Gas is very common in babies. Most gas in babies is caused when they are digesting milk or food; it is a normal byproduct of digestion! Digestion gas usually passes through the bottom as a toot instead of as a burp. But gas can also occur from swallowing air – this gas usually comes out as a burp or spit up.
When they eat, cry, or use a pacifier babies may swallow some air, which can pass as a toot or a burp. This may make your baby bloated, fussy, have a hard tummy, cry, burp, or toot. Unless your baby seems to be in constant pain, there is nothing to worry about with gas. It is okay for your baby to cry, and even redden when passing gas, but as long as he/she goes back to his/her normal behavior after passing the gas, all is well. Sometimes the gas is passed very loudly, often startling everyone in the room including your baby. As your baby grows and his/her organs grow, gas will be less common or at least more tolerable.
Some ways to help your baby avoid becoming uncomfortable due to gas, you can try a few things. When feeding your baby make sure your baby’s head is higher than her stomach to allow the air to stay at the top of her stomach. If your baby swallows a lot of air, burping your baby during and after feeding can also help relieve gas discomfort. You can burp your baby draped over your shoulder, sitting upright on your lap, or laying down on his/her stomach on your lap.
If you are bottle feeding, try a slower flow nipple so your baby isn’t gulping to keep up with the milk flow. If using powdered formula, let it sit for a few minutes after shaking to allow some of the air bubbles to dissipate. Massaging your baby’s belly in a clock-wise circular motion, doing bicycle motions with their legs, or providing plenty of tummy time can be comforting and help your baby pass gas. Also, a warm bath can never hurt if your baby is fussy – unless of course they don’t like the bath!
If you are nursing and have a gassy baby, your baby may have an intolerance to dairy or caffeine, if it seems very uncomfortable for him/her, consider modifying your diet. A heavy letdown, causing your baby to gulp to keep up can also cause him/her to swallow extra air. If you think this may be a problem for you, unlatch your baby when letdown begins and hold a cloth or breast pad over your nipple (or a bottle under it!) until the letdown slows, then re-latch your baby. Or your baby could have a tongue tie causing him/her to suck more air when nursing; it is always a good idea to have them evaluated by a lactation consultant when they are born. There are also medications available designed to help with gas or colic, some mom’s swear by them, and others swear they do nothing. Also, consider talking to your doctor about giving your baby probiotics to help their digestive system.
If your baby is colicky then he/she will cry more than the typical baby which means they will swallow more air and likely be gassier. The “colic hold” may be particularly helpful in this situation. Lay your baby over your arm, stomach down. Your baby’s head should rest in the crook of your elbow while your hand wraps between his/her legs and holds the thigh. Hold your baby gently against your body; this applies steady pressure against his/her belly. You can sit, walk, bounce, or sway while holding your baby in this position, but constant movement tends to be more comforting.
Gas by itself isn’t a reason for concern, but if your baby will not stop fussing, has a fever, will not poop, or has bloody poop, you should contact your doctor.
Was your baby gassy? My children would sometimes toot so loud they startled themselves awake!
Next week I will be blogging on the letter H… H is for Heel Stick.