Milk coming out of a baby’s nose is a common occurrence and usually no cause for concern. Prevention tactics include:
- Burping your baby often (every 5 minutes or so) during feeding and once he’s finished.
- Correcting feeding issues such as poor latch or positioning.
- Keeping baby upright for about 30 minutes after eating.
- Avoiding overfeeding.
- Being sure to place your baby to sleep on his back.
- Avoiding excess pressure on their stomach.
Because your little one’s body is still maturing, spitting up will likely be a common occurrence for the first few months, and milk or spit-up coming from your baby’s nose is, unfortunately, often part of the experience.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Normal spitting up doesn’t interfere with a baby’s well-being.
As long as your baby seems comfortable and is eating well and gaining weight, there’s little cause for concern.”
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How To Prevent Milk From Coming Out of Baby’s Nose
There are ways to prevent your baby from having milk come out of his nose.
It may still happen occasionally, but certain steps should decrease the number of occurrences.
1. Burp Your Baby
Burping your baby is one of the best ways to ensure anything extra escapes through the mouth instead of the nose.
If you don’t burp your baby, they are more likely to spit up on their own, and this can lead to extra milk coming out of their nose.
Burp your baby after every feeding, and know that some babies need to be burped more than others.
Breastfed babies don’t always burp as much as babies who eat formula.
2. Correct Any Feeding Issues
A baby will struggle to feed comfortably and efficiently if their latch is incorrect. Enlist the help of a lactation consultant to fix the issue.
Poor positioning during feeding can exacerbate spit-up issues.
Ensure your baby is comfortable and is not being overwhelmed by an excessive milk letdown at every feeding.
If your baby is bottle-fed, be careful not to overfeed as this will likely end in spit-up.
Let your baby set the pace, and remember that he does not have to finish every bottle every time. He’ll let you know when he’s full.
3. Keep Baby Upright After Feeding
Holding your baby in an upright position for about 30 minutes after they finish a meal and are burped can help prevent spit-up, especially if your child suffers from reflux.
Get in the habit of changing your little one’s diaper before feeding so that you won’t need to place him on his back immediately after he eats.
4. Don’t Overfeed
Babies like to eat, but they will give you signs when enough is enough.
Continuing to feed a baby when they are full means that excess milk has to come out somewhere.
There is a better chance that some will make it out of their nose when they are trying to spit up to relieve belly discomfort.
5. Put Your Baby on Their Back To Sleep
There are many reasons to put your baby on his back to sleep.
It reduces the risk of SIDS, and it’s what is recommended for all babies until they are at least a year old.
Putting your baby on his back to sleep will also decrease the chances of him having milk come out of his nose.
A baby on his back won’t have excess pressure on his stomach, and this makes him less likely to spit up a ton of milk.
6. Keep Diapers and Clothes Loose
No one loves poo explosions or pee leaking out of a baby’s diaper.
However, super-tight clothes are not the answer, nor is putting your child’s diaper on so tight that it pushes on his stomach.
Keep clothes and diapers tight enough to stay on, but don’t tighten them around your child’s belly excessively.
This is uncomfortable for your child and can lead to spit-up making its way out of your baby’s mouth and nose.
What To Do if Milk Comes Out of Baby’s Nose
If milk comes out of your baby’s nose, don’t panic. It can be alarming to see, but it’s not dangerous in most situations.
Keep a lookout for signs that this could be a bigger problem if it continues.
These include a baby who dreads eating, blood in your baby’s spit-up, or diarrhea.
You will likely instinctively lift your baby when you see milk coming out of the nose, and this is the right thing to do since it gets him in a position where he won’t choke on the milk.
Wipe your baby’s nose, and make sure he is okay.
If your baby starts spitting up from his mouth or nose, it’s a good time to stop and burp him to see if you can help him get excess milk or gas up without a struggle.
You also want to take a break from feeding your little one so he can recover after spitting up.
If your baby is spitting up, you may want to check his diaper since food may be coming out from more than one end.
When To Worry
While it’s common for milk to occasionally come out of a baby’s nose during or after feeding, there are situations where a parent should be more attentive and seek medical advice if necessary.
Signs that may warrant concern include:
- Frequent occurrences: If milk consistently comes out of the baby’s nose during most feedings, it may be a sign of an underlying issue that needs attention.
- Difficulty breathing: If the baby seems to have difficulty breathing, appears distressed, or shows signs of respiratory distress (such as flaring nostrils, rapid breathing, or unusual sounds), seek prompt medical attention.
- Persistent coughing or choking: Continuous coughing or choking during or after feeding could indicate a problem with the baby’s ability to swallow or coordinate their suck-swallow-breathe reflex.
- Poor weight gain: If the baby is not gaining weight adequately or shows signs of poor growth, it could indicate feeding difficulties that must be addressed.
- Unusual behaviors or discomfort: If the baby displays signs of discomfort during feedings, such as arching the back, refusing to feed, or crying excessively, it’s important to investigate the cause.
- Vomiting: If milk consistently comes out of the nose along with forceful vomiting, it may suggest an issue with the digestive system that requires attention.
Milk Coming Out of Baby’s Nose: Why It Happens
Ever get too much liquid in your mouth at one time? Babies can do this too.
When they lose their rhythm while nursing, the reflex that controls sucking and swallowing can become overwhelmed and cause them to take in too much milk.
This can lead to extra milk coming out of the nose, and it’s not comfortable for your baby. However, it’s also not usually dangerous.
Your child’s spit-up can also make its way out the nose on occasion.
The throat and nose are connected, so a spit-up session can turn into a situation where spit-up milk comes from more than one place on your child’s face.
An immature digestive tract can also be to blame.
Areas such as the esophageal sphincter, a valve that prevents stomach contents from re-entering the esophagus, are often still underdeveloped at birth, leading to frequent spit-ups.
Holding your child up so the milk or spit-up can make it out or down will help keep your child from choking.
Some additional causes for milk coming out of your baby’s nose include:
- Overactive letdown: Sometimes, you may have a strong letdown, causing milk to flow quickly and forcefully. Your baby may struggle to keep up with the flow, leading to milk coming out of their nose.
- Fast feeding: If your baby is feeding too quickly, they may not be able to swallow and coordinate their suck-swallow-breathe reflex effectively. This can result in milk entering the nasal passages.
- Positioning during feeding: Incorrect positioning during breastfeeding or bottle-feeding can contribute to milk entering the nose. Ensuring a proper latch and positioning can help prevent this.
- Congestion or nasal blockage: If your baby has nasal congestion or a blocked nose, it may interfere with their ability to swallow properly, causing milk to pass into the nasal passages.
- Swallowing too much air: A tummy full of air can lead to spitting up. The spit-up can come out of the mouth, nose, or both.
- Coughing or sneezing: An unexpected cough or sneeze while feeding can force milk into the nasal cavities and nostrils.
- Distractions: While sucking and swallowing are reflexive responses for babies, little ones do still need to concentrate on their meal to maintain a good rhythm and keep up with the milk flow. Any distractions can interfere with this, causing issues such as spit-up.
Is It Normal for Milk To Come Out of Baby’s Nose?
You will see milk come out of your baby’s nose at some point.
While it’s normal, it generally happens for a reason, and finding out that reason can help you avoid the situation since it is uncomfortable for your baby.
However, your child’s anatomy is built in a way that allows access from the throat to the nose.
Even as an adult, I bet you’ve shot coffee or water out of your nose when laughing or coughing. It’s normal, but it’s not fun.
That’s why finding out ways to help your child avoid this is important.
It makes them more comfortable, and they are more likely to enjoy nursing or taking the bottle.
Is Nasal Regurgitation Dangerous?
Nasal regurgitation is not usually dangerous. By your child’s first birthday, it likely won’t even be an issue.
Your baby’s system will mature, and they will be able to hold down food better as they age. At 18 months, most kids aren’t spitting up much at all.
The danger comes if your child is choking on their spit-up or showing other problems.
If your child refuses to eat or spits up after every meal, you need to tell your child’s pediatrician.
This could be a sign of gastrointestinal issues that must be handled so mealtime will be easier and more effective for your baby.
Any sign of blood in your baby’s spit-up is also a problem. This is a red flag that should not be ignored.
Baby Gasping for Air and Milk Coming Out of Nose
If your baby is gasping for air while milk is coming out of his nose, this may be because he has too much milk going into his little body.
This happened with my babies when I had a ton of milk and it let down too fast.
Hold your baby up and let them get the spit up out of their mouth and nose.
You may then want to try different breastfeeding positions since this can keep too much milk from letting down all at once.
If your baby is bottle-fed, look for bottles like these that decrease the amount of air your baby takes in with the milk.
If your baby is gasping for air while milk escapes from his nose often, ask your doctor about the possibility of a nasal obstruction or other feeding issue.
How To Differentiate Between Spit Up and Vomit
Spitting up and vomiting are both common in babies, but there are key differences between the two.
Spitting up is usually a mild, effortless flow of milk or stomach contents from the baby’s mouth, often seen shortly after feeding.
The act of spitting up is typically not forceful, and the baby may seem unfazed by it.
Vomiting is more forceful and involves the active expulsion of stomach contents. Vomiting may be accompanied by other signs of distress, such as intense crying, arching of the back, or a visibly upset baby.
Kristy is the mother of four, including identical twins. With a background in education and research, she is constantly learning more about parenting and raising multiples. When she has spare time, she enjoys hiking into the woods with a great book to take a break.