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Holding Baby Upright After Feeding: When To Stop?

Find out when it's time to stop holding your baby upright after feeding and learn how it helps your baby be more comfortable.

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Holding Baby Upright After Feeding

Photo by @echogrid

One of the very first pieces of advice you get right after the nurses put your baby in your arms for the first time is to hold them upright for at least 30 minutes after each feeding. This helps to prevent baby from getting hiccups, and burping and also helps with digestion. But, what they don’t tell you is when you can stop holding your baby upright after feeding. After a few weeks or months, you may start wondering if the advice still holds up or if you can finally put baby down without the risk of having them spit up all over themselves.

The good news is that you don’t have to hold your baby upright after every single feeding for 30 minutes forever! Depending on whether your baby has reflux or not, you can start slowly letting them down sooner.

In most cases, once your baby starts sitting on their own at around 6 months, you can stop doing the “upright hold” after daytime feedings and keep her upright for a while longer during nighttime feedings only if you notice that they’re having some discomfort if you don’t.

Understanding Spit-Up

First of all, spit-up is absolutely normal. It can get messy, but it’s nothing to worry about and doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has reflux. Just about every baby spits up at some point, and some even do it quite frequently.

When they are born, your baby’s digestive system is still developing and maturing. This process can take up to six months or longer in some cases. 

Additionally, your baby’s stomach is very small and can only hold a limited amount of milk at each feeding. So, even if they don’t have reflux, they may still spit up simply because their tummy is full and can’t hold anymore.

For the first few months, the ring of muscles (lower esophageal sphincter) that acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach and prevents swallowed food from coming back up does not close all the way as it hasn’t fully matured yet. Once the sphincter muscle develops fully, your baby should no longer spit-up.

What about reflux?

In babies with reflux, this ring of muscles takes more time to mature which causes your baby to spit up easily. If your baby has some form of acid reflux, holding them upright for 30 minutes or more after feeding helps reduce their discomfort when you put them down.

An important thing to know is that reflux can happen multiple times per day in perfectly healthy babies, and should not be a cause for concern as long as your baby is developing well and happy overall. Reflux in babies also usually goes away as your baby grows older and their digestive system matures.

Holding Your Newborn Baby Upright After Feeding

Keeping your baby upright after feeding is a way of giving any gas or air bubbles the chance to come out of their stomach. This is why you burp your baby several times during and after a feeding.

A common misconception parents have about holding their baby upright after feeding is that if they don’t their baby might choke on their vomit. But, babies are very good at not choking up on spit. In fact, babies have a reflex to keep the airways clear so they automatically either cough up or swallow any fluid that they happen to vomit.

However, if gas or air bubbles stay stuck in their stomach it can be uncomfortable for them so they cry or get fussy. This is why you want to help your baby release any gas after a feeding by holding them upright for a while before putting them down. It’s also the easiest (and sometimes the only) way to get your baby to burp.

Some tips to help reduce your baby’s spit-up other than holding them upright after feeding include avoiding overfeeding by feeding your baby smaller amounts more frequently, burping them more frequently during feedings, and also if you’re formula feeding your baby, you might consider changing up the formula as some babies seem to digest some formulas better than others.

Read Also: Starting Baby On Solids | The Complete Guide

So when Can You Stop Holding Baby Upright, and How?

If your baby has no issues with reflux, you can start slowly transitioning them to being put down sooner after feedings around 6 months. For example, instead of holding them upright for 30 minutes, you can start by holding them for 15 minutes after a feeding and then put them down in their crib. If your baby does fine with the reduced upright time, you try putting them down without holding up and see what happens.

Holding your baby for 15 to 20 minutes prevents milk from coming back up. Once their symptoms are under control you can gradually shorten the time

In my case, my daughter was a very heavy spitter in the newborn phase but once she started sitting on her own it got so much better. So, around 6 months I started skipping the upright holding after daytime feedings and kept holding her for longer during the night feedings. And to be honest, I actually enjoyed holding her after nighttime feeding mostly because it meant sweet nighttime cuddles with my baby girl before bed.

Related: Is A Nursery Glider Rocking Chair Worth It?

Bottom Line

Spit-up is annoying but it does get better over time. If your baby has started sitting up on their own you can safely assume that they have gained better control over their own muscles and can start slowly transitioning to being put down sooner after feedings.

If you’re unsure if your baby has reflux, it’s always best to check with your pediatrician. They will be able to give you tailored advice for your baby’s specific situation.

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