My Breastfed Baby is Waking in the Night With Gas Pain

Babies are born with immature digestive systems that make night waking with gas pain a common occurrence. While bottle feeding is more commonly associated with digestive troubles and irritability in a baby, breastfeeding may also contribute to discomfort under certain circumstances. Because pediatricians agree that breastfeeding is the ideal food for babies, consult with your pediatrician or lactation consultant to problem solve together rather than to discontinue breastfeeding.

Mother With Baby Suffering From Post Natal Depression
A young mother with a newborn baby in her arms props her head up as the baby has woken up in the night. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

Maternal Diet

Breastfed babies that struggle with discomfort may find relief with a simple maternal diet change. Any gassy or fermented food, such as tofu, tempeh, beans, legumes and miso, can contribute to infant gas through breast milk. Additionally cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, may produce excess gas in a breastfed infant. If you suspect a dairy or wheat allergy in your infant, these items may be contributing to stomach upset as well. Remove the suspected offending food from your diet for at least two weeks to determine if it is the cause. Reintroduce the food item slowly and observe the results. If your infant's gas pain returns, do not eat that food until breastfeeding has ceased.

Immature Digestion

The breastfed baby enjoys the most nutritionally complete food available to infants. Breast milk is easily broken down by the digestive tract making it superior to any brand of formula available. Even so, babies still possess an immature digestive system that must learn how to function properly and this may cause night waking and temporary pain. Though this can be distressing to new parents, it is completely normal. This passing stage demands providing your baby with your comforting presence and understanding in order to reassure him that his needs will be attended to by the people he depends upon for support.

Nightwaking

Dr. William Sears, author of "Night-time Parenting," advocates co-sleeping or room-sharing in order to respond to the cries of a gassy baby promptly. Infants that have to cry robustly to awaken their parents will suffer the consequences of swallowing additional air, which exacerbates a sore, gassy tummy. Parents that are able to respond to their infants cues promptly will ensure that their infants are less frantic when tended to and this will lead to less crying, and less gas pain.

Burping

Allowing your infant time to burp after breastfeeding will decrease the amount of air in the digestive tract. Feeding your infant on demand will reduce crying and frantic gulping; when switching from one breast to the other, take time to burp your baby in between as well as at the end of feedings.

Infant Massage

Infant massage practiced at bedtime will enable your baby's tiny digestive system to benefit from the support this gentle practice offers. Consult with a massage therapist trained in infant massage or find a good book with illustrations to help you to understand the process required to alleviate gas. This technique may also be used during night waking to help remove stubborn gas pockets.

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