Aaahhhh! What do you do to help a gassy baby get relief? How do you prevent this from happening? If you have a baby who is gassy and fussy, you want answers!
All adults suffer from symptoms of gas from time to time, and you can expect the same from your baby. You spend a lot of time burping your baby and noticing when they pass gas and may need a diaper change, but what happens when your otherwise happy baby turns into a fussy, gassy baby? Most parents have nothing to worry about, but it is important to know the top causes of gas in breastfed babies.
We want your baby to spend more time smiling, giggling, and playing than crying and arching back in pain, so we rounded up the top five causes of baby gas and the top five remedies. We’ll also help you decide if it’s time to take your baby to the doctor for an official diagnosis and a customized solution.
Top 5 Causes of Gas for Breastfed Babies
1. Your baby’s digestive system is still developing.
It takes time for a new baby’s digestive system to strengthen and learn to process food efficiently. Many babies suffer more constipation, diarrhea, gas, and other uncomfortable digestive symptoms in the first few months of life. There’s a reason babies aren’t ready for solid foods until at least six months of age.
Yes, it’s even normal for some babies to suffer from enough gas to cause low levels of pain and discomfort. They may cry, arch their back, and have trouble sleeping soundly because of the gas trapped in their stomach. It should naturally become less frequent and intense as your baby’s digestive system matures. If it continues or seems to get worse, something else beyond an immature digestive system may be the cause.
Remedy: Time is the only thing that works in this scenario. Skip down to our list of five remedies that can help you relieve symptoms of gas to keep your baby comfortable and happy. Probiotics and gas drops are likely needed, and we’ll discuss that in the remedy section below.
2. Your baby is swallowing too much air.
All babies are at risk of swallowing too much air. Some of the biggest causes include:
- Improper latch while breastfeeding
- Supplementing with a bottle
- Sucking on pacifiers and other artificial nipples
- Excessive crying
- Flat breastfeeding positions.
Yes, something as simple as breastfeeding your baby or an afternoon of general fussiness and crying could lead to a gassy baby who is even more unhappy. When the air entering your baby’s system increases, the risk of getting air trapped in there increases as well.
Remedy: Jump down to our list of five ways to relieve gas for your baby and explore the football hold. Make sure your baby’s latch is correct, and then experiment with positions that are more upright. If your baby supplements with a bottle, try filling the nipple with milk before placing it in your baby’s mouth. You may need more frequent burp breaks during each feeding, especially if your baby supplements with bottles.
3. Your baby needs a bit more help eliminating air.
Do you wait until your baby is done feeding to burp him? If so, try slowing down the feeding session by adding a quick burp to the process. You can burp your baby before switching to your second breast. If you notice moments where your baby naturally seems to pause feeding, you may use the opportunity for a quick burp before continuing to feed.
It’s never convenient to stop a baby from feeding to burp, but it does sometimes help babies who suffer a lot of gas buildup from breastfeeding. If your baby sometimes receives bottles, it’s even more important to make sure you’re burping consistently and thoroughly.
Remedy: Look at our list of remedies for gassy babies below with attention to the football hold and massage options. You want to keep your baby more upright while feeding while increasing your burping efforts and perhaps throwing in gentle massages and tummy time sessions throughout the day.
4. Your baby is allergic or sensitive to something in your breast milk or food supplements.
It’s not as common for babies to react to food substances in their mother’s milk as many believe. In many cases, only small amounts of the food you eat end up in your milk. It’s still possible that your gassy baby is reacting to something that you eat on a routine basis, perhaps in large quantities.
Remedy: Keep a food journal and note your baby’s gas symptoms for each feeding. If you see correlations between certain types of food and your baby’s discomfort, you can try cutting that food out of your diet to see if it relieves the problem naturally. If you think there are more severe food sensitivities or allergies, you should consult with your doctor for further testing and guidelines on how to proceed.
5. Your baby is constipated or suffers from acid reflux.
Constipation can come with gas, and it can feel quite painful at times. You may know this personally because most adults suffer from gas pains and cramps when they’re constipated as well. You’ll know because your baby will not have as many dirty diapers as expected, may strain and cry while trying to poop, and may pass small, hard balls rather than normal bowel movements. Treating the constipation should solve the gas problem as well.
If your baby has some or all of the following symptoms, they may suffer from gas as a part of acid reflux:
- Spitting up
- Projectile vomiting
- Refusing to eat
- Difficult breathing
- Fussiness after eating
- Blood in spit up or stool
When acid reflux is severe, it can interfere with your baby’s willingness to eat, ability to hold food down, and long-term growth rate. It’s important to see a doctor if you believe routine gas is caused by this underlying condition. Many babies suffer from light GERD that passes as they get older, but it’s best to check with your doctor if you believe a more severe problem is developing. (Learn more about acid reflux in breastfeeding babies…)
Remedy: In the following section, we will introduce five ways you can help your gassy baby feel better when gas sets in. Review the section on probiotics and gas drops if you believe constipation is the cause of gas for baby. If you believe your baby is suffering from more severe problems like acid reflux, holding your baby in more upright positions while feeding and for a period of time after each breastfeeding session should help. Babies also tend to suck in more air when feeding from a bottle, so try exclusive breastfeeding if possible.
5 Ways to Help Gassy Babies
1. Give your baby more tummy time to help push out gas.
Allowing your baby to rest on his tummy will help break up gas bubbles and pass them out. Tummy time is also essential to helping your baby strengthen neck muscles and learn to push up, then roll and crawl. Short periods of tummy time throughout the day will do the trick, but make sure your baby is always supervised.
Babies may spit up more if placed on their tummies right after eating. Wait at least 30-60 minutes before putting them on their stomachs. You can spend that time patting your baby’s back for comfort and help with gas until it’s safe to play on the tummy.
2. Master the football hold.
The football hold is a breastfeeding position that allows your baby to feed in a semi-upright period. It’s often recommended for babies with acid reflux, and it works just as well for many gassy babies. You hold your baby along your side with his legs under your arm and your hand supporting the back of his head. You want to lift your baby up towards your breast rather than bending down towards him. Pillows can support your arm.
You can also use a football hold if your baby is gassy after eating or between feeding sessions. Place his belly down on your forearm while holding your head securely in your palm. Make sure hold your baby close to your body and keep a firm grip for safety. This is a good position to pat your baby on the back or offer a massage to help him pass gas while providing soothing comfort.
4. Give your baby a daily probiotic supplement.
There are probiotics for infants that are designed to support and soothe immature immune systems. If you take a probiotic for digestive support, you may already know that they can help relieve everything from constipation and diarrhea to nausea and stomach cramps. They keep the bacteria in your gut in balance, allowing the beneficial bacteria to do their job while minimizing the impact of harmful bacteria.
Probiotics are also believed to strengthen the immune system, so there are benefits that go beyond the discomfort of gas. If you’re concerned about giving your baby any type of supplement, talk to your doctor about the benefits of probiotics for babies.
4. Give your baby a gentle stomach massage.
Massages are relaxing and comforting, so you may want to treat your baby to one even when they aren’t gassy. Place him in an upright position and rub his belly in clockwise circles with just a bit of pressure to help gas bubbles work through the digestive tract. You can also massage downward, running your fingers over the curve of your baby’s stomach.
Massaging is often just as effective as burping, but it’s not an either/or situation. You want to thoroughly burp your baby during and after every feeding session. If gas is a problem or you just want to deliver some added comfort and protection against gas, then a gentle massage after or between feedings is a nice extra touch.
5. Use gas drops for immediate relief.
Infant gas drops are an affordable investment for all parents. They will break up gas bubbles so they’re easier for your baby to pass, and they can deliver fast relief. You may want to stock up if you have a gassy baby who suffers from acid reflux or other digestive problems that make gas a more frequent occurrence. Having just one bottle of drops on hand at all times is adequate if your baby suffers infrequently.
Do you prefer not to use medication and supplements for your breastfed baby? Gas drops are considered safe, and many parents consider them a necessary accessory in the early days of parenthood. Others prefer to keep it as natural as possible, but they may still keep gas drops on hand because they are needed to quickly deliver comfort to a baby with occasional gas pain.
Every parent must decide where they stand on this issue. You can use gas drops safely, and your pediatrician or family doctor may give you other options that are safe interventions if your baby suffers from gas occasionally or frequently.
When Should Your Gassy Baby See a Doctor?
You should consult with your baby’s pediatrician or your family doctor if your baby suffers from gas on a routine basis and it causes considerable discomfort. If you try many of the remedies suggested here and nothing seems to provide relief for your gassy baby, it’s time to talk to a professional to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition that needs addressed.
Your baby’s doctor should also know if gas is causing your baby to refuse breastfeeding or feed for shorter periods of time. Long-term feeding problems can interfere with weight gain and your baby’s ability to thrive. The faster you let the doctor know of the problem, the faster you can diagnose the problem and help your baby develop healthy breastfeeding habits that allow them to grow at a healthy rate with less discomfort.
In most cases, doctor intervention isn’t needed to turn a gassy baby into a happy baby. When you find something that works, make sure to tell all care providers what you expect. For instance, feeding in the football hold or another upright position should become standard if you find it relieves the gas problem.
- When to Be Concerned about Acid Reflux in Breastfeeding Babies
- Best Bottle for Breastfeeding Babies
- Best Baby Bottle Nipples for Breastfeeding Babies
- Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions
- Gastrointestinal gas formation and infantile colic, Pediatric Clinic of North America, Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8614612?dopt=Abstract
- Comfort Your Gassy Baby, Ask Dr. Sears, Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/comforting-gassy-baby
- Breaking Up Gas, Healthy Children, Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Breaking-Up-Gas.aspx
- Infant reflux, Mayo Clinic, Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infant-acid-reflux/symptoms-causes/syc-20351408
- Clutch or “Football Hold,” WIC breastfeeding, Accessed March 20, 2020. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/clutch-or-football-hold