Gas is totally normal. Every person has gas and yes that includes your small baby. Gas is found as tiny ‘air-bubbles’ in the digestive tract. Too much air in a baby’s tummy can make them irritable or uncomfortable.
This can be caused by ‘swallowing’ air during feeding or crying, which then causes oxygen and nitrogen to get trapped in the digestive tract.
Gas in the breastfed baby, is also caused when breastmilk is digested. When bacteria break down the milk, digestive gasses such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide collect in the digestive tract.
These ‘air-bubbles’ can be passed out through the mouth (burping) or through the intestines (passing gas).
What are the Symptoms of Gassiness?
Babies pass gas at least 15 to 25 times per day. But in some cases, babies can get uncomfortable and experience pain due to excessive gas.
Here are some symptoms of gassiness in breastfed babies, especially after feedings:
If your baby has severe diarrhea, please contact a doctor or health care professional.
So, does my baby have gas?
If you can identify 2 or more of the above symptoms mentioned, your baby might be experiencing excessive gassiness. If your baby is normally happy during the day, but shows the mentioned symptoms only for a short while (when passing gas), it’s perfectly normal.
Don’t worry too much if your baby pulls funny faces or make weird noises, it doesn’t necessarily bother him!
On contrary, when the symptoms continue for longer periods of time and are accompanied by pain or discomfort, you need to find the cause and eliminate any problem.
What about Foods that give Breastfeeding Babies Gas?
Can my eating habits cause gas while breastfeeding?
This is a very debatable subject. Even the professionals in the medical field differ on this subject. With extensive research, I have concluded that the main cause of a baby’s gassiness cannot be diet related. Even bottle fed babies have gas.
When you eat something, it needs to be passed into your bloodstream first and then it gets passed to your milk. So the fact that a certain foods or drinks gives you gas, doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will have gas.
For example, when you drink soda, the carbonation can not go into your bloodstream or milk, thus it can not cause an infant gas problem.
The most common ingredient in food, that gets absorbed into your bloodstream are proteins, sugars and even man made chemicals such as preservatives.
If you consider babies in different cultures, you will find that each culture have different foods on the ‘AVOID while breastfeeding’ list.
The best thing to do, is to monitor your baby. If you eliminated all the other factors that might cause gas and the symptoms still prevails, only then start checking your diet.
The greater the sensitivity your baby has to a specific food, the more severe the reaction will be.
Are there foods that may have an effect on your baby?
IMPORTANT GASSY BABY NOTE: Make sure you do not eat food that has been contaminated by any toxic chemicals, such as pesticides or fertilizers. Wash food before preparation.
If your baby does react to a certain food, it will occur within 4 to 24 hours of consumption.
‘Swallowing’ air. In most cases, this is the main reason why babies have gas. It is inevitable. Babies swallow air when they cry, during feeds (breast or bottle), sucking a pacifier or swallowing saliva. NOTE: It’s very important to burp your baby after every feed to help release the extra air.
Normal digestion. When food or milk is digested in the tummy, gas is released as a by-product and then gets released into the bloodstream or even breathed out through the lungs, but the rest needs to be passed through the bowels.
Lactose overload. It is a temporary problem that occurs in young babies due to an immature digestive tract. Baby does not have enough lactase enzymes to digest all the lactose in a large amount of milk. About 60% of breastfed babies will experience this. It’s sometimes caused by too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk. Foremilk has less fat to slow down the digestive process, thus the enzyme in a baby’s system that digests lactose isn't released quickly enough to do its job.
Intolerance or allergy to milk proteins.
Carbohydrate intolerance. It is the lack of ability to digest certain carbohydrates due to a lack of intestinal enzymes. These include raffinose and stachyose.
Side effects of some over the counter medications or even herbs. This includes medication given for pain, colic, reflux, constipation and fever. Consult a doctor or a herbalist about the medication you and your baby take.
Gastro-intestinal infections. Also known as gastroenteritis, a tummy bug, bowel infection, stomach flu or infectious diarrhea. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria, yeast/fungus or parasites.
Forceful let-down. If your baby drinks too much milk, too fast, he will take in excessive air, which causes more gas.
Use heating pack on your baby’s tummy to relieve gas pain.
Try eliminating some of the foods on the list to test for allergies or intolerance to them.
Anise water can be made to relieve gas and colic symptoms in babies. Boil ½ tsp of anise seed in 500ml of water for five minutes. Let cool and then give your infant 2 – 3 drops. If your baby is under six months old; half a dropper for up to a year old. The mixture can be kept in the fridge for three days. You can give it to your baby every three hours for fast relief.