What causes gas in a baby?
All babies have gas - some more than others. Young baby’s bodies have to learn a lot, including how to break down and process food & nutrients through the stomach and intestines. They may have a lot of gas accumulate because they just don’t know how to process it and push it out. Their digestive systems are still developing.
Some of this gas comes out easily when you burp after a feed or during a bowel movement; however, some gas can be trapped in digestive tract, build up and become uncomfortable and painful. Many mothers assume it is something they have eaten that is causing this gas.
However, when a baby experiences gas It is most likely NOT what you are eating. That is a common misconception. If you have gas or you ate something that made you gassy, that gas does NOT pass onto the baby. Breast milk is made from what is in a mother’s blood NOT what is in her stomach. Before you begin eliminating foods from your diet, consider some common causes of gas.
What can cause gas in a baby?
1) Baby swallowing too much air
Through bottle feeding - To decrease baby swallowing too much air while bottle feeding:
- use a Low Flow nipple
- burp frequently
- feed baby at an angle
- use paced-bottle feeding
- make sure baby’s mouth is properly fitted on the bottle nipple
Through crying - Yes, crying causes the baby to swallow lots of air, which can contribute to excess gas.
2) Drinking too much milk at once
If a baby is drinking and swallowing milk too quickly, they can become over full and overextend their digestive system. Do you have an overactive letdown that forcefully releases milk when baby nurses? Are you bottle feeding using paced-feeding with pauses? Otherwise, the baby may be getting too much milk at once which can lead to gas.
3) Baby not having regular bowel movements
It is totally normal for a breastfed baby to go days- even weeks- without having a bowel movement. Those intervals between pooping can produce gas in the baby.
4) The baby’s developing, immature digestive system
Again, a baby’s digestive system is still learning how to function properly. So, your baby may experience gas while this system develops.
5) Formula can cause gas in babies
Formula is not broken down the same way as breast milk and may cause more gas.⠀ To help with this:
- frequently burp baby
- use low-flow nipples
- take pauses in feeding
- make sure the baby is not swallowing air in the bottle
6) Baby could have a dairy-sensitivity
While food is usually not the reason for gas, there are babies who can have a sensitivity to dairy. The protein in cow’s milk CAN pass into your milk (as it passes into your blood after mama digests it). In this case, mama will have to go dairy-free.
NOTE: a food allergy is different than a symptom like gassiness. For allergies look for other signs like eczema, hives, a rash, congestion, wheezing etc. and contact your Pediatrician immediately.
Here are some ways you can help baby to release uncomfortable or painful gas.
- BURP BABY during natural pauses while breastfeeding/bottle feeding
- BELLY MASSAGE using gentle yet firm strokes in a circular “O” motion. Try alternating with placing a warm compress on the belly for soothing. - (Make sure it is WARM and not hot; you don’t want to burn/hurt the skin. You can also place the compress on top of clothes)
- CYCLING LEGS - lay baby on back on a flat surface and slowly and steadily pump his/her legs as if riding a bike
- SIMETHICONE (Mylicon drops) - some pediatricians recommend these baby-safe gas-relieving drops. However, while they may work for some babies, they don’t work for others. The same goes for gripe water.
Your baby is growing rapidly and as s/he develops so will the baby's digestive system. In time your baby’s gas problems will most likely subside and calm. If you are concerned in any way, consult your pediatrician. But, like most trials and tribulations of motherhood, this too shall pass.