Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Nose – What Should I Do?

By Maria Wilcox •  Updated: 06/03/22 •  9 min read
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Milk coming out of a baby’s nose can be alarming, but the reasons for this anomaly can often be easily explained. Before you panic, it can help to be informed of all of the possible causes for milk coming out of baby’s nose so that you can fix the problem and potentially prevent the issue from happening again. So, without further ado, let’s jump into all you need to know about milk coming out of your baby’s nose. 

Why Is Milk Coming Out of My Baby’s Nose?

There are several reasons that milk could be coming out of your baby’s nose. These reasons are usually tied to reflux, which is an extremely common occurrence in babies. Just like your formula fed baby suddenly refusing their bottle, there are many situations that crop up that we, as parents, must figure out to keep our babies well-fed, healthy, and strong.

Infant reflux happens when milk moves from a baby’s stomach up and out of the mouth, or in this case, the nose. This can happen for a variety of reasons including your baby’s positioning, mode of feeding (i.e. breast or bottle), how much milk they are consuming, what kind of milk they are consuming (as in the case of formula), and much more.

When milk comes out of the nose rather than the mouth, it is often referred to as “nasal regurgitation”. Like spitting up through the mouth, milk that comes through the nose as a result of nasal regurgitation will be a slow leak, and is, surprisingly, quite common in little ones. 

woman carrying baby

The following are the most common scenarios during which milk flow out of the nose happens: 

  • Coughing and Sneezing: Coughing or sneezing while drinking isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone, especially babies. The difference, however, is in the fact that an adult can (somewhat) control the urge to cough or sneeze, while babies cannot. Therefore, it is possible that you’ll not only get a face full of milk the next time your baby needs to cough or sneeze while drinking. But also, that your baby will have milk running out of his or her nose or mouth afterward. The reason for this is the force of the sneeze or cough causes your baby to regurgitate the milk and it ends up leaking out of their noses and mouths. 
  • Getting Too Much Air: Whether your baby is breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it is possible for your baby to suck in too much air. Sucking in too much air can lead to a variety of unsavory consequences and one of those is spitting up. Whether coming from the nose or mouth, the milk that has been consumed may be forced back out due to the excess air leaving the baby’s bottle once a feed is finished (or even during a feed!). This is often why your baby may spit up after having been burped; a lot of times the milk comes out right along with the belch! 
  • Baby Is Distracted: Ever find your baby to be a wee bit too distracted? This is extremely common in babies 2-4 months old. So it can be frustrating when trying to feed or nurse your baby. Unfortunately, all of that wiggling, twisting, and head-turning can eventually lead to your baby choking on the milk. This, in turn, sends milk flying out of your baby’s other orifices. Milk coming out of the nose, therefore, can easily be caused by distraction and isn’t a cause for concern. 
  • Baby Is Eating Too Much: Yep, you heard it here folks. It is possible for your baby to eat too much milk! So, why does this happen? A lot of times it’s because your baby finds comfort being at the breast or bottle, even when he or she isn’t hungry. The result is a baby that has drunk too much milk with nowhere for it to go. Therefore, after a while, you may notice that your baby not only spits up the excess milk but that it also comes out of his or her nose! 
  • Baby Has Allergies: Yes, it’s true. Your baby can regurgitate milk if he or she has an allergy to the formula that they are consuming. But it doesn’t stop there. Breastfed babies can also experience infant reflux if the mom is consuming dairy and the baby is allergic to the cow proteins that made their way into her milk. If you suspect allergies to be the cause of nasal regurgitation in your infant or newborn, be sure to reach out to your local healthcare provider for tailored medical advice. 
  • Immature Stomach Valve: When babies are very young, parts of their stomach and esophagus aren’t yet fully developed. This makes it very easy for milk to come up and out of the nose. 
  • Baby Isn’t Positioned Correctly: Sometimes laying down can cause milk to come out of your baby’s nose when feeding. If possible, prop your baby in a position in which he or she isn’t laying completely on his or her back or side to prevent nasal regurgitation and spit up from happening. 

Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Nose When Nursing Lying Down

Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Nose While Breastfeeding

Remember that milk can flow from your baby’s nose if your baby is laying down on his or her side or back while feeding. Position the baby at a propped angle so that the chances of spitting up are a little less likely.

Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Mouth After Feeding

Milk coming out of the baby’s mouth when feeding is similar to milk coming out of the nose; in fact, you may notice both happening at the same time! That’s because infant reflux is typically the reason for both occurrences. In most cases, milk coming out of either the nose or mouth isn’t a cause for concern. Though you’ll still want to remediate the issue if you can! 

Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Nose While Sleeping

Milk coming out of your baby’s nose could be due to an overly full stomach. Or it could have to do with you having put him or her to bed too quickly following a feed. Whatever the reason, milk coming out of your baby’s nose at this point isn’t a cause for concern. Though you may wish to sit the baby upright and burp him or her for a bit before getting the baby back to sleep.

baby sleeping soundly

Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Nose When Sneezing

Remember that milk coming out of the baby’s nose when sleeping is likely just due to the force of air that happens when a cough or sneeze ensues. In this case, it is totally normal, and nothing to worry about! 

Baby Gasping For Air and Milk Coming Out of Nose and Mouth

If you find that your baby is gasping for air and that milk is coming from his or her nose and mouth, don’t panic. Instead, immediately stop feeding your baby, set them upright, speak calmly to your baby, and wipe his or her mouth. The reason for this happening is likely that he or she was drinking too fast, as could be the case with either a breastfed or bottle-fed infant. If the mom’s letdown is too fast or if the bottle’s nipple flow is too fast it can overwhelm your baby and he or she won’t be able to keep up. 

Want tips on how to fix this problem (hopefully) for good? If so, then keep reading! 

A baby with the parents hands

How to Prevent Milk From Coming Out of Baby’s Nose

The following are a few tips for preventing milk from coming out of your baby’s nose (and mouth):

  • Always be sure to position your baby at a slight angle when breast or bottle feeding.
  • Do your best to feed your baby in a location that is void of distractions. These can be a quiet, empty, and dim room with the blinds closed. You may even consider investing in the best nightlight for feeding, nursing, and diaper changing. These nightlights can help keep the room dim and distraction-free for middle-of-the-night feeds when you’d rather be asleep!
  • Be sure to burp your baby every time he or she is fed. Do this for at least a minute or two, or until the burp comes out.
  • Avoid delaying your baby’s feedings. Doing so will cause your baby to overindulge when it comes time to eat.
  • Avoid overfeeding your baby. Learn your baby’s hunger cues. But also, his or her “full” cues to ensure he or she has gotten enough to eat without overfeeding. 
  • Check the nipple on your bottle and replace it if the flow is too fast. Nipples come with different flows, and the younger your baby is, the slower your baby’s nipple flow should be. Check the package for guidance as to which nipple flow is best for the age of your baby. 
  • Ensure your baby has the proper latch while breastfeeding to avoid too much air in the stomach.
  • Check with your pediatrician if you suspect that your baby has a milk allergy.
baby looking at camera

Milk Coming Out Of Baby’s Nose: A Common Occurrence!

Milk coming out of your baby’s nose may look weird, but honestly, it is a common occurrence. Commonly referred to as nasal regurgitation, this phenomenon can happen for a variety of reasons. These include improper positioning, a milk allergy, consuming too much milk, and much more.

As always, consult with your doctor for advice when changing your baby’s diet or feeding routine. 

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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