Flatulence or gas in babies is a prevalent condition, especially in the first few months following birth. It is caused due to several reasons, including the type of baby formula milk and the mother’s diet, which has an impact on breast milk. However, no matter what the underlying cause is, dealing with the issue of gassiness in the newborn is critical since it can make babies irritable and cranky. In this post, we tell you about flatulence in babies, including its causes and how babies can be relieved from gassiness.
What Causes Gas In Babies?
Gas in the stomach can be the air swallowed through the mouth, or it can be the gas naturally produced by bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract. A baby can develop a gassy tummy due to any of the following reasons (1):
- Drinking formula too fast: Babies who breastfeed feed at a controlled pace, but formula-fed infants tend to gulp down a lot more when the bottle is held vertically into the mouth. This leads to ingestion of surplus air that gets trapped within the stomach and causes bloating.
- Poor latch to the nipple: Babies who do not latch properly to the breast or bottle nipple tend to leave a considerable gap between their mouth and the nipple. This gap can permeate the surrounding air, which the baby swallows along with the milk.
- Formula mixing and type: Some babies may develop gas after consuming a particular kind of formula. If you mix formula by shaking it in a bottle, then it can infuse a lot of gas in the liquid, which eventually ends up in the baby’s stomach.
- Not burping the baby between feeds: You should burp your baby between feeds since they cannot do it themselves. Leaving the baby without burping leads to accumulation of gas inside the belly.
- Too much crying: If the baby had been crying a lot, then they could inhale a lot of air that accumulates within the stomach and causes gassiness.
- Mother’s diet: What you eat is what you pass to your baby through breast milk. Certain food items may contain compounds that can get into breast milk and cause gas in babies.
- Eating various solid foods: Older infants and toddlers eat a wide variety of food. Bacteria within the gut can produce excess gas when digesting specific food items.
Whether it is gas or something else, you will know only when you can identify the signs and symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Gassy Baby?
A baby with gas in the tummy displays the following symptoms (2):
- Fussiness and irritability: It is probably the first sign you notice, especially after feeding the baby. Your baby will inexplicably become fussy and irritable while otherwise being alright.
- Bloating: A baby’s bloated belly may indicate trapped gas. The belly will also be firm to touch.
- Pulling legs towards tummy: The baby will try to relieve any discomfort caused by bloating by pulling the legs upwards.
- Rubbing belly: Infants may also rub their belly while older infants and toddlers may hold or point towards the tummy to express discomfort.
- Gurgling noises from the stomach: If the surroundings are quiet, then you may even hear gurgling sounds from the baby’s belly. It could be a result of gas moving inside the gastrointestinal tract. It is most likely to occur sometime after a feed.
- Crying while squirming: If the gas causes severe bloating, then a baby may cry and squirm due to the discomfort.
Sometimes, gassiness and bloating can cause extreme discomfort, warranting medical attention.
When to visit a doctor
Gassiness is seldom a medical emergency. However, it is good to let the doctor take a look if:
- Baby has chronic colic, which is crying for at least three hours per day for three days a week (3).
- The baby has diarrhea and severe constipation, so much that the baby does not pass stool for a week.
- The baby is unable to eat properly and suffers from a loss of appetite.
- The gassiness interferes with the baby’s sleep causing extreme fatigue in the infant.
- The baby gets fussy often and loses interest in play and other activities.
- The baby has a fever.
The above symptoms could indicate some other serious conditions such as a food allergy, gastroesophageal reflux, and gastrointestinal infections. Therefore, when gassiness is chronic, it is vital to get the baby checked by a doctor.
How To Treat Gas In Babies?
There is no specific treatment for gas in babies. Avoid over-the-counter medications as they are not meant for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that you can consider giving your baby simethicone gas drops to relieve gas. Simethicone is a compound that congregates the gas produced within the gastrointestinal tract and makes it easy for the baby to pass.
Follow the dosage instructions on the bottle to prevent overdosing. Research states that the medication provides mediocre relief from gas in infants. Some babies may not respond to the medicine at all (4).
Therefore, it is best to consult the pediatrician before giving the medication. Home care and remedies are perhaps the better alternatives when it comes to dealing with a gassy tummy among infants.
Home Remedies For Gas In Babies
A few natural remedies also work as preventive measures for gas among infants. Parents must try the following steps at home when the baby displays symptoms of gas (5):
- Burp: Timely burping after a feed prevents accumulation of gas in the baby’s gastrointestinal tract. After every feed, hold the baby in your arms such that their head rests on your shoulder. Gently tap and rub the baby’s back between the shoulders till you hear a burp. Make sure to place a cloth on your shoulder since babies normally tend to regurgitate small amounts of liquid from their stomach.
- Basic baby exercises: One of the best exercises for gas in babies is bicycle kicks. Lay your baby on the back on a soft surface. Move their legs up and down, imitating the act of bicycling. It helps exercise the abdominal muscles and stimulate the gut, which eventually leads to the baby passing gas and feeling better.
- Give tummy time: Pediatric experts state that regular tummy time improves upper body strength among infants. Adequate abdominal muscle strength allows the gut to relieve itself from gas. The pressure on the belly during tummy time also helps in the removal of gas.
- Tummy massage can do the work: Gentle clockwise massage around the navel stimulates the movement of food and gas through the gastrointestinal tract. You can consult a pediatrician or a certified pediatric massage therapist to learn specific massage techniques to relieve gas in babies.
- Firm nipple latch is important: Check if your baby is latching right, to prevent them from gulping air while they feed. The baby is holding on right when their mouth covers the entire nipple and areola.
A good latch also causes suckling sounds, which let you know that the baby is feeding properly. Babies with some orthodontic problems tend to have a tough time with nipple latching. Get your baby checked by the doctor if you feel they could have a problem.
- Try different bottle nipples: A small or big bottle nipple could cause a baby to suction air. Trial and error with different bottle nipple sizes is the best way to find the perfect fit for your baby’s mouth.
- Choose paced bottle feeding methods: Do not let the baby lie down with a bottle placed vertically in their mouth. Instead, control the flow of the milk by using techniques like paced bottle feeding. A controlled, slower feed that mimics breastfeeding prevents a baby from gulping down too much air.
- Switch formulas: If you suspect the current formula is causing gas, then try another. Sometimes the baby may have gas if they have lactose intolerance (6). So if the symptoms of gas persist for long, consult a doctor.
For babies who are lactose intolerant or have a sensitive tummy and tend to develop gas, you will have to consider alternatives like hydrolyzed formula or soy-based formula (7). Consult a pediatric dietitian to learn of the precise type and quantity of formula to use.
The above methods are all natural and safe ways to get rid of gas in babies. When it comes to older babies and toddlers, gas can also be a result of eating solids.
Can Solid Food Cause Gas In Babies?
Yes. Some foods can make the gastrointestinal tract of a baby more susceptible to the production of gas:
|Vegetables||Fruits||Cereal and grains||Milk products|
|Beans – nearly all types|
The baby can eat most of the above foods, except milk products, on attaining the age of six months (8). Do keep in mind that solids are essential for the baby to meet their recommended dietary allowance (RDA). So instead of avoiding them totally, decrease the portion size and serve them during multiple feeds in a day. In case of foods such as wheat, you can consult a doctor if there is too much gas since it could be an indicator of celiac disease/ gluten allergy.
Can The Mother’s Diet Cause Gas In a Breastfeeding Baby?
Yes. Usually, gassy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans (9) (10) can affect the baby. Some babies may develop gas when the mother eats spicy foods. The effect of the foods eaten may vary from mother to mother, so watch out for what you eat and how it affects your baby to determine the ideal diet when you breastfeed.
Pediatric experts state that unless your baby develops gassiness within six hours of you eating a specific food, there is no need to stop eating it (11).
Remember, some gas in babies is normal. You pass the nutrients you get through fruit and vegetables to your baby. Therefore, avoid eating a food item if your baby has too much trouble, but pause consumption albeit temporarily.
Does reflux cause gas in babies?
Yes. Gas can also be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux (12). Acid reflux in infants causes the stomach acids to move towards the mouth, through the underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter. The opening and closing of the sphincter may cause gas to move into the stomach, leading to bloating and gassiness.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do pacifiers cause gas?
The exact mechanism is unknown, but it is believed that babies may swallow some air while sucking on pacifiers, leading to gas and discomfort.
2. What are the best sleeping positions for a gassy baby?
Whether a baby is gassy or not, the only safe sleeping position is on their back. When they are alert and awake, you may put them down for some supervised tummy time as it may help relieve gassiness (13).
Mother’s diet, fast-paced feeding, improper latching, and too much inhalation of air due to crying are common reasons for gas in babies. It is more prevalent in younger babies who exclusively feed milk. However, most babies outgrow this problem as they grow older and begin eating solids. If your little one has a bloated tummy, cries with squirming, or pulls legs towards their belly, they could be having gas trouble. You may try home care tips such as making them burp after every feed, gently massaging the baby’s belly, facilitating regular tummy time, following a proper diet, and setting a playtime routine to ease the discomfort. However, if your baby’s gassiness doesn’t resolve, contact their pediatrician to provide them prompt relief.
2. Symptoms & Causes of Gas in the Digestive Tract; NIDDK (2016)
3. Colic – Your colicky baby; KidsHealth (2016)
4. E. Biagioli et al; Pain‐relieving agents for infantile colic; Cochrane (2016)
5. W S Swanson; How To Help Your Gassy Baby; Seattle Children’s Hospital
6. Milk & Dairy Allergy; ACAAI
7. J Bhatia; Use of Soy Protein-Based Formulas in Infant Feeding; AAP Journals (2008)
8. Your baby’s first solid foods; NHS
9. Infant Allergies and Food Sensitivities; AAP (2009)
10. Breastfeeding FAQs: Your Eating and Drinking Habits; KidsHealth (2015)
11. Maternal Nutrition and Breastfeeding; Stanford Medicine
12. Symptoms of GE Reflux: What is the safest sleep solution for my baby with reflux?; University of Virginia
13. What is the safest sleep solution for my baby with reflux?