Gassy Baby

Babies are gassy. They burp, hiccup, fart, shart, and poop.

Is your baby gassy but able to burp and fart? Or does he have a hard time passing his gas? There is a difference. If your baby curls up, bears down, cries, farts, and is happy, you have a perfectly normal baby. There are no problems that you need to worry about. But if you have a baby who curls up, bears down, cries, curls up, cries, turns red, and cries, you may have a baby with trapped gas. Here are some ways to help your bloated baby out:

Burp the baby between breasts or more often. Breastfed babies don’t swallow as much air as bottle fed babies when they eat, but they still often need to be burped. Try burping your babies between breasts or more often. Little hint: if your baby screams every time you take the breast away and try to burp him, try burping him with a pacifier in a forward leaning position, holding the pacifier in his mouth.

Beat the build up. Gas often doesn’t seem like a problem until afternoon, evening, or– worst of all–middle of the night. Gas builds up throughout the day, but baby is happy, wiggly, and distracted and it may not seem to bother him. As night begins to fall, baby (and mom and dad) becomes exhausted. Baby is trying to sleep and the gas is waking him up. How horrible must that be to be awoken from a much needed nap with a stabbing gas pain? When the gas attacks occur, this is often the worst time to try to help the baby get the gas bubbles out. Baby is crying and bearing down, so he becomes rigid and tense. It can sometimes be helpful to preemptively move the gas before the gas attacks occur. Early to mid-afternoon is a great time to:

  • Give baby a warm bath.

  • Massage his belly with coconut oil or lotion (clockwise).

  • Do the knee-to-belly maneuver, pushing his bent legs up so that his knees reach his torso. This works really well to make baby fart but doesn’t work well if baby is upset or has recently eaten.

  • Give baby tummy pressure with tummy time or skin-to-skin tummy time on your chest, laying on his tummy across your knees or across your forearm.

Consider that baby may be overeating. Sometimes babies are gassy because they are simply stuffed. This is confusing, because babies seem to want to eat more when they are gassy, but then pop on and off and cry. This is often because baby wants to suck but doesn’t want milk. Non-nutritive sucking time is usually a part of breastfeeding, but babies with mothers who make a lot of milk may not get the opportunity to have non-nutritive sucking time. If this is the case, a pacifier is a great tool to use intermittently throughout and after breastfeeding. Babies can overstuff themselves with milk, especially if they’re drinking faster than their brains can register that their stomachs are full.

Product of the month: Mylicon, Gripe Water, Probiotics, Happy Tummies, The Windy, etc., etc. Since all babies are gassy, baby gas treatment is a big business. Maybe they work and maybe they don’t. Most of them are benign enough that they are worth a try, but none of them is a magic bullet, I am sorry to say.

Finally–and I do mean at the end of the list after you have tried everything else–you can consider removing things from your diet. Food elimination diets fall at the top of most breastfeeding troubleshooting lists, which frustrates me to no end. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that cutting certain foods out of your diet isn’t sometimes necessary. For some mothers and babies, it can be exactly what the baby needs. But undergoing a major diet change during a very exhausting and frustrating time in your life can be excessively stressful. As your baby grows and matures, gassiness will naturally improve. His digestive tract will get more efficient and he will be able to roll, crawl, and walk to move his own gas. In the meantime, try to maintain an understanding of why your baby and every other baby works so hard at digesting. Growing up big and strong so fast takes a lot of work!

Dealing with spit up too? Keep reading…