How Do I Manage Gas in My Breastfed Baby?
Read time: 6 minutes
What should I know about gas in breastfed babies?
- Know that most babies have gas
- Understand the many causes and symptoms of gas in breastfed babies
- Learn tips and tricks to help prevent and relieve gas in your baby
One of the most common concerns parents have is their baby’s gas. While gas is usually not harmful, the pressure that gas bubbles create may cause pain when it becomes trapped in your baby’s stomach or intestines.1
Gas is particularly common during the first 3 months of life when your little one’s digestive tract is still maturing.2 You may even notice it’s worse at night.3 Most of the time, gas is from swallowing too much air, but there may be other reasons your little one is gassy.
Read on to learn how to help your baby with gas.
Common causes of gas discomfort in breastfed babies:
- An incorrect latch while nursing leads your baby to swallow too much air3
- Excessive crying fills your baby’s belly with air1
- Strong let-down or oversupply, causing baby to gulp quickly and swallow air3
- Immature digestive tract is still learning to process breastmilk, gas, and stool effectively2
- Sensitivity or allergy to a food in mom’s diet1, 3, 4
- Introduction to a bottle or to formula. Baby may swallow air while drinking from a bottle or may need to get used to formula’s ingredients.3, 7
Common symptoms of gas in breastfed babies:
- Excessive burping: May indicate that your baby is swallowing too much air from feeding or crying1
- Spitting up (while typically completely normal): May be a sign of gas build up within the stomach.5 Trapped gas bubbles can push some breastmilk back up.
- Excessive flatulence (again, usually completely normal and a natural way to relieve the pressure of gas)1
- Bloating or swollen abdomen: May mean that gas is trapped in the intestines6
- Your baby may: Cry, arch their back, draw their legs up toward their tummy, or clench their fists.8
- Trouble sleeping is often a symptom of as well as a result of the combined symptoms listed above – a vicious cycle!
Not sure how to help your little one? Come chat with our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 8 pm (EST) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 4 pm (EST). Chat now!
What can I do to help prevent gas in my breastfed baby?
Check and adjust baby’s latch
If your little one is not latching deep enough, they may be swallowing more air. A painful latch or a ‘clicking’ sound made while baby is feeding may indicate their latch needs adjusting,13, 14 Shallow latches are often remedied with a new breastfeeding position along with some minor latch corrections. If you’re able, get in touch with a lactation consultant who can help with proper technique.
Note that if every position is painful even after corrections, call your baby’s health care provider to check for other causes, such as tongue-tie or flat / inverted nipples.
Have questions about your little one’s latch? Chat live with our Happy Baby Experts for free breastfeeding support. Chat now!
Read more: Top Latching Tips
Help baby deal with your strong let-down (milk ejection reflex)
If you find your breastmilk sprays out forcefully during the first few minutes of a feeding, causing baby to cough, clamp down, or pop off the breast, you may have a strong let down or oversupply.25 Trying to drink milk so fast often causes baby to also take in quite a bit of air.
Here are some tips to help your little one handle your overactive let-down:
- Hand express before latching baby. Start the flow of milk by massaging the breast and catch the spray in a burp cloth until the flow slows to a drip; then latch your little one.9, 3
- Try laid-back breastfeeding. This position has you reclining on your back (flat or at an angle) while baby is belly-to-belly with you. While you are on your back and baby’s head is above the breast, gravity helps to slow the flow of milk.10
For many moms, having a strong let-down is normal during the first few weeks when breastmilk supply increases dramatically and is regulated by hormones.11 Once the body understands how much milk your baby needs, breastmilk production regulates in response to supply and demand. This often happens around 4 weeks postpartum and many women notice their let-downs are no longer as forceful.12
Read more: Breastfeeding Positions
Learn more: How and When to Hand Express
Is baby’s gas caused by food?
While it’s rare for mom’s diet to be the cause of infant gas, it does happen occasionally.20 If you suspect that your baby may be sensitive to something in your diet, keep a food log. Track your meals and beverages for several days along with the gas symptoms your baby is exhibiting. Check to see if any patterns or links emerge.
Since it’s fairly uncommon for your baby to react to something you are eating, try not to go overboard finding a dietary cause.20 You and your little one both need a full range of nutrients to support good health and development. Taking too many things out of your diet may have other potentially negative health effects.21 Additionally, the hardship of following such a strict eating pattern has been linked with women stopping their breastfeeding journey early.21
Learn more: Is your baby reacting to something in your milk?
Use paced bottle feeding if introducing a bottle
Sometimes a nipple size that is too big or a bottle latch that is too shallow can make your baby swallow more air. Paced bottle feeding helps your little one regulate the flow of milk similar to how they would while breastfeed.
Use a newborn or stage 1 nipple to ensure the flow of milk is not too fast.
Learn how to use Paced Bottle Feeding
Ask our Happy Baby Experts about bottle feeding if you have more questions! Chat now
What can I do to help alleviate gas in my breastfed baby?
Apply gentle pressure to your baby’s belly
Tummy Time: This position can put gentle pressure on your baby’s belly, helping to provide gas relief. Wait at least 30 minutes after a feeding to allow your little one’s belly to settle before starting tummy time.7
Or try a more advanced move – use both hands and a lot of guided support to lay your baby tummy down on a large beach or exercise ball and gently roll her on the ball in a circular motion.
Forearm Hold: Also called the football hold, magic hold, and the colic carry. Try carrying your baby face down with her body resting on your forearm, the front of her diaper area in your hand and her chin cradled in your elbow.9 Make sure to tilt baby’s head to the side to avoid blocking their nose or mouth. Carrying your little one in this face-down position will place the same gentle pressure on their belly that is achieved during tummy time.
Burp your baby during and after a feeding
Take a break between sides or even during a feed to get a burp or two out.8
You may choose to burp your baby while they are in a seated position, with their head supported by the cradle of your hand.17You can also burp your baby in the typical position: upright and over your shoulder.8
Be patient while burping because it may take some time for the gas bubbles to surface. You can always try laying baby down for a moment or two to let the bubbles re-settle and then lifting baby up and trying again. If your little one doesn’t burp after a few minutes, it’s ok to move on.
Try infant massage on your baby’s tummy for gas relief
While your baby is laying on their back, gently rub their tummy in a clockwise motion and then pull your hands down the curve of the belly. Massaging in a clockwise direction helps to move gas along as that is the route the intestinal tract follows.19 Repeat several times to help move trapped gas.
Read more: Baby massage benefits and techniques
Bicycle your baby’s legs
Bicycling your baby’s legs in a circular motion can help to move the intestines and release gas trapped.7 With your baby lying on their back, take their legs in your hands and cycle them slowly back and forth as if they were riding on a bike. Take a break every now and then to press both of baby’s knees gently into their own tummy for some extra pressure.
Do gas drops like simethicone work?
Simethicone breaks down bubbles of gas trapped in the stomach and intestines. It is not absorbed by the body and therefore considered to be safe for babies (but still check with your baby’s doctor before starting any kind of medicine or supplement for gas).7
Wait it out!
For most babies, the number one most effective treatment for gas is time. Remember that babies are likely to be gassy no matter what because their digestive system is still immature. If you cannot find an apparent cause for your baby’s gassiness, they probably just need a little more time to mature.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday -Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
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