Published June 5, 2023
How to Help a Gassy Baby
As parents, we hate seeing our babies in any discomfort or pain. One of the most common culprits for an uncomfortable, fussy, or crying baby is gas! If you have a gassy baby, or especially a gassy newborn, there are a few ways that you can help relieve that discomfort for them. Let’s break down how to help a gassy baby.
What Causes Gas in Babies?
It’s important to remember that gas in babies is common in both breastfed and bottle fed babies. What’s to blame? It could be a few things! First of all, babies– especially newborns– still have an immature digestive system. Passing gas and even passing stools can be difficult for new babies who are just learning how to coordinate their muscles to bear down.
Another common cause of gas is taking in too much air while they’re feeding. One cause of this is a poor latch. A poor latch can be caused by lip or tongue ties, oral-motor dysfunction, or even using a nipple that is too shallow for your baby to get a full, wide latch. Additionally, if your baby is gulping while feeding, this can cause them to take in too much air that then gets trapped in their tummies. Gulping can be caused by using a nipple flow that’s too fast, or by bottle propping (which is never recommended!).
Lastly, your baby’s gas might be caused by difficulty digesting intact milk proteins. Some parents find that switching to a gentle formula that uses partially-hydrolyzed milk proteins may help. Talk to your pediatrician if you think switching to a gentle formula may make sense for you!
Gassy Baby Signs and Symptoms
Here are some signs and symptoms that you may have a gassy baby:
- Excessive fussiness
- Firm, distended belly
- Back arching
- Discomfort after eating
- Pulling legs up to belly
As always, if you’re concerned about your baby’s symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.
Remedies for Baby Gas Relief
While gas in babies is generally harmless, parents often want to help if their baby is in discomfort! Let’s break down some of the best ways to help your baby relieve gas.
Use an Anti-Colic Bottle
There are specially-made bottles on the market that are created to help colicky babies and to reduce air-intake when your baby is feeding. When your baby swallows air, it becomes trapped in their digestive tract. This is why specially-designed anti-colic bottles include a venting system. One popular option is Dr. Brown's bottle, which come with an internal venting system that prevents air from coming in contact with the liquid inside. Another option is the Nuk Smooth Flow bottle, which let's the milk come out slowly at a pace babies can handle!
With any bottle you use, it’s also important that you are using a nipple with appropriate flow. If you have a newborn, you should start with the slowest nipple flow possible in order to prevent any extra air-intake with gulping. As your baby ages, they may need to move up in size, but don’t worry about the age ranges that are recommended for each flow level! These are just recommendations as there’s no standardization among different brands. Lastly, keep in mind that when you tip a bottle upside down, gravity should not easily make the nipple drip. If it does, the flow may be too fast– especially for a newborn!
Burp Your Baby During and After Feedings
If you find that your baby is especially gassy and uncomfortable after feedings, it may be a sign that you need to burp them more often during and after the feeding. If this is the case, you can stop every ounce or two during the feeding for a burp break. There are a few burping techniques you can try:
- Burping over your shoulder by gently patting and rubbing your baby’s back. Sometimes, the small amount of pressure on your baby’s trunk against your body is enough to get a burp out!
- Sitting your baby upright on your knee, you can support their head under the chin and burp by gently patting and rubbing their back.
- In the same position, you can also move your baby’s trunk in a circular motion to encourage air movement to bring up a burp.
Position Baby for Gas Relief
There are a few positions you can put your baby in to prevent gas and also promote gas relief. While bottle feeding, keep your baby relatively upright versus laying them horizontal in the crook of your arm. You should also keep your baby upright for about 10 to 15 minutes after each feeding. Another tip is to offer plenty of tummy time throughout the day. Not only is it good for overall development, it also puts some pressure on your baby’s tummy to help them pass that gas.
Offer Baby Gas Drops
Ask your doctor about giving your baby simethicone gas drops which help to break up the air bubbles in their tummy. You can either do this by mouth before or after feeding or add the drops directly into the bottle before serving. Always follow the listed directions on the packaging.
Give a Baby Massage
If your baby is feeling uncomfortable due to gas, you can try a gentle massage to get the trapped air moving. Lay your baby on their back, and then gently rub their belly with both hands in a circular motion. You can also use your thumbs to gently make shapes or letters like “I” or “U” on their tummies to massage out the gas. Another popular method is bicycle kicks! With your baby still on their back, you can gently push each leg bent and up towards their belly. Repeat this push and pull alternating motion to promote air movement in the lower intestines to help them pass the gas.
Offer Probiotics or Gripe Water
While there isn’t strong evidence to prove that probiotics or gripe water are really effective for relieving gas, plenty of parents anecdotally say that they helped their baby. If you want to try either of these, please discuss it with your pediatrician.
Try a Warm Bath
If your baby is really fussing and struggling with gas pain, a warm bath may do the trick. Not only is it calming and relaxing for your baby, kicks and splashes while having fun in the tub can also help to promote trapped air movement!
Switch to a Gentle Formula
If your baby is still gassy after trying all of the tips and tricks, you may want to consider switching to a gentle formula. Gentle formulas have partially-hydrolyzed milk proteins, which are broken down and easier to digest. While many parents believe that lactose causes their baby’s tummy upset due to presumed lactose intolerance, there is no evidence that lactose-free or reduced-lactose formulas alleviate gas. If your baby is having digestive discomfort, it’s more likely that they have trouble digesting intact milk proteins, which is why many parents see improvement with a gentle, partially-hydrolyzed formula.
When in Doubt, Wait it Out
Gas and digestive discomfort in babies typically gets better with age even without intentional treatment. Gas is common in infants and is usually not a sign of a larger problem. Find comfort in the fact that as your baby gets older, these symptoms will get better as your baby’s digestive system matures! As always, if you’re concerned about your baby’s symptoms, please discuss them with your pediatrician.
The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.