*guest post from Wendy Colson, IBCLC and founder of Boobie Bar
All babies have gas!
This is due to what I call the baby gut trifecta:
- Babies are on all liquid diets ( meals move through them very fast).
- They eat frequently(8-12 times in 24 hours).
- They do this with a gut which is very immature.
It’s no wonder our babies spend their days and nights with rip roaring gas! Since passing gas signals good GI health, these noisy tooting babies are at least happy most often. The real problem lies when their gas can’t be passed. It becomes trapped in their intestines which can cause bloating and discomfort. This inability to pass gas has parents often losing their minds. Try these simple prevention tips, along with some tips on how to soothe even the fussiest gassy baby.
- Feed upright:
No matter if your baby is fed by breast or by bottle, the more swallowed air = more gas goes into their large intestines.
- Does feeding upright sound unnatural? Not really, when you think of about how only human babies are fed this way. Feeding upright is more natural. Need further proof? Google nursing pictures of other mammals and you’ll find them always nursing upright.
Feeding in an upright position has many advantages for the gut.
- A new baby who is just learning how to suck-swallow-breathe can accommodate large volumes of milk, from both breast or bottle while coordinating breathing better, if sitting upright. This is especially imperative for breastfed babies whose moms have a fast milk ejection reflex, aka fast let-down.
- Eating and staying upright after meals aids in digestion. In fact ,staying upright is the best way for swallowed gas to escape up before going into our large intestines causing discomfort. So hold your baby a little longer before immediately laying them down or use an infant seat or swing.
How do I to feed upright? Modify your nursing positions. Have baby’s tummy facing yours with their butt lower than the breast. To bottle feed, hold baby in a sitting up position( about 90°) and externally pace how fast the baby swallows air by offering breaks. Remove the bottle after gulping down 1-2 ounces. then restart the feeding when baby has time to rest.
- BURP- While some babies don’t burp well, it’s best practice to always offer between switching breasts if nursing and after an ounce if bottlefeeding especially if you heard air being swallowed(big gulps). You can also see “air” swallowed with bottle-feeding which makes bubbles appear in the bottle.
Too late…my baby’s tummy is distended and bloated and he can’t pass any gas!
- Comfort your baby while getting all the “stuff” done. Babywearing was a real game changer for me 16 years ago when I became a mother. It’s the perfect solution for any mama needing to be hands-free while still be able to soothe her fussy baby. In fact, this is one of the most effective tools to own if you have a high-needs baby or a gassy baby. Unlike, a crying baby who can’t pass gas, a high-needs baby is content 90% of the time as long as he is being held. Whereas, a gassy baby still continues to cry even if picked up.
- Baby benefits from being worn too. Gravity is your baby’s friend when being worn. Not only will being upright aid in their digestion preventing trapped gas, but it also helps pass any swallowed air from their upper GI(burps) and lower GI(toots from down below). This occurs from the gentle bounces which naturally occur each time you walk while wearing your baby.
- It’s a natural heating pad. Did you ever have a tummy ache or menstrual cramps and reach for a heating pad? Warmth is very soothing when discomfort is present. Placing your baby in the carrier facing you becomes the perfect heating pad from the body heat the tummy to tummy position creates. This is the ideal position when treating gas pains. If your older baby insist on facing out, create faux body heat by placing a warm rice sock in between your baby’s clothed tummy and the carrier. (Add rice to a tube sock, tie the open end in a knot, and heat in the microwave to warm not heat)
- Go Outside
- Hit the “reset” button for both you and baby. Since most babies have their fussiest gassiest hours in the early evening hours before dark, if weather permits, take them outside to help soothe them. Babywear or use a stroller if you prefer. Being outside works by resetting their emotions the same way “getting some fresh air” does for us adults. There is a bonus for parents too. Taking a walk and getting out of the house will help recharge you so you have the stamina to get through the final, and often hardest hours of the day(it could also help you shed some baby weight too.). Added Bonus: No sunscreen or covers needed in the early evening which saves time!
- Emulate the womb. If your baby has a set window when they are the fussiest , then plan to do the activities that give them the most pleasure to comfort them. Since babies come from a water environment, bathtime should be a real comfort to them. When I hear parents complain their baby doesn’t like their bath, I remind them to make sure they are emulating the womb.
- Keep the water warm.(in utero is about 98° so get the water warm enough)
- Choose a tub which is soft and cradles them over one that’s cold, hard, and doesn’t retain heat.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, 10 minutes before bathtime, pre-warm the bathroom by using a small ceramic-type heater or similar and closing the door to assure the room-air is also warm. Think that sounds strange? Not really, since no adult I know likes to take a warm shower only to step out into a freezing drafty room.
- Call a Code Brown! Warm water is very therapeutic in relaxing the gut easing tummy cramps. Beware: It will often produce a sudden Code Brown=poop in the bath tub.
- Add healthy bacteria to your gut. Even breastmilk fed babies suffer from gas and bloating. Breastmilk naturally contains both prebiotics (fertilizer for the gut) and probiotics. Probiotics powders and drops made for infants work by adding “good” bacteria to the gut. Increasing the number of healthy bacteria is helpful when there is a history of antibiotic use, commercial formula, or any milk if their are symptoms present. Since our digestive health correlates with our immune health, adding “healthy” bacteria will ward off the “bad” bacteria helping keep infections away. Having the ideal environment in the bowels will decrease inflammation, aid digestion, and can minimize painful gas.
- Choose a Dairy-Free Probiotic: The majority of probiotics(even infant ones) get their “good” bacteria from milk products. If you prefer to minimize the exposure to cow’s milk protein, be sure to read the label carefully. Milk, by law, is listed as an allergen on nutritional panels. Moms who exclusively breastfeed would not want to accidently expose their baby’s gut to cow’s milk nor would the mama who uses commercial formula who is seeking a probiotic to help ease the gas or constipation the infant formula is causing. Look for brands which are dairy-free like Mommy’s Bliss© Probiotic Drops for infants. They are 100% dairy-free and have an easy dropper for administering.
- Hooray for a poopy diaper! Before you became a parent you would’ve never thought you would get so excited for a poopy diaper. Some babies have a hard time pooping after the newborn stage. Moms will tell you on the days their baby poops their baby is a different baby and dread the days when they skip a bowel movement. Giving probiotics help create a healthy gut making it easier for babies who skip a day to “go”.
If these tips don’t show much improvement be sure to discuss your findings with your baby’s healthcare provider. If breastfeeding, also see a board certified lactation consultant(IBCLC). They will rule out any medical conditions or lactation conditions which can cause more gas which are easily treatable. Hang in there mama! Your baby’s gut is maturing everyday making these times less more frequent as time passes.
Nurse Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC , RLC has over 20 years’ experience in maternal-child health with an emphasis on human lactation. She works as a lactation consultant in the hospital and in private practice. She is also the CEO + founder of Boobie Bar, which includes her patent-pending proprietary herbal lactation blend in just ONE bar giving moms a third choice from herbal pills and teas.