Breastfed babies usually spit up thin milky fluid, whereas formula-fed babies spit up material that looks similar to cottage cheese. Spitting up through mouth and nose is quite common in babies. But if your little one spits up bright red or brown colored blood along with milky fluid, it may trigger an alarm.
However, spitting up blood by babies need not always indicate a medical concern. It depends on whether there are streaks of blood or frank red blood. If the baby is happy and active, it is unlikely that an underlying medical condition is a reason for them to spit up blood. In any case, a thorough checkup by a pediatrician could give assurance.
In this post, MomJunction tells you about the normal causes for blood spit-up in babies, when it is serious, and tips to reduce it.
Is It Normal For Babies To Spit-up Blood?
Spitting-up of blood is definitely a concern in babies, whether neonates or infants. Neonates may spit-up of red or pink-tinged flecks could be due to swallowed maternal blood during delivery. This happens in the first few days after delivery. For older breastfeeding babies, spitting-up blood could be due to the ingestion of maternal blood from cracked and sore nipples. But in both cases that is flecks of blood.
Causes Of Baby Spitting Up Blood
There could be several reasons why the baby spits up blood. The severity of it may also vary from baby to baby.
1. Cracked and sore nipples
In most breastfeeding babies, the blood the baby spits up is usually from the mother and not from the baby’s body system (1). It can happen if you have sore or cracked nipples. It is common for nursing moms, especially those who have just started nursing to experience irritation in the nipples due to the pulling and pressure, or because of the exposure of skin to saliva. It may turn so bad that the skin cracks and bleeds. It subsides with the healing of nipples.
Most of the time, a healthy breastfeeding infant who spits up a little blood would have swallowed it from the mother’s sore nipple. The blood irritates the tummy, and it regurgitates. If you do not see any crack, try to express some milk and check if it emits a blood tinge.However, the blood is streaks of blood, never frank blood. Always check the mothers nipples for cracks.
If you observe blood in your breast milk or on your nipple, offer some sugar water or plain water to your baby after feeding, so that the blood clears away from their tummy. Stop feeding through the cracked nipple for a few days until it heals. You can use a nipple shield, which is available in pharmacies, to avoid irritation to the healing nipple. You can still breastfeed your baby from the same breast.
The blood that passes with the breastmilk will also mix with the food in the intestine, and you may see blood in your baby’s stool as well.
If you find no blood from the nipple, or if your baby is on formula feed and you can still find them spitting blood, your baby should be immediately taken to the doctor.
2. Swallowed blood during delivery
If your baby spits up blood shortly after birth, there is nothing to worry about. It may be the maternal-fetal blood your baby might have swallowed during delivery (2). The blood usually subsides after one or two days, but if it continues to come, consult a doctor.
3. Forceful spitting up
In rare cases, your baby may forcibly spit up, causing a tiny tear in the blood vessel present in the esophagus. It is nothing of worry again, as it heals quickly with time (3).
It is an inflammation that damages the tissues in the esophagus, the muscular tube that delivers food from the mouth to the stomach (4).This sometimes occurs when the baby is given medicines, such as anti-inflammatory or antibiotics, causing gastritis.
When To Call The Doctor?
If none of the above causes are the reasons behind your baby spitting up blood, and if it continues to persist, you should take them to a pediatrician.
If your baby is having symptoms like green vomiting, abdominal distention, fever, or lethargy, reluctance to feed, you need to seek immediate medical care. Blood spit-up due to gastrointestinal issues could be a sign of a major underlying medical concern.
Tips To Reduce Spitting Up In Babies
Follow some simple tips to bring down the frequency of your baby spitting up (5):
1. Burp your baby
Take time to burp your baby after each feeding session. It can keep the air from building up in your baby’s stomach and avoid spit-ups.
2. No physical activity
Keep your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after every feed. Avoid immediate active play or use of swings. Also avoid pressing on a baby’s belly (tummy time) right after eating.
4. Small and frequent feedings
Try smaller and frequent feeding sessions. As the baby’s stomach is small, do not overfeed him in a single session.
Babies spitting blood can be worrisome. However, identifying the reasons for blood spit-up and timely pediatric consultation could help address issues before they become complicated. With the guidance of a doctor and simple household measures, you can effectively manage the condition, as long as it is not due to a medical concern.
Have you any experiences to share with us? Do share them with us in the comments box below.
2. Vomiting in neonates; Victorian Agency For Health Information
3. Spitting Up – Reflux; Seattle Children’s
4. Esophagitis in Children; Boston Children’s Hospital
5.Why Babies Spit Up; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
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