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Windy Babies: Causes, Symptoms And Ways To Help Them

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Wind is another term for gas in the gastrointestinal tract. It occurs when air is trapped in our stomachs or intestines, causing burping, passing gas, discomfort, or even pain. While it is usually manageable in adults, it could cause a lot more discomfort to babies. It may also be difficult to tell if the baby is feeling gassy since they cannot communicate it.

Recognizing the symptoms and causes for wind in babies could help parents manage it better. Read this post to know the signs, causes, and preventive measures for gas or wind in babies.

Signs And Symptoms Of Wind In Babies

A baby who is gassy could display the following common signs and symptoms of it(1) (2) (3).

  • Bloated abdomen, which may be hard to touch
  • Excessive crying and fussiness, most likely due to discomfort
  • Frequent burping
  • Flatulence (passing wind)
  • Pulling up of legs and clenching of fists

The signs and symptoms may emerge a few to several minutes after the baby has eaten. There may be various reasons why the baby could feel gassy.

What Causes Wind In Infants?

The following conditions and events may lead to excess wind or gas in the baby’s gastrointestinal tract.

  1. Ingestion of air while feeding: It is called aerophagia, and it is one of the most common reasons for wind in babies. A baby may ingest excess air while bottle-feeding due to incorrect nipple size or shape (4). Breastfeeding babies may ingest excess air due to incorrect latch, causing them to even cry while breastfeeding.
  1. Ingestion of air while crying: If the baby is experiencing a bout of colic or is crying excessively due to some reason, they may swallow plenty of air. It could eventually lead to wind in babies.
  1. Inadequate or infrequent burping: Not burping the baby after a feed may cause the swallowed air to remain in their bellies, causing the little one to feel gassy.
  1. Overfeeding or underfeeding: A baby who is overfed or underfed may develop gassiness. Overfeeding usually only occurs during bottle-feeding when the baby is left with a bottle for an extended duration without parental supervision.
  1. Introduction of new food: Older babies may develop wind in their gastrointestinal tract when fed a solid food item for the first time. As the baby’s digestive system adjusts to the food, the gassiness reduces.
  1. Immature digestive system: Some experts believe that the baby’s immature gastrointestinal tract could be more susceptible to the accumulation of gas in it (5). It is not fully known how it causes wind in babies. The shorter length of the gastrointestinal tract and immature gastrointestinal muscles might be the reasons behind it.
  1. Developing gut flora: Essential bacteria exist in every healthy digestive tract, including those of babies. However, the baby’s gut microbiota is still developing in terms of its numbers and ability to digest food. The fermentation of ingested food carried out by the immature bacteria may yield excess wind as a byproduct (5).
  1. Mother’s diet:The compounds in the mother’s diet could pass to the baby through breast milk. Therefore, the consumption of gas-producing food items by the mother may lead to excess wind in babies. An example is the maternal consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, which may lead to gas in breastfed babies (6).
  1. Health conditions and problems: Conditions such as lactose intolerance, food intolerances, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome may increase the chances of flatulence and excess wind in babies (7). Some babies may become gassy when experiencing gastrointestinal problems, such as infections, diarrhea, or constipation.

Not all babies experience excess wind and gassiness due to the aforementioned conditions and factors. Some babies may develop wind due to no apparent reason. It is vital to know when it could be an indicator of a problem to mitigate any complications.

When To See A Doctor?

Consult a pediatrician if the following symptoms or conditions accompany wind in babies.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor weight gain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Presence of blood in stools
  • Baby cries when the abdomen is touched
  • Constant diarrhea or constipation

You must take a baby younger than six months to a doctor irrespective of the presence of other symptoms. The doctor may prescribe tests and treatments based on the diagnosis. Most cases of wind in babies can be managed at home through adequate care.

How To Manage And Prevent Wind In Babies?

The following interventions and methods could help relieve wind or gassiness and also prevent it subsequently (8)(1) (4).

1. Feed the baby in an upright position

Hold your baby in a partially upright position while feeding and up to 15 to 30 minutes after each feed. It will allow any excess air to rise and come out of the mouth instead of passing further down into the digestive system. There are several breastfeeding techniques that let you feed the baby in a partially upright position. You may pick the one that suits you and the baby the best.

2. Burp the baby

Burp the baby when switching them from one breast to another and after a feeding session. It applies to both bottle-feeding and breastfeeding. Hold the baby upright in your arms and gently tap between their shoulder blades to burp them. It is best for air to come out of the mouth than linger in the belly to cause wind in babies later.

3. Give tummy massages

Maintain a three-finger distance from the baby’s belly button and perform circular clockwise strokes around the belly button with all three fingers. Do not press on the belly; rather, let the weight of your fingers do the job. It can stimulate the faster movement of the gas through the digestive system. Perform this massage an hour or two after feeding the baby. You may pick a fixed time in a day to perform the massage.

4. Perform assistive exercises

Some of the best exercises are hopping, bicycling, toes to noes, and twists. In hopping, lay the baby on their back and gently move their legs upwards so that their knees touch their chest. Straighten their legs and repeat the motion as if the baby was hopping. You may move the legs alternately to perform bicycling action and move the toes gently towards the nose to perform toes to nose. Move the baby’s legs sidewards to perform twists. Remember to be gentle and only move the legs as far as the baby seems comfortable with it.

5. Provide adequate tummy time

Tummy time is one of the best activities to strengthen a baby’s muscles and relieve general problems, such as wind and gassiness. Your baby may have tummy time right from day one. Keep it limited to three to five minutes, two to three times a day, initially (9). Increase the time gradually as the baby grows older.

6. Check the bottle-feeding techniques

Always bottle-feed the baby in an upright position while holding the bottle in your hand. Do not let the baby hold the bottle since it could cause them to gulp excess milk or formula along with excess air. Try different bottle-feeding techniques, such as paced bottle-feeding, where you reduce the milk’s flow by holding the bottle horizontally instead of placing it in the baby’s mouth vertically. You may also consider slow-flow nipples while bottle-feeding.

7. Ensure good latch while breastfeeding

A good latch around the breast nipple is when the baby’s lips flange and cover the entire areola (dark area around the nipple). If the baby’s lips are only around the tip of the nipple or to the side, it indicates an improper latch. Similarly, a good latch around the bottle nipple is when the baby’s lips flange outwards while covering most of the nipple with their mouth. You may experiment with different bottle nipple shapes and sizes to find the one that provides the best latch to your baby.

8. Change formula

If your baby is mostly formula-fed, you may speak to a doctor and switch to another one. Certain types or brands of formula milk may cause wind in some babies. Switching to another formula may provide relief to your baby. You may also consider feeding your baby small quantities of formula several times a day since formula digests more slowly than breast milk (10).

9. Check maternal diet

Certain breastfed babies could be sensitive to their mother’s diet. You may consider avoiding certain foods while breastfeeding to reduce the chances of wind in your baby. Some of the common food items that may lead to excess gassiness are cruciferous vegetables, beans, onions, legumes, eggs, and dairy products. In some cases, a baby may develop wind due to maternal medications. If you suspect it to be the case, speak to your doctor and have your medication changed or suspended.

10. Identify gas-producing foods

If your baby is older than six months and on a solid diet, check for the possible gas-producing foods in their diet. Not all babies develop gassiness with the same food. Therefore, eliminate one food item at a time from the baby’s diet to rule out or determine the possible cause of wind in babies. You may also feed several smaller meals a day to ease wind in babies.

11. Get prompt treatment for gastrointestinal conditions

Manage any food intolerances or chronic gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, through long-term care. Some problems may have treatment for permanent relief. Speak to a pediatrician or gastrointestinal specialist to learn ways to manage these conditions effectively and prevent wind in babies.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there OTC treatments for wind in babies?

There may be a treatment for wind in babies, but you must never self-medicate. Speak to a pediatrician who may prescribe your baby medicine for wind and gassiness.

2. When does a baby need burping?

A baby needs burping during and after a feed (4). You may burp a baby before switching them from one breast to another or during a pause while bottle-feeding.

3. Why does wind cause pain and discomfort?

Wind or gas causes pain or discomfort when it cannot move out of the intestines normally (11). The trapped gas may accumulate within the gastrointestinal tract, leading to pain and discomfort.

Wind or gas in babies is a common occurrence and easily manageable at home with a few interventions. The right feeding position, a good latch, regular exercise and tummy time, and cutting down gas-producing foods from the mother’s and baby’s diet could help provide relief to the little one. If gas persists for too long or your interventions do not provide relief, do not hesitate to speak to a pediatrician.

References:

MomJunction's health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Gas in the Digestive Tract; CHOC
2. Excessive crying in infants; U.S. National Library of Medicine
3. Colic in Babies; American Pregnancy Association
4. Abdominal Gas and Colic; University of Michigan
5. Bert J. M. van de Heijning et al., GI Symptoms in Infants Are a Potential Target for Fermented Infant Milk Formulae; U.S. National Library of Medicine
6. GounJeong et al., Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding; U.S. National Library of Medicine
7. Passing wind or flatulence; Raising Children Network
8. Breaking Up Gas; American Academy of Pediatrics
9. Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play; American Academy of Pediatrics
10. Feeding Your Newborn; Brenner Children’s
11. Symptoms & Causes of Gas in the Digestive Tract; National Institutes of Health