Why Does My Son Vomit After Eating or Drinking?

A: Your baby, like many babies, may have mild GER, or gastroesophageal reflux. A mild degree of reflux is very common in babies, especially in the first six months or so of life.

The esophagus, or food pipe, connects the mouth to the stomach. At the end of the esophagus is a muscle, the esophageal sphincter, which usually tightens to keep food from coming up into the esophagus. But in many babies during the first several months, the esophageal sphincter is not well developed. So babies often bring up food or milk with a burp or with a change in position.

Reflux is not a major problem for most babies, unless they bring up so much milk that they do not grow well or the lower part of the esophagus gets irritated (esophagitis) from the stomach content’s acidity. If your baby is growing well and having no other difficulties, he is probably still in the normal range but experiencing a little more reflux than most babies. If your baby is not growing well, your pediatrician can recommend strategies or medications to help.

Changing the formula does not usually help reflux. Please do not give your baby regular milk of any kind — regular cow’s milk does not provide the proper amount of protein, calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs at his age.

You may notice that your baby keeps down cereal, fruits and vegetables better than formula or juice. Some babies with reflux do well with thickened feeds instead of regular liquids. Mix in one teaspoon of dry baby rice cereal for every two ounces of formula and feed it to him in place of regular formula. (You may have to crosscut the bottle nipple or make the hole bigger.) Talk to your doctor about how long you should use thickened formula.

Babies with reflux often do better when fed in a relatively upright position — in your arms, or in a high chair or infant seat. Gravity will help keep food in your son’s stomach and cut down on reflux if you elevate the head of his crib or allow him to sleep in his car seat.

Reflux usually gets much better after about six months. If your son continues to have difficulties, please let your pediatrician know.