Baby Health: Being Sick

Babies are often a little sick after a feed, but when can vomit signal something more serious?

When your baby seems unwell, it’s understandable that you might fear the worst, but nine times out of 10 there’ll be nothing to worry about. Still, it’s a good idea to know the basics of baby health.

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When to call the doctor

With any baby health worry, contact your GP or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 if your baby:

  • Has temperature of 38°C of higher
  • Has forceful, repeated vomiting that continues for more than 24 hours
  • Is particularly lethargic or irritable
  • Has diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
  • Has a swollen abdomen
  • Shows signs of dehydration – dry mouth, dark yellow urine, dry nappy for six to eight hours
  • Has blood in her poo or in vomit
  • Has convulsions
  • Refuses feeds for more than six to eight hours
  • Shows signs of jaundice (yellow whites of eyes and a yellowish, tanned look to the skin)

All about: Vomiting

Could it be?
Posseting Known as ‘posseting’, it’s actually perfectly normal for healthy babies to vomit after feeding. Some babies do it a lot, some only occasionally. Sometimes it’s just a small amount and sometimes it’s a gush from the nose and mouth. All babies do it, and some until they’re a year old.
What to do Time to get used to the odd splat on your shoulder – use a muslin cloth and wear machine-washable tops!

Could it be?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) If your baby is vomiting a lot, with other signs of discomfort, it could be baby heartburn. Known as GERD or reflux, it’s caused by stomach acid that shoots back up with frequent reflux. Posseting, reflux and GERD are really the same thing, it’s just that there are different severities; some babies just posset, some babies throw up and some scream because it’s so painful.
What to do If your baby appears distressed, see your GP. Your doctor will offer basic advice, like creating a more upright sleeping position, winding your baby halfway through feeds and possibly adding a thickener to feed, which helps keep milk down. If symptoms persist they’ll refer you to a paediatrician.

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Could it be?
Pyloric stenosis If your baby suffers persistent projectile vomiting after feeds it may be a rare condition called pyloric stenosis. This is caused when a muscle controlling a valve from the stomach to the intestines thickens so food can’t get through. It usually occurs when your baby’s four to six weeks old.
What to do The problem is easily cured with minor surgery, but it does require immediate attention – see your GP.

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