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What to Do When a Baby Is Vomiting

author image Wallis Bishop
Wallis Bishop began writing in 2002. She specializes in issues related to child health, development and parenting. She spent five years teaching toddler and preschool age children and holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, with a specialization in infant and toddler mental health.
What to Do When a Baby Is Vomiting
A young mother holding her baby near a window. Photo Credit altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When a baby becomes sick it is easy for parents to become worried very quickly. Young children are fragile, and new parents often don't know what is normal and what should be cause for concern. This is particularly true of a vomiting baby. It can be a very distressing sight and is often a sign of illness.

Prevent Choking

The most important thing for a parent to do in the moment when their baby vomits is to prevent the child from choking. Because young babies do not have the head or body control to move themselves, parents should immediately position their child on her side when she is vomiting. Parents should monitor their child closely until the illness that is causing her to vomit has passed.


According to KidsHealth and Dr. Steven Dowshen, vomiting in babies can have a number of causes, the most common being a stomach virus called gastroenteritis. Almost all babies will deal with this illness at least once in the first year of life, and it is not unusual for a baby to have it more than once. A less common but very serious cause of vomiting in infants is a condition called pyloric stenosis. Pyloric stenosis occurs when the muscles at the bottom of a baby's stomach are too thick, preventing milk from passing from the stomach to the intestines.

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Vomit or Spit-Up?

Some parents have trouble differentiating between vomit and spit-up. The best way to tell the difference is by observing the force with which the child is regurgitating. Because vomiting is caused by abdominal contractions, milk is forcefully brought up through the esophagus. Spit-up on the other hand is brought up passively and tends to trickle from the child's mouth. Spitting up is normal in young babies, and generally should not be a cause for concern.


The biggest risk vomiting poses to an infant is dehydration. Dehydration can happen fairly quickly in young infants, so parents should be particularly vigilant about keeping their baby hydrated. Unless your doctor has advised otherwise, do not give plain water to an infant. Instead, an electrolyte replacement liquid should be given. Dr. Dowshen recommends giving the baby no more than half an ounce every 20 minutes. If you are unsure whether your child is dehydrated, count how many wet diapers he produces. If it is less than four in a day, he could be dehydrated.

When to Call the Doctor

Never hesitate to call your doctor at any time if you are concerned about your child's health. When dealing with vomiting, there are a few circumstances that warrant a call to your doctor. If your infant is vomiting blood, displaying signs of dehydration or is running a fever of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, call your doctor immediately. Your child may be in need of intravenous hydration or a physical examination to determine the cause of the vomiting.

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