Gas is totally normal. Every person has gas, and yes, that includes your small baby. On average, babies pass gas at least 15 to 25 times per day. Too much air in a baby’s tummy can make them irritable or uncomfortable.
Symptoms of Gassiness in Breastfed Babies, Especially After Feedings:
Loud, uncontrollable crying, particularly at night.
Crying that lasts for two to three hours.
Pulling legs toward the body.
Baby has a red face.
Increased Spitting up.
Flatulence (Passing gas and burping often.).
Distended and hard abdomen (bloating).
Baby may start to refuse feedings or become extremely fussy during feedings.
Another sign is a rumbling stomach. While there are natural gut sounds in any human, if you put your ear to an infant’s stomach and hear a constant bubbling sound, it is a good indicator of gas.
If you see that your baby starts to feel better after the gas has been expelled, then you know the problem was gas. If your baby continues to cry after passing gas, you know that your baby is struggling with something else, possibly reflux, foremilk/hindmilk imbalance or constipation.
If you can identify 2 or more of the above symptoms mentioned, your baby might be experiencing excessive gassiness. If your baby is usually 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 makes weird noises!
If the symptoms continue for extended periods, you need to find the cause and eliminate any potential problems.
Causes of Gas in Infants
What Causes Gas in Babies?
Some gas is normal, and sometimes all you need to do is give your baby some time for their digestive system to mature. Swallowing of air causes oxygen and nitrogen to get trapped in the digestive tract. Also, When bacteria break down the milk, digestive gasses such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide collect in the digestive tract. So, 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. Remember that your little one is still growing. Your baby's digestive tract will mature, and gas will be less of a problem for both of you soon.
‘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. If your baby hiccups or spits up excessively, this can indicate that he is swallowing too much air during feedings.
Pacifier use can also result in extra air intake.
A poor latch while breastfeeding can also result in air intake.
The use of any new medication in the breastfeeding mother or baby’s diet could cause gas.
Never introduce solids before 6 months. Premature introduction to solids could definitely cause unnecessary gas formation.
Partial breakdown of food may be due to gastrointestinal disorders or even Malabsorption.
Intolerance or allergy to milk proteins. Galactosemia is rare.
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 are taking.
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, they will take in excessive air, which causes more gas.
Constipation. Some babies may have a few days’ in between stools. This is perfectly normal IF a baby’s tummy is soft and he/she is comfortable, alert, and the stool is soft.
Anise seed 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.
Fennel & Catnip Gas Relief for Babies
Fennel and Catnip can be used to relax the digestive tract, therefore, helping to eliminate your baby's gas easily. One teaspoon of fennel seed tea directly after feeding can be given to a baby. Alternatively, a breastfeeding mother can consume one cup of fennel tea 6 times daily. It will be transferred to her baby via the breast milk but will increase milk supply too.
5 drops of catnip oil can be added to 30ml coconut oil and used during baby gas massage technique below.
What About Over-The-Counter Gas Drops and Gripe Water?
Gripe water is a combination of water and herbs. The most common ingredients used in gripe water are dill seed oil and sodium bicarbonate. Gripe water is intended to soothe a baby’s tummy, but it may have side effects if given in larger doses. The sodium bicarbonate has been known to cause alkalosis, which is when your baby’s blood becomes too alkaline. If gripe water is not stored correctly, it can also start to collect harmful fungi and bacteria.
Gas drops contain Simethicone, which breaks up bubbles in the stomach; this ingredient makes gas easier to pass. These drops are mixed in water, formula or breast milk before given to the baby. Gas drops side effects are non-existent since they are not absorbed into the bloodstream.
Neither gas drops or gripe water have been proven to treat excessive gas. Also, there is always the risk of an allergic reaction. We recommend the more natural, alternative methods mentioned on this page.
Infant probiotics can help relieve your baby of gas, by assisting with digestion. As always, it is important to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby any medicine or supplement.
Researchers claim that giving infants probiotics (a dose of live bacteria found naturally in the body) during the first three months of life could prevent a host of problems, including gas and acid reflux. One study proclaims that giving just five drops of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri could decrease colic episodes, spitting up and will keep stools soft.
These probiotics are also known as “good bacteria." Good bacteria can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and suppress the “bad bacteria" such as E.coli that cause infections. Probiotics help food move through the gut faster, which prevents a baby from spitting up as often.
Because babies have immature digestive tracts, probiotics can help add beneficial ingredients needed to create the enzymes essential for digestion. In addition to all the benefits mentioned above, probiotics can also prevent diaper rash, yeast infections, and eczema!
Breastmilk is the best and most abundant source of probiotics. Human milk also contains special sugars that feed the necessary gut flora. Extra, beneficial probiotics can be given to the mother, and these are transferred to her baby via the milk. This is often advised during thrush and mastitis infections. Probiotics are especially important when a mother has taken antibiotics.
If you are formula feeding, it is imperative that your baby receives a natural form of probiotics.
There are three main types of probiotics, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii. Lactobacillus is excellent for preventing diarrhea and helping to digest lactose. Bifidobacterium helps the gut absorb nutrients. Saccharomyces boulardii helps prevent diarrhea and excess gas.
Keep in mind, that over the counter probiotics may pose an allergen risk. Over-the-counter probiotics may also contain potentially harmful ingredients. It is imperative that you check your source.
If You Are Breastfeeding, You Can Take in Extra Probiotics via the Foods You Eat in the Form Of:
Kefir - Kefir is made from fermented kefir grains. It contains loads of probiotics and antioxidants.
Kimchi (fermented cabbage) This is also an excellent source of calcium, vitamins, and iron.
Kombucha tea - Should be avoided if you have a yeast infection.
Sauerkraut - Sauerkraut is loaded with vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as friendly flora.
Spirulina and other Microalgae.
Miso soup - Made from fermented ingredients.
A Natural Form of Probiotics Given Directly to Baby:
From day 3 after birth you can:
Put some fermented sauerkraut liquid on your finger and allow your baby to suck on it. Or...
Put some powdered probiotics (from a trusted source) on your finger or nipple and allow your baby to suck.
Only a small pinch of probiotic powder is needed per day for the first two months of life. You can increase this amount to about a quarter tsp per day.
Older children (1 year and older) can be given larger doses. Natural food sources mentioned above are also recommended for older children.
Tummy massage is a great way to bond and relax with your baby while providing them with relief.
Massage has been used for centuries to relieve digestive issues. These techniques can be used to help older children and adults too. A bedtime routine is essential and making massage part of that routine will calm, release any gas, and soothe your baby for more extended stretches of sleep. Use one of the baby-safe essential oils mentioned below.
A Massage Technique That Will Relieve Your Baby from Gas
Lay your baby down on their back.
With the palm of your hand, start at the bottom of your baby’s rib cage, move your palm down in a clockwise motion, pressing gently. Repeat this 5 times.
Massage your baby closer to the belly button area in a clockwise, half-moon, circular motion all the way down to under the belly button. Do this for half a minute. Always message in a clockwise direction, as this will help the intestines eliminate waste.
Gently press your baby’s knees up towards their tummy, rotate their hips around a few times in a clockwise motion. This should help to expel most of the gas.
Repeat all these steps until you see that your baby is feeling better. This exercise should only take a few minutes. This massage technique is excellent at getting the bowels moving too.
Essential Oils Used to Relieve Gas in Babies.
Essential oils are absorbed through the skin when applied topically. Diluted essential oils are absolutely fantastic at treating fussiness. Always dilute your essential oils with a diffuser or carrier oil. A concentration of 1 drop essential oil to 15ml (1/2 ounce) carrier oil is recommended. You can also apply essential oils to a towel placed near your baby’s crib or use it in a vaporizer.
Roman chamomile is excellent at calming and can help with tummy issues. Chamomile and lavender can be added to sweet almond oil (carrier oil) and used during massage to soothe baby. Frankincense can prevent gas from forming!
For gas relief and digestive support dilute 1 drop lavender with 1 drop wild orange into 30ml (1 ounce) coconut oil. Use the gas massage technique above. Apply every 15 minutes until your baby seems settled.
Peppermint and lemon essential oils can aid digestion and help with gas relief, but can only be given to children over 2 years. Before you make any decisions about an essential oil, consult a qualified professional.
Always look for pure therapeutic-grade essential oils. Other oils could contain solvents, synthetics, pesticides, and other chemicals. Babies should never be given any essential oils internally. Never put the essential oils in or around your baby’s eyes or nose.
Colic, Gas and Acid Reflux Relief with Essential Oils...
#4 Older Babies Could Benefit from Sleeping on Their Tummies
The theory is that the gentle pressure from sleeping on their tummy will help them pass the gas.
There is a lot of controversy around this subject. Many believe that if your baby can hold their head up by themselves, or is able to roll, then they are okay to sleep on their tummy.
On the other hand, others believe that younger babies should be placed on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. Before 1994 all parents were urged to allow their babies to sleep on their tummies, this position was to reduce the risk of them choking on their spit-up.
Some babies prefer to sleep on their tummies, whether you like it or not, they might roll themselves while they sleep. Babies are more comfortable on their bellies because they can curl up into a snug fetal position. If you want to keep your baby on their back, you could swaddle them to recreate that womb-like feeling. Most moms will find that babies who struggle with gas will not enjoy being wrapped. In these cases, it helps only to swaddle the upper body (arms) so that the baby is free to move their legs. Some swaddle outfits work really well because they allow for movement of the legs. Follow safe swaddling recommendations.
If your baby just does not settle on their back, talk to your healthcare professional about the possibility of allowing your baby to sleep on their tummy. If your baby is healthy and full-term they will naturally sleep in a way that will enable them to breathe while on their belly.
#5 Chiropractic Help to Reduce Gas, Colic, Reflux, and Constipation.
With chiropractic help, gentle manipulations can stimulate the nerve flow to the small intestines, which increases peristalsis (movement of the gut); this helps to push the gas through. Studies have shown this method to have a 94% success rate!
The birth process whether natural or surgical, can be traumatic and cause misalignments in a baby’s spine. Other day-to-day things can cause misalignments of the spine, including sitting in a car seat, pram and poorly designed baby carriers. These misalignments can hamper nerve signals between the body and the brain. Gentle Pressure is used to correct these misalignments, this fixes the issue and therefore reduces all the other related symptoms.
Rocking and bouncing not only helps the gas move along but also simulates the conditions inside the womb, helping baby to stay calm. You can gently bounce your baby in your arms, a cradle, swing or take your baby for a car ride. You could sit on an exercise ball and create a bouncing motion that most babies love. Carrying your baby in an upright position will help bring up any blocked air. Also, carrying your baby in a football hold might help. Many mothers have found that wearing their babies provide tremendous pain and gas relief.
#7 Reduce Air Intake
While feeding, your baby may swallow air, this air needs to be released either via burping or via the other, often stinkier, option. Burping your baby regularly during feedings will prevent too much air from getting trapped at once. Bottle fed babies are more prone to swallowing air while feeding than their breastfed counterparts.
Breastfed babies might swallow more air if the mother has a fast let-down (flow of milk). How to handle an overactive let-down reflex. If your baby is bottle fed, you might need to consider buying a teet with a slower flow to reduce air intake while feeding.
Breastfeeding your baby in the laid-back position is the best way to prevent air intake while breastfeeding.
Be sure that your baby is latched on well, as a bad latch could lead to extra air intake too.
What About Foods That Give Breastfeeding Babies Gas?
This is another debatable subject. Even the professionals in the medical field differ on this subject. With extensive research, I am convinced that the leading cause of a baby’s gassiness cannot be diet related.
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 particular foods or drinks give you gas doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will have gas.
For example, when you drink soda, the carbonation cannot go into your bloodstream or milk; thus it cannot cause an infant's 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 has 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 prevail, only then start checking your diet.
If your baby does react to a particular food, it will occur within 4 to 24 hours of consumption. The greater the sensitivity your baby has to a specific food, the more severe the reaction will be.
Do not eliminate foods until you have had your baby tested for allergies.
Foods that may cause gas, especially during the introduction of solids are:
Apricots, Beans, Broccoli, Bran, Brussels sprouts, Citrus fruits, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Oatmeal, Prunes, Peaches, Pears, Plums, and most other fruits.
Zantac is a mild medication mostly used to treat acid reflux. Zantac works by restraining the production of acid in the stomach. The active ingredient is ranitidine. Some side effects may include diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain. So, the answer is no. If your baby has acid reflux and excessive gas, the Zantac might help with the acid reflux, but will probably make the gassiness worse! There are alternative natural home remedies to treat acid reflux and gas discussed on this page, consider trying them out before using any medications.