How to relieve a gassy baby

Kins Morris Tue 13-Dec-22 14:12:16

A gassy baby is completely common and normal, given infants' tiny and immature digestive systems. 

Here's how to know if your baby has gas, how to relieve gas in infants, what foods make breastfed babies gassy and when it's time to check in with your pediatrician.

Why is my baby so gassy?

If your baby is gassy, you'll notice that he passes a lot of gas and seems to feel better afterward. Gas troubles often start right away or when babies are just a couple of weeks old.

Fortunately, most infants outgrow them by the time they're 4 to 6 months old, though for some, baby gas can last longer.

Infants are usually gassy because they have immature digestive systems and swallow air during feedings. Some babies may have sensitivities that could relate to a breastfeeding mom's diet or a certain type of formula.

Gassy baby signs and symptoms

All babies, of course, pass a little gas. But look for these signs and symptoms of baby gas that's more than just the usual:

Your baby cries and is fussy for an hour or more a day. This can be a sign of normal newborn gassiness that comes with having a tiny, underdeveloped digestive system. But you should still check in with your pediatrician if it happens every day and doesn't seem to get better. 

Your baby seems unhappy most of the time. This can indicate that you have an especially gassy baby who needs a bit more help. Gas that causes significant upset often indicates a problem beyond typical gassiness.

Your baby isn't eating or sleeping well. Trouble with sleeping or eating can have a whole range of causes, but infant gas may be one of them, especially if there are other signs. Talk to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Your baby cries often and seems like he might be in pain. 

Your baby squirms as though he's uncomfortable and pulls his legs up to his chest, especially during bouts of fussiness. 

Decoding Crying

Gassy baby causes

Infant gas has several possible causes:

Swallowing air when feeding or crying, which is very common and normal among new babies

An underdeveloped digestive system, which allows food to pass through too quickly so it doesn't break down completely

Hypersensitivities to certain types of formula or foods in a breastfeeding mother's diet, or possibly food allergies (though those are much rarer)

What are the best remedies for baby gas relief?

If your baby's tummy troubles seem to be a problem, here's what to do for a gassy baby:

Burp your baby twice

A lot of newborn discomfort is caused by swallowing air during feedings. In addition to burping after feedings, try giving your baby a gentle back pat mid-feed to get rid of swallowed air before it travels to his bowels. One sign your baby needs a mid-meal burp: He turns away from the breast or bottle fussily after just a few minutes of feeding, which is more likely linked to gas than feeling full.

If you're bottle-feeding, you can try burping every 2 to 3 ounces and if you're breastfeeding every five to 10 minutes (though that might be tricky).

Control the air

Whether his meals come from breast or bottle, try feeding your baby in a more upright position to cut back on the air he swallows. If you're breastfeeding, be sure your baby is properly latched.

For bottle-fed babies, test anti-gas nipples and bottles, which can change the flow of milk and reduce the amount of air your baby swallows. Be sure that the nipple is always completely full with milk, so your baby doesn't chase formula with air. And try to avoid shaking the bottle too much, which can add extra bubbles to the milk. You can also try a concentrated liquid or ready-to-feed formula instead of powder.

Feed your baby before meltdowns

Crying, of course, is unpredictable — especially in really little babies. But the more your baby cries, the more air he swallows (and the more gas he has). So as much as possible, learn the early hunger cues in infants to nip hunger in the bud.

Try the colic carry

Lay your baby tummy-down across your knees, or hold him under his belly with your forearm, and gently massage his back. The pressure on his tummy can help relieve the pressure from gas. Plus, touch can be a powerful tool in calming fussiness.

Offer infant gas drops

Though they don't work for every baby, infant gas drops are generally considered safe for babies. Check the label and opt for formulations with as few preservatives as possible. And be sure to talk to your baby's doctor before proceeding.

Do baby bicycles

Lay your baby on his back and gently cycle his legs in a bicycling motion toward his tummy to manually help push out trapped air. Or gently push your baby's knees up to his tummy and hold for 10 seconds, then release and straighten his legs. Repeat several times. 

Encourage tummy time 

Tummy time is good for strengthening the muscles your baby needs to lift his head and, eventually, to crawl and walk. But the gentle pressure on your baby's tummy can also help relieve gas.

Because some babies spit up if they're put on their tummies soon after eating, wait at least 20 to 30 minutes (or when gas starts) before doing tummy time. Always supervise your baby during tummy time. And never put your baby to bed on his stomach, since tummy-sleeping puts babies at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Give your baby a rub-down

Massage can sometimes help your baby pass gas. Start with your baby's tummy, then give a gentle rub all over — shoulders, back, legs. It might help him relax enough to pass gas.

Check your diet if you're breastfeeding

If you're breastfeeding, talk to your pediatrician about whether you should try cutting out foods that could potentially cause gas in your baby. Some that may cause baby gas include dairy products, caffeine, onions, garlic, spicy foods and cabbage, but some babies aren't bothered by any of these.

Test new formulas

Some formulas are marketed to reduce gassiness in babies. Check with your doctor about whether it's worth giving a new formula a go.

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