Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid – Should I Worry?

By Maria Wilcox •  Updated: 06/07/22 •  12 min read
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If you’ve been a parent for any amount of time, you know that a baby spitting up can be a common occurrence. But what about a baby spitting up clear liquid? Is it something to be worried about? That depends! Join us as we discover the many reasons behind baby spitting up clear liquid and what can be done about it.

Why Do Babies Spit Up?

Since baby spitting up is such a common occurrence, it may have you wondering why babies do it at all!

The reason that most babies spit up is that the muscle that normally sits between the esophagus and the stomach to keep food down hasn’t quite matured yet. It is for this reason that much of the contents of your baby’s stomach find its way up and out of your baby’s mouth, especially after a good burp, a good cry, or too much moving around. 

baby carried by mother

Why Is My Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid?

Apart from the underdevelopment of the esophageal sphincter, there can be the reasons that your baby is throwing up.

Other reasons can be linked to the following:

Too Much Milk

Sometimes if your baby has had too much to eat, he or she won’t be able to contain it in their stomach. And up and goes! Sometimes, the excess formula or breast milk will come out with a good burp, and other times, it may come at random.

No matter what the case, too much milk can be a cause for spit up. Especially in the first three months of life when the esophageal sphincter isn’t quite developed enough to keep that extra content down.

Therefore, be sure to have a few burp cloths on hand when burping your baby after feeding…you’re likely going to need them! 

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Mucus and Sickness

Believe it or not, sometimes your baby spitting up clear liquid can be an indicator that your baby is feeling unwell.

Like adults, babies can develop mucus when they get sick. The difference is that your baby isn’t able to blow their nose, cough, or otherwise clear the mucus out. The result? Your baby may swallow a lot of that mucus. It eventually will come back up and out the same way that too much milk would.

If you notice your baby throwing up clear or cloudy liquid during sickness, this could be a simple explanation for why. 

Formula Allergy

Yes, it’s true. Sometimes your baby can have an allergic reaction to formula that causes them to spit up clear liquid.

If the ingredients in your baby’s formula are irritating their stomach, it is possible that your baby’s body will respond with spit up. This is very similar to when we eat foods that irritate our gut. We may experience thicker saliva and burning acid that jumps from our stomach to our throat as a response. In babies, this irritation can be highly uncomfortable. It will likely require you to switch your baby’s formula when you can. 

Just know that when switching your baby’s formula, you’ll want to do so with the advice and supervision of your pediatrician. They can properly assess the situation and give you tailored recommendations on which formula to choose. Changing your baby’s formula too often may do more harm than good. So it’s best to get advice when doing so. Your chances of landing the perfect formula match for your baby will be higher the first time around. 

Teething and Excess Saliva

As you may already know, teething can bring with it a ton of drool! Because of this, a lot of your baby’s drool is swallowed and ingested. So it’s easy for your baby to vomit this back up with time. Because babies that teeth usually do so at 3-4 months and older, the spitting up isn’t as likely to do with the esophageal sphincter as before. The cause could simply be over-consumption of saliva. This may manifest itself as clear spit up over time. Usually, isn’t anything to be worried about.

Note: To better manage your baby’s teething process and the pain associated with it, give your baby natural rubber teething toys (to prevent skin irritation). Keep the skin around his or her mouth and neck clean, keep shirts dry with the use of a soft and absorbent bib. Avoid the use of medications if at all possible. 

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A (Rare) Health Condition

Sometimes, a rare health condition known as Pyloric Stenosis causes your baby to spit up excess clear liquid. This condition, though rare, occurs when the muscles within the lower part of the stomach enlarge and make the “pylorus” more narrow, thus making it difficult for food to properly move from the stomach into the intestine. The result is that your baby ends up throwing up whatever it was that he or she digested.

The difference between normal spit up and spit up caused by Pyloric Stenosis, however, is that Pyloric Stenosis will be marked by forceful projectile vomiting rather than the steady flow of liquid usually brought on by normal spit up. Pyloric Stenosis though rare, generally affects babies from birth until 6 months, can cause your baby to become very dehydrated, and is usually remediated through surgery.

Breastfed Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid

If you find that your breastfed baby is spitting up clear liquid and you think it might be tied to your breast milk, you’ll first want to consider whether your baby has had too much to drink. Sometimes, your baby innocently consumes too much breast milk and your baby may spit up clear liquid, along with a mixture of other things, when expelling the excess. Be prepared with a burp cloth upon burping and try not to be too alarmed.

If you see the clear spit up often and it has you concerned, review the aforementioned reasons why clear spirit up occurs. And see a pediatrician to rule out anything serious. 

Note: Sometimes it can be something that you are eating that makes its way into your breast milk and causes your baby digestive issues that are causing the spit up. Watch for cruciferous vegetables, dairy, and other gas-producing or otherwise irritating foods, and avoid them when you can. Speak with your doctor for more details.

Formula-Fed Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid

If you notice baby being fussy during feeding bottle or have wondered, “why do babies get fussy in the evening?” the problem could be the formula you’re feeding them.

Like with breastfed babies, a formula-fed baby spitting up clear liquid can be a sign that your baby has consumed too much milk. Unfortunately, it can also be a sign that your baby isn’t tolerating his or her baby formula well.

If you’ve recently switched your baby’s formula or if your baby is taking formula for the first time, you’ll want to notice any differences in his or her digestion to help you determine whether or not that particular formula is right for him or her.

Consult your doctor with any concerns you may have concerning baby spitting up clear liquid, gas, or excessive crying, as these may be indicators of an allergy or discomfort associated with consuming bottled formula. 

Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid While Sleeping

Is your baby spitting on clear liquid while sleeping? This can sometimes occur after a good feed if your baby drank too much or was laid down too quickly after eating, making it more difficult for your baby to properly digest his or her food.

To prevent this, we recommend keeping your baby upright for a time (about 30 minutes) after his or her feed. Burp your baby thoroughly before placing them down to sleep. At the time of the spit up, you may roll your baby on their side to drain the spit up. Or you may hold your baby upright to help aid digestion.

Remember not to engage your baby in tummy time or active play after a feed. Such activities may also prohibit proper digestion and cause spit up as well.

Superman baby flying in the forest

Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid With White Chunks

Oftentimes, when a baby spits up clear liquid, it isn’t crystal clear. It can be cloudy, swirled, or speckled with other fragments.

In the case of white chunks, it very well could be the reason for why you are witnessing curdled milk being regurgitated from your child’s stomach in the form of spit up. This is extremely common and isn’t anything to worry about. 

Just like regular milk, breast milk or formula when mixed with stomach acid will curdle upon contact in your baby’s stomach. Therefore, when your baby spits up, the result is a chunky liquid resembling curdled milk or ”white chunks”. These are simply a representation of the content of your baby’s stomach after having consumed their milk.

Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid Hours After Eating

Baby Throwing Up Clear Liquid

A baby throwing up clear liquid hours after eating may be a sign that your baby’s stomach is irritated or that he or she is swallowing too much saliva, especially if your baby is teething.

As previously discussed, some spit up of clear liquid is related to eating and some are not. Therefore, if it has been several hours since your baby last ate and he or she is spitting up clear liquid, you may wish to investigate. Speak with your pediatrician to get to the root cause, especially if your child does this often and it seems unrelated to his or her feeding practices. 

baby in white shirt lying on bed

Baby Constantly Spitting Up Clear Liquid

4 month Old Baby Throwing Up Clear Liquid

A four-month-old that repetitively spits up clear liquid is allergic or sensitive to the formula they are being fed, is overeating, or is swallowing too much saliva.

Saliva from teething can be produced even if teeth are not yet visible to the naked eye. And yes, babies can start teething even as early as 3-4 months!

3 Month Baby Throwing Up Clear Liquid

Think 3 months is too early to begin the teething process? It isn’t!

Thus, the swallowing of excess saliva can be the culprit of a baby regurgitating clear liquid. Especially if it happens often and does not seem to be in direct correlation with your baby’s feeds. 

2 Month Old Baby Throwing Up Clear Liquid

Remember that between the ages of 0-3 months, your baby’s esophageal sphincter isn’t fully developed. This makes it hard for your baby to keep his or her milk down. Therefore, a 2 month old baby that is throwing up clear liquid is likely doing so because he or she can’t help the milk they’ve digested down. And this is perfectly normal. 

1 Month Old Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid

Newborn Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid

As mentioned in the last segment, young babies between the ages of 0-3 months are highly susceptible to throwing up clear liquid. This is due to their stomach and digestive system being under development.

If you sense that the issue could be serious or something doesn’t seem right, be sure to contact your local healthcare provider. They’ll rule out any chances that your baby’s spitting up isn’t something more serious. 

baby in parent's hands

How to Prevent Spit Up

Spit up is inevitable when it comes to young babies. But the following tips can help make the occurrence a little less frequent:

  • Hold your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding.
  • Burp your baby diligently after each feed for a couple of minutes or until you get a good burp – whichever comes first.
  • Pay attention to sensitivities your baby may have to formula. Ask your pediatrician for advice if this seems to be the cause for your baby’s spitting up.
  • If you are breastfeeding, be sure to watch your own diet. Some food items, such as dairy or cruciferous vegetables, may be irritating your baby’s tummy. 
  • Look for cues that your baby is full and try not to overfeed your baby. It is better to feed your baby in small spurts more often than to overfeed your baby in one sitting.

Is Your Baby Spitting Up Clear Liquid? You Probably Shouldn’t Worry…

All in all, there are rare cases in which clear spit up means something serious. In most cases, clear spit up is completely normal and benign.

Be sure to address any specific concerns you may have with your doctor. Especially if your baby is forcefully spitting up as this could be a sign of Pyloric Stenosis.

We hope this has helped!

Maria Wilcox

Former instructor with an M.A. in Education turned grateful stay-at-home mama to one, I look to share helpful insights related to babies, toddlers, kids, and families for the benefit of real people just like you.

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