Comforting a Gassy Baby: Simple Tips for Parents

Comforting a gassy baby is not always easy, as she or he becomes fussier and cries more than usual. But gas is normal in babies, so with a few simple tips and home remedies, parents and caregivers can help their babies feel more comfortable.

Key takeaways:
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    It is normal for a baby to pass gas in the first months of life, as the digestive system matures.
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    In most cases, this issue should resolve on its own. In rare cases, excessive gas could be due to an underlying condition and medical advice should be sought.
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    Parents and caregivers can use massage and other simple tips to help their baby be more comfortable.

It is perfectly normal for a baby to pass gas many times, every day. Their digestive system is not fully mature. In addition, they swallow air when eating, sucking a pacifier, or crying. In most cases, this issue improves or completely resolves by the time the baby is four to six months old.

Symptoms of a gassy baby

When excess air gets trapped in the infant’s belly, he or she will burp, fart, get fussy, and cry and the tummy may feel harder.

A gassy baby may pull their legs up to the chest, have trouble sleeping and eating, scrunch their face and look unhappy.

Does colic cause excess gas?

A colicky baby may pass more gas than other babies do. But this is more likely because your baby cries and swallows more air rather than due to the colic itself. Colic usually occurs in the first six weeks of life and resolves by age three to four months. The colicky baby cries louder, is more high-pitched than usual, is fussy, and is very hard to calm down. Colic is diagnosed if the baby cries for three or more hours a day, it happens for more than three days a week and occurs for more than three weeks.

Does diet play a role?

Breast milk is best, but sometimes breastfeeding is not an option. Infant formula could make a baby gassy. Firstly because the bottle may have air bubbles when the formula is prepared. Choosing a liquid formula that is already mixed could help in this case. Secondly, ingredients could also play a role. Some infants may have trouble digesting cow’s dairy, soy, or other ingredients found in formula.

When introducing solid foods, parents should keep a journal to see if there is any connection between foods and excess gas. Your baby may have food sensitivities.

The mother’s diet could also have an impact on breastfed babies. Mothers may try to eliminate gassy foods from the diet like dairy, cruciferous vegetables, and beans, and note if the baby is less gassy and feels better.

Tips for parents and caregivers

When feeding the baby, make sure the head is higher than the stomach. The milk will go down to the bottom of the stomach and the extra air will be on top. This way, the baby can burp easily. If the bottle is slightly tipped, no air bubbles form in the nipple. Choosing a bottle with a collapsible bag or liner could also help.

If your baby doesn't burp after eating, lay him or her down on the back for a few minutes. Pump the legs back and forth in a bicycle motion.

Give your baby some tummy time, as lying on the stomach could help eliminate the gas. If your baby doesn’t like tummy time, a warm bath could alleviate the symptoms.

Pay attention to diet. Some baby formulas may not be well digested and switching to another brand could help reduce the gas. When adding solid foods to the diet, your baby may experience excessive gas due to some ingredients found in these foods.

Talk to a doctor before considering medications. The over-the-counter drug simethicone is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to improve gas in infants. However, health experts suggest that these drugs should be used if the baby is very gassy, as a preventive measure. Simethicone is less effective once the gas is already built up.

Baby massage for gas

Parents could try to massage their baby early in the day or at bedtime, at least 45 minutes after feeding. Place your baby on the back, and have a soft towel underneath. A hypoallergenic baby lotion or oil could be used to avoid skin irritation.

Massage the stomach area, starting at the lower right quadrant of the belly and ending at the lower left quadrant to help move the trapped gas through the intestines and help the baby eliminate it.

A few different techniques could be used. For example, the “hands of a clock” method has parents imagining a clock on the infant’s belly. The massage starts at seven to nine o’clock and more from left to right following the shape of a half moon and massaging in a clockwise direction. One hand follows the other hand.

The “I love you” belly massage starts on the right side of the belly button, following the letter “I”. The letter “L” is traced sideways from the top left corner of the belly across, and down on the right side. The massage continues with an inverted “U” which starts at the bottom left corner, across the torso, and back down on the right side of the belly.

Know when to seek advice

In most cases, infant gas is normal and goes away as the baby’s digestive system matures. However, in some cases, excess gas could be a sign of an underlying problem. Parents should seek medical advice right away if the gassy baby experiences changes in bowel movement (no poop or blood in the stool) if he or she vomits, is very fussy, or has a fever of 100.4F or higher (rectal temperature).

Babies pass more gas early in life, which can make them cry and feel uncomfortable. In most cases, it is perfectly normal. Parents should be aware that in rare cases, excessive gas could be a sign of an underlying medical condition and should seek medical advice. Improving the feeding techniques, using belly massage and a few simple tips can help the baby feel better.

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