How do I relieve gas in my formula or bottle-fed baby?
Read time: 8 minutes
What should I know about handling infant gas in my bottle-fed baby?
- Understand that baby gas is unavoidable
- Learn the many causes and symptoms of a gassy baby
- Tips and tricks for baby gas relief
Gas is incredibly common in babies. Many health professionals consider it a result of baby’s immature digestive system. Gas bubbles create painful pressure that baby is not yet good at resolving on their own, and it’s often worse at night. In fact, you’ll hear a lot of rumbling and gurgling until your little one is able to handle the gas better, which generally happens around 3 or 4 months of age.
While swallowing air tends to be a common culprit of gas in babies, both causes and symptoms of gas discomfort vary from child to child. This sometimes makes it more challenging to find the right solution for your little one.
- Incorrect latch on the bottle nipple leading your baby to swallow too much air
- Excessive crying that fills your baby’s belly with air
- Immature digestive tract is still learning to process breastmilk, and/or formula, gas, and stool effectively
Common symptoms of gas discomfort in formula or bottle-fed babies:
- Excessive burping can indicate that your baby is swallowing too much air from bottle feeding or crying
- Your baby may be crying, arching their back, drawing their legs up toward their tummy, or clenching their fists
- Spitting up (while typically completely normal) can sometimes be a sign of gas build up in the stomach. Trapped gas bubbles can push some formula or breastmilk back up
- Excessive flatulence (again, usually completely normal and a natural way to relieve the pressure of gas) can indicate your baby’s digestive tract is still maturing
- Bloating or swollen abdomen can mean that gas is trapped in the intestines
- Trouble sleeping is often a symptom, as well as a result, of the combined symptoms listed above – creating a vicious cycle!
Is my baby’s gas causing colic?
While many believe that colic stems from gas, the true causes are harder to pinpoint.3 Some research even points to infantile migraines as a cause.4 If your baby is crying for 3 hours per day, 3 days per week, and has been doing this for at least 3 weeks, check in with your baby’s pediatrician to chat about the possibility of colic.
Learn more about colic and what to do here: How Can I Manage My Baby’s Colic?
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!
Bottle feeding tips to help prevent gas
What position should I bottle feed my baby in?
Hold your baby more upright with only a slight recline. Hold the bottle mostly horizontal, tipped only just enough to keep milk in the nipple.5 This allows baby to draw milk out at the pace they prefer, rather than it flowing too fast and making them swallow more air.
You could also try an angled bottle that naturally allows air to vent out the back.
What bottle should I feed my baby with?
The best kind of bottle will have a soft nipple that contours along your baby’s mouth and lips thus preventing air from flowing along with the milk.
The milk should flow gradually and slowly so your baby has time to drink and swallow without gulping excessively.6 Many bottles and nipples are staged for different ages, so notice how fast your baby takes the bottle.7
Learn more: Choosing the Right Bottles and Nipples
How fast should baby eat from a bottle?
Bottle-feeding should take as long as nursing does for infants – at least 20 minutes but no more than an hour. If your baby can chug down a bottle in 5 minutes, they are likely gulping too fast and taking in too much air. If this is the case, try a slower flow (lower level) nipple.
If your little one is still drinking too quickly, try paced bottle feeding. This aims to slow the feed down and allow baby to take control of the speed of the milk and take breaks.8
Read more: Paced Bottle Feeding
Can formula cause gas?
Some babies may have a food intolerance or allergy to an ingredient in the formula. If you also notice changes in baby’s stool, such as mucous or blood, chat with baby’s pediatrician about this possibility.
Formula may cause gas if a lot of bubbles or foam formed when shaking the powder and water together.9 This will cause baby to swallow more air. Let the bottle sit in the fridge until all bubbles have dispersed.
Most formulas can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and kept in individual bottles in the refrigerator, allowing for plenty of time for the bubbles to reduce!
Learn more: How to Prep Formula
What else can I do to prevent gas when bottle feeding?
Burp baby during and after a feeding
Take a break after every ounce or two to burp your baby in the middle of a feeding, as they may have swallowed too much air. Burp after the feed as well.
Pediatricians recommend burping your baby while they are in a seated position, with their head supported by the cradle of your hand. You can also burp your baby in the typical position – upright and over your shoulder.10
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.
Use tummy time
Tummy time isn’t just for your baby’s core and neck strength – the gentle pressure of lying on their belly can help push out the trapped gas.11 Wait at least 30 minutes after a feeding to allow your baby’s belly to settle before starting tummy time.
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 baby on the ball in a circular motion.
Hold and position your baby in different ways
The football hold – try carrying your baby face down with her body resting on your forearm, the front of baby’s diaper area in your hand with baby’s chin cradled in your elbow. Carrying your little one in this face-down position will place the same gentle pressure on her belly that is achieved during tummy time. While in the football hold, you can also gently tap your baby’s back or give a gentle bounce with your arm to give gravity a helping hand.
The colic curl position – Place your baby’s head and back against your chest and encircle your arms under their bottom. Then, move your arms up gently to curl baby into a ball. Or, try reversing this position by placing your baby’s feet against your chest as you hold them.12
The tummy tuck position – Place a rolled-up cloth diaper or a warm (not hot) water bottle enclosed in a cloth diaper under your baby’s tummy. To further relax a tense tummy, lay your baby stomach-down on a cushion with legs dangling over the edge while rubbing baby’s back. Turn baby’s head to the side so their breathing isn’t obstructed.
Try infant massage on your baby’s tummy to relieve gas pressure
While your baby is lying on their back, gently rub their tummy in a clockwise motion, pulling 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. You can use some baby-safe lotion or oil if baby’s torso is not covered in clothing.13
Bicycle baby’s legs
Bicycling your baby’s legs in a circular motion can help to move the intestines and release gas trapped lower in the abdominal track. 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 baby’s knees gently into their own tummy for some extra pressure.
Use gas medicine for baby like simethicone drops
Simethicone breaks down bubbles of gas trapped in the stomach and intestines. It is not absorbed by the body and therefore considered quite safe for babies.9
In clinical trials, simethicone drops were effective in reducing the total amount of gas passed, but not more effective than a placebo when the study focused on baby’s total crying time and the severity of colic-like episodes.14, 15
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.
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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 through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 8am–2pm ET. Chat Now!
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