Breast milk is the natural source of nutrition for your baby. It contains all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop in the first six months of life. Furthermore, It contains all that is needed to fight off infections and maintain a healthy body. Thankfully, baby formula also contains essential nutrients and vitamins that your baby needs in this period.
As you breastfeed or formula-feed your baby, the milk moves down from your little one’s mouth to the throat, and then into the stomach. Most times, babies spit up the milk they are fed through the mouth. However, there are times when the milk comes out of the baby’s nose.
Strange? Yes, we agree.
Like most parents, you may wonder what this means for your baby? Is it dangerous? Should you be worried? Thankfully, this article contains all the answers you’re searching for.
Now, let’s walk through all you need to know about milk coming out from the baby’s nose.
Table of contents
Why do babies spit up milk?
Spitting up milk by babies is also called infant reflux.
When it happens, recently ingested milk comes back up to the mouth. Thankfully, it usually isn’t a serious problem for babies. Most times, infant reflux goes away by the time a child is 18 months old.
Some of the factors responsible for baby spitting up milk include:
1. Immature Muscles
When we eat, there is a specialized muscle in the lower throat that prevents food from returning to the mouth. It is called the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter opens during swallowing and closes immediately after food enters the stomach.
In small babies, this sphincter is not yet mature. Therefore, it’s not competent enough to perform its unique function. As a result, milk may come right back up after a breastfeeding or formula-feeding session.
2. Swallowing Air
This occurs when there is an improper connection between your baby’s mouth to the breast.
As a result, the baby may take in large amounts of air while feeding. Sometimes it may happen when your baby rushes through feeding by gulping the milk too fast.
The stomach is no place for air, so it sends the air back to the mouth. During the process, the valve that prevents food from returning opens and milk moves out with the air back to the mouth.
3. Coughing or Sneezing
Another instance where your baby spits up is when he/she sneezes or coughs. These processes create pressure that ejects substances out of the airway. Babies are not aware when they are about to cough or sneeze. As a result, the pressure generated can also force milk back up.
Other conditions that can contribute to frequent spitting up of milk are:
Premature birth: Babies born prematurely face several problems due to their immature organs. This makes them predisposed to spitting up frequently.
Lying the baby in a flat position: In the sitting position, the effect of gravity helps to keep milk in the stomach. When lying flat, the effect of gravity is removed and it becomes easier for milk to come back up.
Sometimes, it could be from an underlying condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or pyloric stenosis.
Why Does Milk Come up Through The Nose
Swallowing of milk and other activities involved in digestion are properly coordinated processes. This is because the nose and mouth are connected to the pharynx. Milk comes out of your baby’s nose when it misses its way to the mouth.
Another condition where milk gets access to the nose easily is when a baby has a cleft palate. A cleft palate is a birth defect on the roof of the mouth. When babies with cleft palate are breastfed, it can easily pass through the defect and come out of the nose.
What To Do Next
When you notice milk coming out of your baby’s nose, you don’t have to panic.
At this time, your major task is to confirm that your baby is breathing properly. This is because babies breathe only with the nose and milk coming out from here may affect the process. However, this lasts for a short while and is not sufficient to cause any damage to your baby.
On rare occasions, the milk may run down into the lungs, leading to inflammation, fever, and cough. To avoid this, carefully clean up your baby’s nose and remove any remnant milk inside his/her nostrils.
You can reduce the possibility of inflant reflux by;
- Feeding your child on time: Don’t allow your baby to get too hungry before feeding him/her.
- Don’t overfeed: Stop feeding when you notice your baby is full. The excess milk may come back out through his/her nose.
- Burp your baby after a meal: Burping your baby will ensure quick swallowing of milk and prevent any backflow.
- Keep your baby upright after feeding: We’ve explained how gravity helps to prevent milk from coming back out through the nose. As a result, we recommend keeping your baby up for a few minutes to allow complete swallowing.
- Avoid any tight clothing that may put pressure on your baby’s stomach.
When to See the Doctor
Milk coming out of your baby’s nose can be frightening. However, the info in this article explains how it is usually isn’t something to worry about.
Nevertheless, you should contact your doctor if:
- Your baby is not growing well or is losing a lot of weight.
- Your baby becomes sick frequently.
- It doesn’t resolve after 2 years.
It is natural for babies to spit out milk, and for it to come out of their nostrils.
All you have to do is ensure that you take necessary precautions before and after feeding your baby to minimize its occurrence. Also, it helps to clean up your baby properly when it does occur.
You’ve got this, Mama!
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Denne SC. Neonatal nutrition. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2015 Apr;62(2):427-38. doi: 10.1016/j.pcl.2014.11.006. PMID: 25836706.