August 18, 2023

What Does Clear Spit Up Mean?

A baby spits up many things—salivary secretions, excess saliva, digestive juices—but when they spit up clear liquid that looks like cottage cheese-looking vomit, it may be a cause for concern. However, this is normal and there are several reasons why your infant spits up clear fluid.

Often, clear spit up is just your baby swallowing air along with their breast milk or formula. As a result, the air gets trapped in their stomach and as they sit up, the liquid moves through the opening from their stomach to their esophagus and comes back out (or into their nose or mouth). This is called reflux. Almost half of young babies spit up regularly. This usually begins between weeks 2 and 4, peaks at around 2-4 months, and then gradually decreases when they start sitting up more and when they begin weaning.

If a baby spits up clear liquid that resembles cottage cheese, it is usually a sign that the milk or formula has been in their tummy for too long and it has mixed with stomach acid, causing it to curdle. If this is happening, it is best to gently burp the baby after feedings and limit their activity after a meal to prevent spitting up as much.

If a baby’s spit up is accompanied by crying that lasts for longer than 3 hours per day or symptoms such as gas, wheezing, rash, and other issues, this could indicate a more serious problem such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can happen when the lower part of the esophageal sphincter muscle is weak or immature. It can also be caused by cow milk protein intolerance or allergy, in which case a switch to a different formula may help reduce the spit up.

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