Most babies vomit small amounts from time to time and bring up some milk when they burp. This is known as posseting and is usually nothing to worry about.
You can tell when your baby is vomiting rather than posseting because there will be a lot more coming out.
Vomiting is also very common (up to half of all babies do it) and in most cases it will improve with time. Although it might look like they are vomiting a lot, most babies continue to grow normally and do not look particularly distressed by it.
As long as your baby seems otherwise healthy and continues to gain weight, there’s usually no need to worry or seek further help. The Baby Centre website has some simple things you can do to help.
However, vomiting can occasionally be a sign of an underlying problem such as severe reflux, milk allergy, pyloric stenosis, a stomach bug or infection. Below are some signs to look out for if you are worried.
Check if your child has any red symptoms:
- Your child becomes pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch.
- Green vomit (the colour of spinach or peas).
- Pauses in their breathing lasting more than 10 seconds, grunting or going blue around the lips.
- Is stiff or rigid or makes repeated, jerky movements of arms or legs that don’t stop when you hold them (a fit or seizure).
- Becomes extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction), confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake).
- Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’).
- Is under three months of age with a temperature of 38°C / 100.4°F or above (unless fever in the 48 hours following vaccinations and no other red or amber features are present) – how to take your child’s temperature.
Actions to take if your child has any red symptoms
- Your child may require emergency treatment.
- You should call 999 or take them to your NEAREST Emergency Department where they can be assessed.
If there are no red symptoms, check if your child has any amber symptoms:
- Vomits forcefully (shoots across the cot or room).
- Not interested in feeding and / or looks dehydrated (dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears, drowsy, no wet nappies in the last eight hours or sunken fontanelle (soft spot on the head).
- Is becoming drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them with cuddles, toys, TV or snacks) – especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down.
- Has trouble putting on weight or is constantly arching their back and crying when feeding.
- In an otherwise well child, ongoing vomiting with blood in the poo.
- Is getting worse or you are worried.
Options if your child has any amber symptoms
Your child does not need to be taken to the Emergency Department immediately, but you should seek medical advice today.
- ring your GP surgery during their usual opening hours
- contact the out of hours GP if the surgery is closed
If symptoms continue for four hours or more and you have not been able to speak to your GP or the out of hours GP, consider going to your nearest Emergency Department.
If your child develops any of the red symptoms above, go to your nearest Emergency Department.
No red or amber features are present and your baby:
- continues to feed well and is gaining weight
- has plenty of wet nappies
- wakes up or cries regularly for feeds
If no red or amber symptoms are present:
- your child does not seem to have any symptoms of serious illness or injury
- you can get general advice on the NI Direct website or from your local pharmacy
If your child develops any of the red or amber symptoms above, follow the advice in these sections.
How you can help manage your child’s vomiting at home
- If you are breastfeeding, seek advice from a breastfeeding specialist. It is possible that your baby is not latching on properly.
- If you are bottle feeding, ensure your baby is in the right position (sitting almost upright) and you use the recommended amount of powder (it is quite easy to use too much if you have changed product or start using a different scoop than the one provided in the tin).
- It is also quite easy to give your baby too much milk when you are bottle feeding. Their stomach is only small and most babies need fed little and often – six or seven feeds per day is the norm, including at night. Your health visitor can help review how much milk your baby should need and the timing of the feeds.
- However, if after two weeks you are still concerned, seek advice from your health visitor or GP.
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor.
- Alternatively, you can contact your GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will check whether your child needs to be seen urgently. Out of hours GP details are available here.
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest Emergency Department in critical or life-threatening situations.
- See our section: How does the Children’s Emergency Department Work?