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Your Gassy Baby!!!

The birthing room teaching portal


Your gassy baby

Your baby cries, especially when you put them down, shortly after a feed and they pull their legs up to their chest and you just can't settle them. You can tell they are in pain and you guess correctly that it must be gas. This is an issue for so many babies, and as a result it is actually normal. Yes, gas in your baby is normal. Let me explain.

So many parents I work with express a concern for their baby's gas. Mostly because it can feel prevalent but also because babies are very expressive and irritable when passing gas. But did you know, on average, adults experience gas symptoms 10-20 times per day. You know, a little cramp, a need to shift your body, needing to pass gas or have a bowel movement. For babies, the average is, wait for it, 13-20 times per day. Pretty much the same as you. They can experience cramps, the need to have a bowel movement, or pass gas but that may not be a simple fart for them.

For babies, the message to pass gas doesn't flow as quickly to their anal sphincter and as a result, gas can build up. For adults, to shift the gas what do they do? They move, they squirm in their chair, wiggle when they walk or simply go to the bathroom. But new babies can't do this. They are pretty sedentary. All they can really do on their own is pull their knees up to their chest. So what do they do, they fuss and cry and complain, they tell you they need your help. They cry because these feelings are all new and uncomfortable for them. And we respond by picking them up. Sometimes they will even fart or poop as soon as you pick them up. That's love baby!!

But what causes gas in the first place?

There are a number of ways gas is formed in babies. The first is by swallowing air, which they can do through crying and eating, which they do quite bit in the early months. The second can happen if the breastfeeding parent has a very forceful let down, where, when the baby latches, the milk forcibly gushes out and into the baby where they sputter and choke and suck in air. And finally, the most common way is from the breakdown of carbohydrates. Breastmilk contains a huge amount of carbohydrates. And if your baby is formula fed, the formula also contains a large amount of carbohydrates but in this case, they are a little harder to digest and breakdown.

Bonus - It isn't what you eat that causes gas in babies. Because all the breakdown of the carbohydrates you consume is done in your system completely before it gets to your milk. Baby doesn't have to break down those carbs.

So how can we help a gassy baby?

  1. The good news is, we actually do it instinctually. Baby fusses so we pick them up. Picking them up can help shift those gas bubbles.

  2. Infant massage. Doing belly massages such as bicycle legs, bubble hunt, and ILU, can help break up those gas bubbles or help to move them along. Always work clockwise around baby's belly to follow the flow of baby's system.

  3. Understand that gas is normal and baby just needs your help and that it isn't a food allergy or lactose intollerance.

  4. If it is the result of a forceful let down, try latching baby on, while you are reclined back to have the flow of the milk work against gravity. Once the initial let down is done, you can sit up comfortably.

  5. If you are formula feeding or using a bottle, try burping part way through the bottle, have baby sit more up right when you feed them and ensure the nipple is filled with milk so baby doesn't suck in air. Plus, hold baby up right for a little longer after a feed.

So while having a baby struggle with gas is sad to watch, we can make them feel better until they are able to move and squirm and crawl and fart all on their own and they get used to these strange feelings in their bellies.

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