MS, RD, LDN
Janel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University. As the recipient of the 2010 Massachusetts Young Dietitian of the Year award, she believes in making healthy eating simple, sustainable, and delicious.
You baby’s discomfort from gas (often at night) is a common concern for most families as approximately 70% of all babies are affected. Gas bubbles can create painful pressure when they become trapped in your baby’s still-maturing digestive tract (especially during the first 4 months).
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Because both the causes and symptoms of gas discomfort vary from child to child, it can be challenging to remedy the problem and adequately soothe your baby.
Common causes of gas discomfort in formula or bottle-fed babies:
Common symptoms of gas discomfort in formula or bottle-fed babies:
Burp your baby after a feeding
Pediatricians recommend burping your baby while she’s in a seated position, with her head supported by the cradle of your hand. You can also burp your baby in the typical position – upright and over your shoulder. Be patient while burping because it may take some time for the gas bubbles to surface. You can always try laying her down for a moment or two to let the bubbles re-settle and then lifting her up and trying again. If she doesn’t burp after a few minutes, it’s ok to move on.
Burp your baby during a feeding
Take a break after every ounce or two to burp your baby in the middle of a feeding, as she may have swallowed too much air too quickly.
Feed your baby at an angle
When bottle-feeding, hold your baby in a more vertical or inclined position (not completely supine on her back). Tip the bottle slightly so that the air can rise to the top, making sure the milk completely covers the nipple. Try using an angled bottle that naturally allows air to vent out the back.
Choose the right kind of bottle and nipple combination for your baby
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. Many bottles and nipples are staged for different ages, so notice how fast your baby takes her 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, she is gulping too fast, taking in too much air, and likely using a nipple flow that is too large for her age.
Use tummy time
Tummy time isn’t just for your baby’s core and neck strength – the gentle pressure of lying on her belly can help push out the trapped gas. 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 her on the ball in a circular motion.
Hold and position your baby in different ways
The football hold – think Heisman, and try carrying your baby face down with her body resting on your forearm, the front of her diaper area in your hand with her 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 her bottom. Then, move your arms up gently to curl her into a ball. Or, try reversing this position by placing your baby’s feet against your chest as you hold her.
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 her legs dangling over the edge while rubbing her back. Turn her head to the side so her breathing isn’t obstructed.
Try infant massage on your baby’s tummy to relieve gas pressure
While your baby is lying on her back, gently rub her tummy in a clockwise motion and then pull your hands down the curve of the belly. Try the “I Love You” massage – apply mild pressure around the abdomen with two or three fingers to spell out the letters “I”, “L”, and “U”. Repeat several times to help move trapped gas.
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 her back, take her 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 her knees gently into her own tummy for some extra pressure.
Use gas drops like simethicone
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. 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.
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, she probably just needs a little more time to mature.
Sears, William, Martha Sears, Robert Sears, and James Sears. “The Baby Book.” Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio, 2014. Jana, Laura A, and Jennifer Shu. Breaking Up Gas. Healthy Children.org. Date accessed 4 Apr. 2012. Friedman, Lawrence S. The Sensitive Gut. Boston, MA: Harvard Health Publications, 2014.