When too much gas builds up in baby's stomach and GI tract, it can make baby uncomfortable, and lead to fussiness and irritability that isn't fun for you, either. These top 12 tips will help you relieve baby's gas.
Gas happens when too much air builds up in baby's stomach and GI tract.
When baby is gassy, it can make them restless and uncomfortable.
It may also make then feel full even if they didn't have enough to eat.
And it can even lead to a vicious cycle of increased fussiness (sometimes called "colicky crying"). This increases their air intake, leads to even more gas, crying, and irritability, and could result in spit-up. That certainly isn't fun for either of you!
But what makes baby gassy and uncomfortable in the first place?
Gas can have several causes, including a food intolerance or swallowing too much air for any reason. It can also build up because baby’s digestive system is still maturing, and has trouble breaking down what baby eats.
Dr. Steve Silvestro shares more on what makes babies gassy --- and aware of their gas --- and some ways to relieve the discomfort:
It's vital to find the cause of gas so you can make baby comfortable again --- and help keep baby from becoming gassy and uncomfortable in the future.
Here are our top 12 tips to relieve baby's gas by removing the potential causes.
1. Burp your baby!
Burping your baby is always the first step you should take to relieve and help prevent gas.
Babies naturally swallow air during feedings, whether they’re drinking from the breast or the bottle. But if they take in too much air, they can become gassy and uncomfortable.
Burping baby helps release that air and relieve baby’s gas and discomfort (or often, stop those discomforts before they start).
- To burp baby, you’ll pat or rub their back gently to help them release air.
- Do this for about a minute at a time.
- Most babies only need gentle burping, where you pat or rub them with a cupped hand.
- But for some babies, including especially gassy babies, you may need a slightly firmer rub or pat to get the air out.
- Start by patting more firmly with your cupped hand.
- Then, try gently patting with a flat palm, if cupped-hand burping doesn’t seem to relieve enough gas.
- Always have a burp cloth on hand to catch or wipe any spit-up.
How often should you burp a baby who tends to be gassy?
- If you’re bottle-feeding, burp them after every ounce they drink.
- If you’re breastfeeding, burp them every 5 minutes.
- And no matter how you feed baby, always burp them again after a feed.
For more on burping your baby, including the best burping positions to use, don’t miss our detailed guide.
2. Help prevent overfeeding
Overeating is one of the most common reasons why baby swallows too much air. That’s why it’s vital to stop feeding baby when they show signs of fullness, to nip gas in the bud.
Signs of fullness include:
- Baby turns away from the breast or bottle, or even tries to push it away
- Baby is distracted during a feed
- Baby slows or stops their sucking
- Baby seems uninterested in drinking more
- Baby relaxes their hands, arms, and legs
- Baby gets tired, or falls asleep, during a feed
3. Give baby tummy time while awake
Tummy time has many benefits for baby. It helps baby build up key motor skills that they need to eventually sit up, crawl, and walk.
But placing your baby on their tummy also creates a natural gentle pressure that helps push out gas.
Remember, though: Always watch baby during tummy time, and only give baby tummy time when they are awake. It is not safe to put baby to sleep on their stomach, as stomach sleeping increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
4. Change up how you carry your little one
Carrying your baby frequently throughout the day can cut down on gas.
And if baby needs more help relieving gas, you can try a special carrying method called the “colic carry.”
To perform the “colic carry,” lay your little one tummy-down across your forearm, and gently pat their back.
5. Try a baby massage
Massaging is another method for relieving gas, but only do this after you’ve consulted your doctor first.
If your doctor says it’s ok, focus on massaging baby’s stomach first. You should massage clockwise, as that’s the direction that food and air naturally moves through the digestive system.
Massaging baby’s chest areas and back may also help, but be careful of baby’s head and neck areas.
6. Give baby “bicycles”
You could also try the “bicycling technique,” which goes hand in hand with massaging. While baby is on their back, gently push their legs back and forth in a circle, as if they were pedaling a bike. Be sure to push up towards the tummy.
You could also push baby’s knees up to their tummy and gently hold them there for about 10 seconds. Release and straighten baby’s legs, and then repeat the “hold-release” process several times.
7. Choose the right bottle (if bottle feeding)
Certain bottles are better at preventing gas buildup than others. If you’re bottle-feeding, look for a bottle with an anti-colic valve, which is designed to vent air out of the bottle and reduce the air that baby takes in while feeding.
You’ll also want a slow-flow nipple, which mimics the flow of milk from a breast and keeps baby from feeding too quickly. Slow-flow nipples make sure that baby won’t gulp down too much breastmilk or formula at once, and won’t take in as much air as a result.
In addition to this, make sure the bottle nipple is always completely full of milk or formula (no room for extra air!)
8. Pump to slow your flow before nursing (if breastfeeding)
If you’re breastfeeding and have a strong letdown (fast initial flow), this could also cause baby to gulp down too much milk too quickly and become gassy.
How to slow your flow if you suspect a strong letdown? Pumping a small amount of milk right before a feed will help.
9. Choose the right feeding position to cut down on air swallowing
Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, feeding baby in an upright position may cut down on the air they swallow.
And if you’re breastfeeding, be sure baby has a proper latch. This is beneficial for many reasons, including creating a seal that keeps baby from swallowing excessive air,
10. See if foods you're eating could be making baby gassy (if breastfeeding)
If you’re nursing, certain foods you’re eating may also make baby gassy, because they create “gassy” breastmilk
Beans, onions broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage are common culprits, as are other green vegetables. But fruits and fiber-rich foods can also be culprits.
If you suspect that breastmilk is making baby gassy, keep track of the foods you eat. (Keep in mind that foods eaten over the last 3 days could affect baby’s current gas levels). Then, ask a doctor or lactation consultant if certain foods you’re eating may be causing your baby’s gas.
Only cut out foods from your diet, though, if your doctor or lactation consultant
11. Try a “gentler” formula (if formula feeding)
Enfamil’s Gentlease, a “gentler” formula, may help cut down on gas in formula-fed babies with sensitive tummies. If baby is often gassy when they consume standard formula, Gentlease can help cut down on gas, fussiness and colic in as few as 24 hours --- and it costs nearly the same as standard formula. That’s because the milk proteins in Gentlease are somewhat smaller than those in standard formula.
12. Talk to your doctor about a possible formula ingredient intolerance (if formula feeding)
If you’re formula feeding and baby seems gassy --- even when you take other steps to reduce gas, or even try a “gentle” formula --- baby may have an intolerance to a formula ingredient.
Food intolerances (food sensitivities) cause baby to develop GI symptoms, including gassiness, loose or abnormal stools, and abdominal pain, when baby eats foods that they are sensitive to.
Most commonly, if baby has a formula intolerance, it’s caused by cow’s milk in the formula. They could have an intolerance to lactose (milk-sugar) or to milk proteins.
If you think baby has a formula intolerance, talk to your doctor. Switching to an “extensively hydrolyzed” formula, like Nutramigen or Alimentum, may ease your little one’s symptoms. These formulas contain milk proteins that are broken down into very small parts (so they’re easier to digest). They are also free of lactose.
But don’t switch formulas until you’ve talked to your doctor about baby’s possible intolerance, and they’ve given you the ok to switch.
What if baby still seems gassy?
If you still can’t pinpoint why baby’s so gassy, and you’ve tried other methods to help relieve gas, talk to a doctor. They’ll help you figure out what’s causing baby’s discomfort. They may also recommend gas drops, which are generally safe for babies (but only use them with a doctor’s permission.)
One reassuring point to keep in mind: Babies are usually gassiest when they’re between 1 month old and 4-6 months old. If baby is gassy while breastfeeding or formula feeding, they’ll often naturally become less gassy as they start to eat more and more solids, and as their digestive system matures.
This still varies from baby to baby, so you still might need to consult a doctor if baby remains very gassy between the 6-month mark. But time will often help when it comes to gas relief.
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