gassy baby

If you haven’t experienced the world of infant gas, you’re in for a wild (and sometimes smelly) ride! But it’s important to know that having a gassy baby is normal, especially during the newborn stage, when the digestive system is still maturing. Sometimes, though, your little one’s grunts, grimaces, and cries might worry you, and so you may wonder how to help your baby with gas. Read on to learn more about gassy newborns, what causes an excess of gas, and how to relieve baby gas.

What Causes Gas in Babies?

Starting with the first feeding, babies shift from obtaining nutrients from the placenta to drinking and digesting breast milk or formula. That’s a big adjustment for a small digestive system that’s still developing, and it’s a chief reason that gas naturally occurs in infants. Overall, it takes time for your little one’s gastrointestinal tract to fully develop and build a microbiome (the mix of tiny organisms in the body, including healthy gut bacteria). And when an immature digestive system is challenged by too much air being swallowed, as often happens during a feeding, you’re even more likely to have a gassy baby.

Baby Gas Symptoms

You might notice that you have a gassy baby when you smell something or hear something, but there are other possible signs and symptoms of baby gas, too, including:

  • Spitting up. It’s very common for babies to spit up after feedings. This is typically caused by swallowing too much air in the process, which leads to gas. Spit-up is good, though, as it gets the air out before moving to the stomach and digestive tract.

  • Crying. Gas is just as uncomfortable for babies as it is for adults. The discomfort may cause your newborn to cry or be “fussy.”

  • Drawing legs up. If your baby moves their legs up toward the belly, it could be a sign of abdominal pain caused by gas. Your little one is trying to relieve the the discomfort with this motion.

  • Reduced appetite. Another common symptom of baby gas is a reduced appetite. A gassy baby may suffer from cramping or bloating, followed by diarrhea. This discomfort could affect their appetite.

Why Is My Baby So Gassy?

There’s no reason to be embarrassed by this question—you’re not the only parent asking! Excess infant gas can result from several different factors, especially if you notice your baby crying or screaming in pain from gas.

  • Food sensitivities or allergies. It’s not uncommon for newborns to have food sensitivities that cause infant gas. A gassy breastfed baby is more susceptible to these sensitivities, which typically come from the mother’s diet. True food allergies are less common and will most likely cause other problems, such as like hives or wheezing, so you’ll want to consult your child’s healthcare provider ASAP.

  • Lactose intolerance. Most experts recommend baby formula produced with cow’s milk for its nutritional value. But if you use this type of formula and your baby is lactose intolerant, you may notice more gas, loose stools, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Overeating due to breast milk oversupply or breast engorgement. If you’re breastfeeding and experience breast engorgement or an oversupply of breast milk, a gassy baby may be inevitable. Your newborn may instinctively gulp milk quickly, causing more air to make its way into the tummy. Later on, this air can form gas bubbles.

How to Relieve Baby Gas

So, what helps babies with gas? There are plenty of effective strategies and home remedies to help your newborn baby with gas problems. The trick is to break up the gas bubbles that have formed in the abdomen and digestive tract. The following remedies may help.

1. Burp During and After Feedings

Because gas bubbles tend to form from air that sneaks in during feeding, burping is your friend. It releases the air that can turn into gas bubbles in the tummy. Although it’s standard practice to burp your baby after feeding them, if they suffer from gas, you can try burping during feeding as well. This can help provide your baby some gas relief, especially at night when feeding before bed.

2. Encourage Slow Eating

If your baby eats too fast, they tend to swallow more air and develop more gas bubbles. You can encourage slower eating by using a bottle with a slow-flow nipple. If you’re breastfeeding and experiencing an oversupply of breast milk, speak to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

3. Use the Right Bottle

Slow-flow nipples are a game-changer, but so are slow-flow, vented, angled, or collapsible baby bottles. Professionals designed these varieties to limit the amount of air your baby swallows while eating.

4. Identify Food Sensitivities

If your little one appears particularly uncomfortable after being breastfed, they could be sensitive to the foods you’re eating. You can try to identify these foods and eliminate them from your diet for at least one week to see if it helps your gassy baby. Some common foods that may cause gas in breastfed babies include those with caffeine, plus dairy products, onions, and cabbage, and spicy foods.

5. Change Formula

The best formula for gassy babies depends a lot on individual factors. To start, most experts will recommend formulas with a cow’s-milk base. But as mentioned above, your little one might have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance. In that case, a soy-based formula fortified with iron, or a hypoallergenic formula, might be a better choice. If you’re considering swapping formulas, it’s best to consult your child’s healthcare provider. A gassy baby might not need to change to a different formula, but the provider will be able to address the problem and help you successfully switch if needed.

6. Position Your Baby for Gas Relief

There are a few positions that can help your baby with gas by supporting the stomach and digestive system.

  1. Left side. Gently roll your baby onto the left side while holding them in your arms. You may want to rub their back to help keep them calm.

  2. On the back. Place your baby on the back while moving their legs as if they were cycling. On the back is also the best sleeping position for a gassy baby (and the best and safest sleeping position for all infants until their first birthday).

  3. On the tummy. Tummy time has lots of benefits, among them being that it may help aid digestion. A little pressure on the abdomen may keep things moving and help break up those gas bubbles. Watch the video below to pick up some tips on tummy time sessions and remember to supervise your baby during tummy time.

7. Try Baby Gas Drops

In searching for how to help a baby with gas, some parents choose to try baby gas drops. Gas medicine for babies doesn’t always work, but it could be worth a try if other remedies don’t provide any relief. Baby gas drops typically use simethicone, which causes an antifoaming effect to relieve bloating and pain caused by gas. It’s generally thought to be safe for babies, but make sure you read the label and instructions so you know how much to give your baby. Always consult your child’s healthcare provider before giving your newborn or young baby any medicine, even over-the-counter varieties.

Gassy Baby or Colic?

Your baby’s primary way of communication is crying, and since gas can result in crying or fussiness, it’s often mistaken for colic. Colic is a little different, though. Colic occurs when healthy babies cry repeatedly, intensely, and for prolonged periods of time, often at the same time each day. If the culprit is gas, you’ll be able to find some relief; babies with colic usually cry for no apparent reason and can’t always be soothed. However, there is some overlap between a baby with colic and a gassy baby. Contributing factors for both conditions may include

  • an underdeveloped digestive system

  • imbalance of bacteria in the gut (microbiome)

  • food allergies or sensitivities

  • overfeeding

  • not burping enough.

There are still many unknowns about colic, but it’s common for babies to grow out of it or the symptoms to lessen by 4 months. Still, every baby is different, and your child’s healthcare provider can help you better understand the condition and offer advice on how to help your baby with gas or colic.

The Bottom Line

Yes, a gassy baby is normal, but of course you may still want to know how to help your baby with gas. Chances are, the problem is just temporary as your newborn develops a strong digestive system and gets used to a new diet of breast milk or formula. Use the information above to understand how to relieve baby gas. If the gas is intense or causing your baby pain, talk to your child’s healthcare provider. Your little one may suffer from a food allergy or simply need a different type of formula. Just remember that babies cry to communicate, and you’re doing a great job! Gas is normal, cries are normal, and your child’s healthcare provider is there to help when needed. Read more about how your baby develops in his first few months or take our quiz below to discover your baby’s temperament.