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Baby Gas: A Big Problem for the Smallest People

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

You are probably reading this because your baby is crying. They seem like they are in pain. You would like to make your baby feel better but also prevent going crazy yourself. Gas could possibly be the culprit. Let’s talk about some common questions on the subject of baby gas.

Why do babies get gassy?

Every human gets gas bubbles. It’s just a product of digestion. The problem with babies is they can’t DO anything about it. Adults can move, walk, use their abdominal muscles to release from above or below. But babies just have to...lie there. Until it passes. No wonder they are crying!

What can increase gas formation?

  1. Crying - unfortunately this can be a cycle! Babies swallow air when they cry.

  2. Feeding too quickly - babies swallow air during feeds (especially bottle fed babies)

  3. Not stopping to burp during feeds

  4. Foods that breastfed moms eat - beans, kale, broccoli...anything that causes you to have gas can can cause more gas in the baby.

What can I do about gas?

The most effective thing to do is to help your baby work it out. It might feel like a constant project, but this is really the best thing for them! How do you help them work the gas out?

  1. Tummy massage - there are lots of methods but you can start gently and work around in a circle clockwise. This is a great video that reviews some techniques!

  2. Bicycle motions with the legs - this gets things moving! I am a huge fan of the technique noted in the video above of bringing baby’s knees all the way into their chest, it really works!

  3. Tummy time - this is helpful for a few reasons. First of all, tummy time helps your baby build the muscles necessary to do this work on their own. Second of all, just changing positions helps move the air around in your baby’s gut!

  4. Burp frequently during feeds.

  5. Decrease air consumption during a feed. For breastfed babies, see if your milk flow is overwhelming. If you think that’s contributing, express a little out first before feeding your baby. For bottle-fed babies, make sure the angle of the bottle decreases the amount of air that’s in the nipple - 45 degrees should be about right! You can also consider changing the type of bottle if this is a consistent problem.

Can I give my baby any medications to help with gas?

There are a few things out on the market for gas:

  1. Simethicone - This is an anti-foaming agent that causes the small bubbles to combine to bigger bubbles to more easily pass. You can give this up to 3 times a day for the first 2 months, then 12 times a day after that. This is extremely safe when given as directed! However, studies show no benefit over placebo.

  2. Gripe water - There is no standard definition of gripe water, as it is not regulated by the FDA. It usually contains sodium bicarbonate as well as fennel, chamomile, ginger, lemon balm, or other herbs, but always check the label! You should check with your provider before giving any kind of gripe water to make sure it doesn’t have any concerning ingredients. There’s also no evidence that gripe water is effective!

  3. Probiotics - L. Reuteri has been studied as a colic remedy in babies. One study demonstrated decreased crying time for babies with colic, but other studies show no difference. It’s worth noting that the FDA does not evaluate probiotics, so they may have different ingredients than listed. Baby probiotics are expensive, too! But if you would like to try this remedy, it’s probably safe (as long as you run it by your pediatric provider!)

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Yes! Babies start improving rapidly as they gain strength and can move around on their own! Approaching 6 months there is a huge improvement (this is when they can start to sit independently!). Usually gas is the worst around 2-4 months. So hang in there, you’ve got it!

When should you see your pediatric provider with a fussy baby?

If your baby has a fever (100.4 or higher), is not feeding or gaining weight, if they are vomiting, if they have no wet diaper in 6 hours, have blood in their stool or anything else that seems unusual you should definitely take them in to get checked out!

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