indicator of potential dehydration.

Milk Intolerance

Although not the most common, milk intolerance in newborns can be a difficult issue to identify and subsequently overcome. Often is the case that a newborn will vomit after every feeding. A milk allergy occurs when the infant's body identifies the protein present in milk as an enemy to the body and in an attempt to reject it the infant vomits. Infants who are breastfed are less likely to develop an allergy to milk; however, it is not unheard of.

As well as vomiting, intolerance to milk usually displays other symptoms such as:

In cases where milk intolerance is suspected, advice must be sought immediately from a pediatrician as the infant could be at risk of becoming undernourished if he is not tolerating it's much relied on milk feeds.

Gastric Reflux

This is a relatively common problem in infants and is fortunately treatable with the aid of medication given until the infant grows out of it. Gastric reflux can present at any age in an infant, although this condition usually appears within the first couple of months. Presentation often occurs in the form of vomiting which at times can be projectile in nature. The infant is often uncomfortable due to the acid which is produced each time he vomits. Crying and irritability is not uncommon with the infant drawing his legs upward for comfort.

Gastric reflux must be diagnosed and treated under the care of a pediatrician, and once medication has taken effect, the infant can soon return to a normal feeding pattern.

Pyloric Stenosis

Pyloric stenosis is one of the least common causes of infant vomiting; however, it is seen in approximately three babies per thousand in the US. The condition presents with the infant vomiting suddenly in a forceful manner with the vomit appearing in a fountain-like fashion.

The condition is caused when a narrowing in the gastrointestinal tract forces food which tries to pass, back upwards and out of the mouth. Presenting between the ages of two weeks and two months, pyloric stenosis requires prompt surgical treatment to correct as the infant will become at increasing risk of dehydration as the vomiting continues.

Don't Just Assume

Most importantly it is not a good idea to make assumptions about the reason the infant is vomiting after feedings. Just because another child has had reflux or has gotten a stomach bug, this does not automatically mean that the newborn has the same. If symptoms persist after a period of 24 hours, it is crucial to seek the advice and attention of a pediatrician.

Some conditions are not diagnosed solely on symptoms and how the infant presents. For conditions such as pyloric stenosis, an abdominal ultrasound scan is the investigation of choice as it shows clearly where the gastric defect is if present. Parents need to be aware that some conditions are identified by a process of elimination, and therefore patience is very much required.

Why Does My Baby Vomit Everything She Eats