Gas is a normal human function, and, like adults, some babies are gassier than others. Got a gassy baby? You’ve come to the right place! Read on for everything you need to know to help your little one.
Why are babies so gassy?
- Gas is a normal human function, and, like adults, some babies are gassier than others.
- Babies can be gassier if they swallow more air while feeding, but even without this, they can still be gassy.
- When babies cry, they can also swallow more air, making them gassy. The gas then makes them cry, and a vicious cycle has begun.
- Bottle-feeding can introduce more swallowed air. Use a slow-flow nipple and try paced bottle feeding as shown in this course to reduce the amount of air being swallowed.
- Babies are constantly developing good bacteria in their stomachs to help with digestion, so as a result, they get gassy and their poops can change colors. They also, overall, have immature digestive systems, so gas will be common.
How to manage the gas or straining with poop
- PAUSE: Practice pausing! Before you do ANYTHING, give baby 30 seconds to 5 minutes to work out the gas or poop ON THEIR OWN. Remember, this is a naturally occurring process, and if we jump and immediately help them, we have told them that it’s something to be feared. Give them time, as it gets better as their digestive system matures!
- Burping: Burp in the middle of feeds to allow gas to be released. Sometimes being upright can help them move poop and gas along versus being horizontal.
- Bicycling baby’s legs: Remember to not do this furiously. Incorporate a baby massage focusing on the belly, and massage their legs in a bicycle motion if need be. Only continue bicycling if helpful. For pooping, sometimes placing baby vertically over your shoulder or in a bouncer chair can help (it’s easier to poop sitting up than laying down).
- Belly massages: Grab some coconut oil and massage the belly. The key is to be gentle and calm. Oftentimes when baby is crying, parents get frustrated, and these moments can be more rigorous than calm.
- OTC drops: This is a last resort and only to be used if you see benefit. If you don’t see benefit, stop using it. These include things like simethicone, Mylicon, or gripe water. There are no research studies to show benefit, so only use if helpful.
- Probiotics: There is some research regarding probiotics in baby formula that can help with gas and colic, so this MAY be helpful. Similar to OTC drops, speak to a clinician if your baby is preterm or has any medical condition before starting. If you feel like it doesn’t help, stop using it.
How to manage a gassy baby
- Bottle-feeding: If bottle-feeding with pumped milk or formula, use the slowest nipple flow possible for less air to be swallowed. Positioning can help for extra-gassy babies where you have them more upright at a 45-degree angle and are incorporating paced bottle feeding.
- Formula feeding: If formula feeding, consider switching formulas if gas is very severe after speaking to a clinician. Try to avoid quick switches to various formulas, as this can lead to anxiety. Speak to a clinician for more guidance before rapidly switching.
- Breastfeeding: Speak to a clinician if any diet modifications are needed. If a food makes you very gassy and subsequently your baby very gassy during that breastfeeding session, you can perform a trial removal of THAT food. Do not eliminate everything right away.
- If you’ve tried the above tips and baby is still very gassy, sometimes removal of caffeine and dairy are helpful, but try this in a stepwise fashion. Ensure you are still eating adequately so your supply doesn’t reduce. If you are having a painful latch, ensure it’s not a moderate to severe tongue-tie leading to a poor latch and more swallowed air.
What about breastfed babies?
It’s not you. It’s them. You will find so many people online say to drop certain foods if your baby is gassy. This is one of the worst pieces of advice I hear because it can restrict your nutrition when this is vital for breastfeeding. If you notice a food makes you very gassy, then consider eliminating that, but please make sure to speak to your child’s clinician before going on an online food elimination cleanse! There is no elimination plan across the board for gassy babies. Also, formula-fed babies can be gassy too! We’re all gassy!
Red flags of a gassy baby
- Poor weight gain
- Improper latch with breastfeeding to make sure it isn’t a tongue-tie
- Blood in stool
- Mucus in stool with poor weight gain
- Excessive spit-up that is causing poor weight gain and/or back arching after feeds
In these situations, speak to your child’s clinician for next steps. If your baby is not meeting any of these red flags, my advice is to be patient and practice pausing as often as you can. The gas will get better because baby will get better at handling it.
Formula-fed babies do not always transition through these, and that is okay! They may have more firm stool, but the color should also be in the earth-tones!