Flatulence -- or a gassy tummy -- happens to everyone. Sometimes gas builds up, causing pain and discomfort, especially for babies. Fortunately, there are ways you can help relieve your baby's distress and even prevent recurrences. Frequent feedings, changing formula (with your doctor's permission), changing a breastfeeding mother's diet, good bottle hygiene and giving your baby some extra attention are tools you can use to restore your little one's comfort.
You and your baby get gas from two main causes: from bacteria breaking down food in your digestive system and from swallowed air. Since your baby's digestive system is very new, she is sensitive to changes in her diet -- or if you are breastfeeding, changes in your diet. Excess gas can be an allergic response to an ingredient in formula, if you are bottle feeding. Air swallowing has a number of causes, including the wrong size bottle nipple, increased hunger because of a missed feeding, sucking on an empty bottle, excess use of a pacifier or difficulty breathing through the nose due to respiratory problems.
Keep bottles for breast milk or formula scrupulously clean, and make sure that the nipple size and shape, as well as the hole in it, are correct for your baby's age to minimize air swallowing. Remove the bottle as soon as it is empty to prevent your little one from sucking in air. If you are breastfeeding, keep track of what you eat during the day. If your baby seems extra gassy after a particular type of meal, you might want to wait until he is older before eating that food again. Feed your baby using an on-demand schedule to prevent greedy gulping while nursing. If he has a stuffy nose, hold him upright and encourage him to take breathing breaks or burping breaks.
Place your baby with his head on your shoulder and his tummy resting against your front. Gently rub or pat his back until he burps. A little of the formula or breast milk in his tummy might come back up, known as "spit-up." You can protect your clothing from wet burps by placing a cloth over your shoulder before cuddling the baby. Rocking or walking with him in your arms or in a baby sling can sometimes soothe his anxiety. Another comfort method is to place him face-down on your lap and gently rub his back.
When to Get Help
If your baby has frequent bouts of indigestion, she could have a condition that needs medical attention, such as gastroesophageal reflux, food sensitivities or transient lactase deficiency. If she has frequent loose stools, seems to have difficulty emptying her bowels, has a rash or is running a fever, call your pediatrician. Your doctor has diagnostic tools that can help determine whether your little one has an ordinary upset tummy or if she needs medical intervention.
- Clinical Methods: Abdominal Gas
- Pediatric Clinics of North America: Gastrointestinal Gas Formation and Infantile Colic
- American Family Physician: Infantile Colic
- The Free Dictionary: Flatulent Colic
- Parenting Science: Why Babies Benefit from Being Fed “On Demand"
- AskDrSears: Comforting the Gassy Baby
- AskDrSears: 10 Tips for Comforting Colic
- AskDrSears: 5 Possible Hidden Medical Causes of Colic