Research-backed

Baby Spitting Up Mucus: Is It Normal, Causes and When To Worry

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Does your baby spit up mucus or milk occasionally? This is normal and could be a result of their immature digestive system or poor closure of the valve (pyloric sphincter) at the upper end of the stomach. However, if your baby spits up mucus or clear liquid often, it could be a cause for concern. Various reasons could be behind it, and when you know why it happens, you will be able to treat it.

Here is a post that sheds light on why your baby spits up mucus often and the treatment options for it.

How Normal Is It For A Baby To Spit Up Mucus?

While it is normal for babies to spit up mucus or milk occasionally, you should be concerned if it becomes a repeated occurrence (more than a few times a day). If the mucus contains traces of blood, or you spot signs of distress in your baby, seek medical attention.

So, what could be the possible reasons behind babies spitting up mucus? Read the next section to find out.

Why Do Babies Spit Up Mucus?

It could be concerning to see your baby spit up milk or mucus, but this is a common occurrence until they are 12 months old. They could spit up a clear liquid or regurgitate food that is milky white. This could be due to their immature digestive system. However, there could be other reasons as well. Let’s find out.

1. Overfeeding

As your baby’s digestive system is underdeveloped, it may struggle to handle extra food. So, if you overfeed your baby, they might spit up or vomit the excess food.

If your baby vomits, do not force-feed them to compensate for the vomited food, as it would only lead to more vomiting.

2. Spitting up right after feeding

Sometimes, you might find your baby spitting up clear liquid just after feeding. You might also find spit-ups that are white, milky, or clear after they burp. This could be due to their developing digestive system.

3. Teething

Babies usually start teething between six and twelve months. It can cause major discomfort for the baby. One of the common symptoms of teething is drooling. The salivary reflex is stimulated by eruptions of teeth during teething, which results in excess production of saliva (1).

Sometimes, babies can also spit up the excess saliva in the form of a clear liquid. In case your baby spits up more than usual while teething, look out for occasional coughing or gagging and skin rashes around the mouth, cheeks, chin, and neck area (2).

4. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER)

GER is a condition in which the contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus. It generally occurs due to the underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter in babies. The condition occurs in 40–65% of infants between the ages of one and four months.

In the case of GER, you would notice your baby spitting up mucus and vomiting due to the forceful expulsion of gastric material from the mouth. Besides spitting up and vomiting, if your baby cries excessively (colic), has trouble swallowing, feels irritable after feeding, or gags continuously, it could be GER (3).

5. Pyloric stenosis

This is a condition of the gastrointestinal tract that may cause your baby to spit up and vomit. In pyloric stenosis, the lower part of the stomach that connects the intestines (pylorus) narrows, preventing the food from the stomach from entering the small intestine.

This condition affects three out of 1,000 babies in the U.S., and male babies are four times at a higher risk of developing it than female babies. Babies with pyloric stenosis are not born with it but develop it between three and five weeks. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is seen in babies whose mothers took antibiotics during the end or of pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Along with spitting, you may also notice projectile vomiting, which is characterized by the forceful ejection of breast milk or formula from the mouth, fewer and smaller stools, failure to gain weight, and lethargy (4).

6. Throat infections

Sometimes, throat infections can also lead to the spitting up of mucus in babies. One such infection is epiglottitis, a severe infection of the flap of tissue above the vocal cords. It generally covers the windpipe during swallowing. Along with drooling and spitting, this condition also causes severe sore throat and fever (5). Note that your baby requires emergency care if they have this condition, as it could shut off the airway.

How To Stop A Baby From Spitting Up Mucus

Spitting up mucus or milk is normal in babies and does not need any special attention. It might subside once your baby’s digestive system matures to handle the food. However, if your baby often spits up and shows additional symptoms, consider following the tips mentioned below.

  • Keep your baby’s feeding patterns in mind, and do not overfeed them. One way to deal with this is to decrease each feeding quantity while increasing the frequency of feeding. This would help your baby get the necessary nutrients while giving their immature digestive tract enough time to process food.
  • If the spitting up is due to teething, try to give your baby a frozen teether to chew on, gently massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger, and continue to breastfeed to help soothe their sore gums.
  • To keep GER symptoms in check, try to elevate your baby’s head after feeding, ensure you burp your baby after each feeding, and thicken the formula milk after consulting with your pediatrician.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if your baby is diagnosed with more severe issues such as pyloric stenosis or bacterial infections.
  • If your baby’s nose is filled with mucus, they may not know how to sneeze and get it out. So, when the mucus enters the throat, they might swallow or spit it up. To prevent this, you can suck mucus out of your baby’s nose using a bulb syringe.

When To Call Your Doctor?

Call your doctor if (6)

  • You notice faint blood traces in the spit-up. This could be due to the inflammation of the esophageal tissue. Also, if your baby spits up dark brown blood, you may have to seek medical attention.
  • Your baby spits up milk that turns blue. This could be due to an airway or intestinal obstruction.
  • Your baby is less than 12 weeks, and the spitting up of mucus has changed to vomiting.
  • You notice signs of epiglottitis in your baby.
  • The baby stops gaining weight.
  • The baby is lethargic and has trouble feeding.

Although spitting up clear liquid or mucus is common in babies, it is important to understand the cause. If the cause isn’t serious, keep breastfeeding your baby, and the spitting up might subside on its own. However, if your baby spits up often and fails to gain weight, it is best to contact your doctor.

References:

MomJunction's health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Alexander KC Leung and C Pion Kao; Drooling in children; Paediatrics Child Health (1999).
2. Your Infant is Teething: Know the Signs and Symptoms; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
3. Anna Rybak et al.; Gastro-Esophageal Reflux in Children; International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2017).
4. Pyloric Stenosis; Rady Children’s Hospital
5. Sore Throat; Seattle Children’s Hospital
6. Spitting Up – Reflux; Seattle Children’s Hospital