7 tips for comforting your gassy baby
Any parent who’s been up all night with a gassy baby will tell you: It isn’t fun. The crying, the squirming, the little red face — it’s heartbreaking (and, yes, a little maddening!) But take solace knowing infant gas is also relatively normal.
“Gas is common in newborns since their digestive systems are immature and still developing,” says Dr. Jen Trachtenberg, founder of Pediatrician in Your Pocket. “Gassy newborns are often fussy, squirmy, uncomfortable and have a hard time settling down. In some cases, their belly may look a little more bloated than usual, and they might even pass foul-smelling excess gas.”
The good news is after the gas is passed, baby usually feels much better. The key is knowing how to tackle this common issue. From warm baths to massage techniques, here are seven expert and real-mom tips for offering baby gas relief.
1. Change your bottle-feeding style
According to Trachtenberg, infant gas happens more frequently in bottle-fed babies as opposed to breastfed infants since breast milk is more digestible than formula. Additionally, the type of bottle you’re using, as well as your feeding technique, may be the gas-causing culprit. But don’t worry, babies consuming formula or pumped milk through a bottle aren’t necessarily destined for gas. You just may need to make a few adjustments.
Here are a few of Trachtenberg’s tips for minimizing gas in bottle-fed babies:
Hold baby’s bottle upright. Instead of laying your baby all the way back in your arms while they’re eating, sit them upright at an almost 90-degree angle, so less gas-triggering air gets into the nipple.
Burp often. “Frequent burping can help prevent gas from happening,” says Trachtenberg. If you stop mid-feed and the baby doesn’t burp, try again in a few minutes. KidsHealth advises burping bottle-fed babies every two to three ounces and every time you switch breasts, if you’re nursing.
Additionally, changing the size of your baby’s bottle nipple may help.
“My 1-month-old got super gassy before I realized I was feeding her with a size 2 nipple,” says Jaclyn Santos, of Hazlet, New Jersey. “I switched to a size 1 and definitely saw a difference.”
2. Watch your diet
While breast milk may be more digestible for baby, nursing mamas should keep this in mind: Your baby, on some level, is consuming the foods you eat. So, that garlic broccoli you had with dinner? There’s the chance of it affecting your infant, as well. While every baby’s gut will react in its own unique way to foods, you know your baby best. See how he acts after you consume certain foods.
For women who suspect their baby’s fussiness is the result of gas-producing foods they’ve been eating (such as beans, cabbage, broccoli), the Mayo Clinic advises removing one food at a time for a week and seeing if it makes a difference in baby’s behavior.
3. Give a baby massage
The good news is baby massages are adorable and a great way to bond. The even better news is they may offer baby gas relief.
“A daily massage can help improve baby’s bowel habits and reduce constipation,” says Karen Reyes, a certified infant massage instructor. “By providing proper massage for your baby, you can reduce abdominal pains, helping them to relax and cry less, which results in less air intake.”
Here’s a quick and easy at-home massage technique, Reyes recommends:
“While baby is positioned on their back, use two or three fingers to gently but firmly (to avoid tickling the infant) make small circular motions starting on the left side of baby’s abdomen, working the ascending colon, then making your way across the abdomen, being careful to move above their navel, while avoiding the ribs,” she says. “Then, continue massaging down the right side to the descending colon in a clockwise fashion. This will help relax the colon and move any trapped gas as well as alleviate any constipation.”
4. Draw a warm bath
You’re in luck! The cutest time of the day can also be beneficial for gassy babies.
“Warm baths can be great in helping relieve infant gas,” says Trachtenberg.
Not only do most babies relax once they’re partially submerged in a warm tub — which can help their gastrointestinal (GI) tract operate more efficiently — the warm temperature may help soothe sore tummies, as well.
5. Try tummy time
While infants should never be left alone on their stomachs, standing by while your little one logs in some tummy time can help her pass gas.
“Placing your baby on her tummy while she’s awake can help alleviate infant gas,” says Trachtenberg. “The pressure put on her belly can help ease the pain and move things along through and out intestines and rectum.”
6. Pump baby’s legs
Just as a brisk walk can help you when you have a bloated tummy, a little baby exercise can help your baby rid himself of gas.
“One of the easiest and most common techniques that parents can use to aid in the relief of gas on their little one involves a bicycling motion,” says Reyes. “Place baby comfortably on her back and lightly but firmly grasp the lower legs, bringing them in toward their chest in an alternating motion while bending them at the knee, just like a bicycling motion.”
Reyes says the exercise can also be done by bringing both legs in together at the same time.
“This should help move the gas through the intestines,” she says.
7. Try baby probiotics
While you should never give your baby anything before consulting her pediatrician, keep in mind that probiotics, which are often taken by adults, can be used for babies, too.
“My daughter was very irritable and seemingly uncomfortable during the first few months of her life,” says mom of two Michele Lee, of Garwood, New Jersey. “We tried a bunch of things, but ultimately, once I started adding baby probiotics to her bottles, I saw an improvement.”
There are lots of infant probiotic drops available these days that can be either added to a baby’s bottle or directly to the breast, but it’s important to note that research is still pretty scant on the effects of probiotics and babies. That said, one 2018 study found “an increase in the number of good bacteria" in breastfed babies who were given probiotics. By examining stool samples, researchers found a 79% increase in levels of bifidobacteria, a type of protective bacteria that helps lower the pH inside the intestines, allowing healthy bacteria to “thrive.”
Worth a shot? Exhausted parents think so.
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