Week 1

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.
    • Chocolate
    • 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.

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12 thoughts on “Caring for Your Newborn: A complete guide to the first week with your new baby

  1. says:

    If you plan on breast feeding, having formula in the house is an invitation to failure. Pleas consider NOT having “back up” formula. Instead have good breast feeding books (like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) & the number of a good lactation consultant.

  2. says:

    I agree entirely on not keeping formula in your house. Breastfeeding can take awhile to get a hang of, and that’s okay for the baby. That first week is such a vulnerable time, it’s easy to give in. If you need formula, your doctor will tell you at your one week appointment, or you can see a lactation consultant, and pick it up on the way home. It’s not that hard to stop by a drug store or get someone to stop for you if it’s needed.

  3. says:

    If you’ve decided to cloth diaper, I’d still use disposables for the first month or so. For one thing, it’s not particularly cost effective over disposables to buy that tiny size in addition to the bigger sizes or one size diapers. Also, figuring out a laundry routine for cloth diapers can take some experimentation and troubleshooting, which I think is better left for a little later on.

  4. says:

    This is a really well thought-out and written piece. Week one is so overwhelming, I’m glad it’s acknowledged and supported.

  5. says:

    I completely agree with the cloth diaper comment – and I’m glad this article pointed that out as well. While I’m a big fan of cloth diapers LATER, trying to use them in the beginning is a set-up for failure and a HUGE waste of what should have been an investment. I’d try them in a few months.

  6. says:

    Give yourself complete permission to do nothing that isn’t crucial to your infant’s (and your) survival in those early weeks. This probably means feeding the baby and yourself, changing the baby, and getting as much rest as possible. I am one of those people who can’t easily fall asleep, no matter how exhausted I am, so napping while my newborn took 30-minute “naps” just was not possible (and the people who cheerfully told me “just sleep when the baby sleeps!” became very irritating). Between that and breastfeeding every 90-120 minutes, exhaustion got me quickly and probably set me up for a few very rough months. So rest if you can, even if you can’t sleep, and ignore the guilt that might come along with seeing the laundry stack up.

  7. says:

    I breastfed my infant for over a year, but those early weeks were tougher than I ever expected. As much as I agree with not “caving in” by giving the baby formula early on, recognize that for some people, this *may* be a much-needed bridge to full-blown breastfeeding. In my case my milk didn’t come in for 6 full days and my lactation consultant from La Leche League didn’t get back to me for almost 36 hours, which is a lifetime when your baby is hungry and crying constantly and no one is sleeping. At day 5 we decided to use some formula and this covered us until my milk arrived. I beat myself up over this repeatedly (as did so-called “friends” who viewed using formula as practically the equivalent of giving the baby red Kool-Aid). Formula isn’t poison; try not to add guilt to everything else you’re probably feeling in those weeks.

  8. says:

    Excellent article Babble – bravo! I am mixed with the formula in the house debate. I only have one can and one bottle that someone gave me – low and behold a month later and I’m being rushed to the ER with a serious intra-uterine infection. My neighbors took our daughter and gave her her first bottle. They kept asking him how much she took and we were like “we have no idea!” we went right back to BFing when I got home from the hospital. but if we hadn’t had that one little can and lone bottle we would have really been up a creek and inconvienced our neighbors.

    I totally agree with the comment of don’t do anything that you don’t HAVE to. I am about as earthy as the come….but the first two weeks solid..we used paper plates and cups. It’s just a “pass” I gave myself. I threw all the laundry into the machine together and went to bed at 7 when the baby went “down for the night”

    DON”T FEEL GUILTY and DON”T LET ANYONE ELSE MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY for doing whatever you need (within reason obviously!!!) to get by! This is even more true with subsequent babies

  9. says:

    I was so relieved at how easy it was to switch back and forth between breastfeeding and formula. I had been told that my baby, given a bottle, would never go back to the breast and that was absolutely not the case. It saved my health and sanity for my husband to be able to feed the baby overnight — and gave him (and my parental visitors) a chance to bond with her as well. If you must use breastmilk only, you can always pump, but I highly recommend getting used to not being the sole feeder early on. You will be grateful for the rest and your partner will be grateful to share such an important role.

  10. says:

    I agree with most of the advice in this article, however breastfeeding mothers should NOT keep formula in the house “just in case”. Breastfeeding can be hard in the beginning and having an easy out right under your nose is counter-productive. If the baby isn’t gaining well and you need to supplement, it can be easy enough to pick some up on the way home from the pediatrician’s office, as someone already pointed out. Also, pumping a little milk from engorged breasts will not make your body produce even more milk. It’s *emptying* the breast that signals the brain to produce more milk. Pumping or hand expressing a little to soften the breasts and allow the baby to latch easier, relieve the mother’s discomfort and prevent a plugged duct is absolutely fine.

  11. Jane says:

    I disagree with many of these comments. You should absolutely have a good formula on hand (organic!) even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding. I had to go to the ER for postpartum hemmorhage when my son was just 10 days old, and I was there for 18 hours (had to have a D&C). I didn’t have time to pump before I went (obviously) and if I hadn’t had formula on hand at home, it would have been a lot more difficult for my sister to deal with at 3am in the middle of the night. And I’d rather have the best formula on hand than have someone run out and buy the crappy stuff, not to mention having a screaming hungry newborn who has to wait for them to go to the store and back and then make a bottle. Anyway, I believe in having formula on hand for other emergency situations (storms, earthquakes, etc). Be prepared! If you really want to breastfeed, you can do it and a bottle of formula in your pantry won’t deter you.

  12. Hi,

    Thanks for your valuable tips about Parenting. I am also a mother of 2 year old daughter and I know how naughty she is. Your tips is really helpful to calm in irritating situations as well

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