Feeding and Digestive Issues: Gas
When a newborn passes gas, everyone in the room knows it. While it’s hard to believe such a loud, adult-sounding noise can come from an itty-bitty body, it’s partly a function of the baby’s digestive system still being in a primitive state. As everything develops over the next few months, the (sometimes embarrassing) noise and frequency will settle down.
While gas is quite normal, it can cause extreme discomfort if too much is bottled up. If you suspect gas might be the culprit of your baby’s incessant crying (look for curled-up legs as a sign as well), there are some measures you can take before calling the doctor:
- Make sure your baby isn’t sucking in air during feedings.
- For breast-fed babies, make sure the baby is latched on correctly.
- For bottle-fed babies, position the bottle as vertically as possible so that the nipple is always filled with milk, not air. Also make sure that the flow isn’t too fast or slow for the baby, both of which can cause air to be gulped.
- Burp your baby more frequently to get out any excess air in her or his tummy. Bottle-fed babies should be burped every couple of ounces, and breast-fed babies should be burped at least once before switching to the next breast -sometimes mid-breast if the baby needs it. And if you’ve only been burping one way, try a different approach:
- Over-the-shoulder burps are usually the most effective: Hold the baby against your shoulder with one hand on his or her bottom and use the other hand to pat and rub the baby’s back.
- Your baby might have better results sitting up-right on your lap – just make sure to support his or head while you do so.
- A popular position for gassy babies is belly-down on your lap. Position the baby’s stomach over one of your legs and head on your other leg while you rub and pat the gas out.
- Avoid being too playful right after a feeding. Take about 10 or 20 minutes of quiet time – if the baby hasn’t already nodded off, of course.
- For breastfeeding moms with an extra-abundant milk supply, it could be the forceful letdown (which causes your baby to gulp air) and foremilk-heavy feeding that’s causing gas cramps. If your baby fills up on watery foremilk without getting enough nutrient-rich hindmilk, your baby won’t have enough fat to keep digestion at a normal speed. If the foremilk is flying through your baby’s system, the enzymes that usually digest lactose won’t be able to do their job and your baby will end up hungry again in no time – which only perpetuates the gassiness. Read our tips on how to control the flow while you wait for your milk supply to even out.
- This won’t apply to bottle-feeding moms, but if you’re breastfeeding, examine your diet. There aren’t any foods that are definitely proven to cause gas in babies (usually women should be able to eat whatever they want), but some mothers swear that cutting out a certain food makes a world of difference. We wouldn’t suggest immediately jumping to this conclusion and radically changing your diet, but if you’ve been eating a large amount of broccoli and your baby has been unusually gassy, try cutting it out for a week. However, avoiding vegetables and spicy dishes as a precaution really isn’t necessary. If you think food might be a problem, these are common culprits:
- Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc. Check the ingredients for whey, casein and sodium caseinate, as well as milk.
- Soy, wheat, eggs, corn or nuts
- Citrus fruits: oranges, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, pineapple, etc.
- Gassy vegetables: onions, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, etc.
- Spices: curry, chili pepper, cinnamon and garlic
Talk to your doctor before cutting out a certain food because some omissions (like dairy) will require supplementation.
- Try applying light pressure to the baby’s stomach to help relieve the gas. Also, you can try gently pushing the baby’s knees to his or her chest and making a circular bicycle motion.
- A popular remedy is to lay the baby face-down on your forearm with his or her head in your hand and bottom by your elbow. Gently rock the baby back and forth and/or pat his or her back.
- Try placing the baby over your knees (much like the burping position mentioned above) and slightly bounce your legs.
When to call the doctor:
If you’ve tried everything but nothing helps, talk to your doctor about OTC remedies (such as Gas-X) or prescription medications (such as Mylicon) to help break up the gas bubbles.