When babies are uncomfortable, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the cause of their distress. Babies with gas may be squirmy, as they struggle to get comfortable. They may cry and be fussier than normal, bring their legs up to their chest and kick, or have trouble sleeping.
If your baby has gas, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. All humans produce gas in their digestive systems.
Some babies may need help moving that gas out. Alleviating their discomfort takes a combination of preventive and treatment efforts, but these simple steps can make all the difference.
There are several possible causes for infant gas. Some believe that breastfed babies can get the effects of gaseous foods (like certain vegetables and beans) from their mother’s breast milk. Others feel that acidic foods and excess dairy products in their diet also seem to worsen their baby’s fussiness.
But what mom eats isn’t the only possibility.
If your baby’s bottle-fed, they could be having a reaction to their formula. Food intolerance often shows up as gas and bloating. If this is the cause of gas, you’re also likely to see other digestive problems like diarrhea.
One of the more common causes is swallowing too much air while eating — whether breastfed or bottle-fed — it can cause gas.
There are a few different things you can do during and after feedings that may lessen your baby’s fussiness.
1. Sealed lips
Perhaps the easiest way to try to prevent gas in babies is to minimize the amount of air they’re swallowing. In breastfed infants, this means ensuring that their lips are creating a seal on the areola.
If you’re using bottles, make sure your baby is putting their lips towards the base of the nipple, not just the tip.
2. Tilt the bottle
Bottles create a unique opportunity for air intake. Tilt the bottle up to about 30 or 40 degrees, so that the air rises to the bottom as they’re feeding and you only see milk at the bottom of the bottle near the nipple.
Another way to control air in a bottle is by using collapsible bags that eliminate air and reduce the risk of gas. Some babies seem less fussy with a change in nipple type.
3. Burp the baby
Burp your baby both during and after feeding. Your baby might not like this, especially if they are very hungry, but by eliminating the air midway through their feeding, you reduce the likelihood that it will be carried into the digestive system.
However, if they cry a lot with this technique, they may end up seeming even more uncomfortable, possibly from swallowing more air while crying.
4. Eat differently
If you’re breastfeeding, and your baby seems particularly fussy when you eat a certain food, you may want to try to reduce the amount of gassy foods you’re eating. This often includes dairy products and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.
Studies have not reliably shown that changing mom’s diet helps with fussiness, though, and cutting out too many foods from your diet can have health risks. Talk to your doctor if you are considering eliminating several foods from your diet.
Immediately after feeding, keep your baby upright. This will make it easier for them to burp.
If they’re already feeling discomfort, try laying your baby on their back and moving their legs in a bicycle motion.
Alternately, give your baby time on their tummy. Lying stomach-down should help them move the gas out.
You could also try these techniques to comfort them and help move the gas from their little bodies:
Carry baby in a “football hold.” This involves holding your infant facedown across your arm, with their legs straddling your elbow and the side of their face in your hand — as if you’re running them in for a touchdown.
Many babies find this additional pressure on their abdomen to be comforting to an upset tummy.
Comforting a fussy baby isn’t easy, particularly when you know they’re uncomfortable. But gas is normal in infants, so learning a few different approaches to help minimize the disruption can make everyone in the household a little happier.