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Infant Gas Relief - What Are the Symptoms of Gas in a Breastfed Baby?

Gassy Breastfed Baby Jan 5, 2021

Table of Contents

Gas is normal. Every person has gas, and yes, that includes your small baby. On average, babies pass gas at least 15 to 25 times daily. Too much air in a baby’s tummy can make them irritable or uncomfortable.

Baby Gas Symptoms

Symptoms of Gassiness in Breastfed Babies, Especially After Feedings:

  • Loud, uncontrollable crying, particularly at night.
  • Crying that lasts for two to three hours.
  • Pulling their legs toward the body.
  • Clenched fists.
  • Baby has a red face.
  • Increased Spitting up.
  • Flatulence (Passing gas and burping often.).
  • Distended and hard abdomen (bloating).
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Baby may start to refuse feedings or become extremely fussy during feedings.
  • Baby's stomach makes gurgling, growling, or rumbling noises - 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. Mothers can sometimes hear and feel a baby's stomach gurgling.
  • 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.

So, Does My Baby Have Gas?

If you can identify two or more of the above symptoms, 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 must find the cause and eliminate any potential problems.

crying baby in mother's arms, baby with colic, baby with gas
Baby crying.

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), while 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 they are swallowing too much air during feedings.
  • Pacifier use can also result in the extra air intake.
  • A poor latch while breastfeeding can also result in air intake.
  • Using any new medication in the breastfeeding mother or baby’s diet could cause gas.
  • Never introduce solids before six months. Premature introduction to solids could cause unnecessary gas formation.
  • Partial breakdown of food may be due to gastrointestinal disorders or even Malabsorption.
  • An oversupply of breast milk can cause a baby to drink too much of the watery foremilk. The foremilk is higher in lactose and may cause tummy cramps due to a lactose overload. Read more about oversupply and how to deal with a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance.
  • Intolerance or allergy to milk proteins. Galactosemia is rare.
  • Side effects of some over-the-counter medications or even herbs. This includes medicines for pain, colic, reflux, constipation, and fever. Consult a doctor or a herbalist about the medicine you and your baby are taking.
  • Gastrointestinal 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 they are comfortable and alert.
happy baby, babies with gas, baby has gas cramps, gassy baby, breastfed baby
Mother and father hold baby - Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

8 Ways to Relieve Your Baby's Gas Quickly

#1

Homemade Colic Drops

Anise Seed Water Remedy

Anise seed water can 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, helping 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 six times daily. It will be transferred to her baby via breast milk but will increase milk supply too.

Five drops of catnip oil can be added to 30ml coconut oil and used during the 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. 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 being given to the baby. Gas drops side effects are non-existent since they are not absorbed into the bloodstream.

Neither gas drops nor gripe water has 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.

#2

Baby Gas and Probiotics

Infant probiotics can help relieve your baby of gas by assisting with digestion. As always, checking with your pediatrician before giving your baby any medicine or supplement is important.

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 various problems, including gas and acid reflux. One study proclaims that giving just five drops of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri could decrease colic episodes, spit up, and 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 infection. Probiotics help food move through the gut faster, preventing a baby from spitting up 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 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, which is transferred to her baby via breast milk. This is often advised during thrush and mastitis infections. Probiotics are essential 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. You must 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.
  • Pickles.
  • Tempeh.
  • Kimchi (fermented cabbage) is also an excellent source of calcium, vitamins, and iron.
  • Kombucha tea - Should be avoided if you have a yeast infection.
  • Sauerkraut - Sauerkraut contains vitamins A, B, C, and E and friendly flora.
  • Spirulina and other Microalgae.
  • Miso soup - Made from fermented ingredients.

A Natural Form of Probiotics Given Directly to Baby:

From day three 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 tiny 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.

#3

Tummy Massage

tummy massage, baby massage, baby gas massage
Mom holds the baby's legs up.

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, and move your palm down in a clockwise motion, pressing gently. Repeat this five 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 clockwise, as this will help the intestines eliminate waste.
  • Gently press your baby’s knees up towards their tummy, and 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 fantastic at treating fussiness. Always dilute your essential oils with a diffuser or carrier oil. A concentration of 1 drop of 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 one drop of lavender with one drop of 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 they can only be given to children over two years. Before you make any decisions about essential oil, consult a qualified professional.

Warnings

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.

#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 can roll, 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 reduced 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 well because they allow for movement of the legs. Follow safe swaddling recommendations.

If your baby 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.

Can I put a blanket in my baby’s crib?

#5

Chiropractic Help

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 spine misalignments, 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 reduces all related symptoms.

#6

Vibration or Movement

Rocking and bouncing helps the gas move along and simulates the conditions inside the womb, helping the baby 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 upright 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 relieves tremendous pain and gas.

baby in sling, cute baby, baby in sling, breastfeeding problems
Baby is being carried in a sling.

#7

Reduce Air Intake

While feeding, your baby may swallow air. This air must be released either via burping or 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 a laid-back position is the best way to prevent air intake while breastfeeding.

Be sure your baby is latched on well, as a bad latch could also lead to extra air intake.

#8

Eliminate Allergies and Sensitivities

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 food ingredients absorbed into your bloodstream are proteins, sugars, and even man-made chemicals such as preservatives.

Considering 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 eliminate 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 your baby's sensitivity 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.

A detailed list of possible foods to avoid.

Other Suggestions That May Help

  • Feeding your baby smaller, more frequent meals may reduce the amount of gas formed.
  • Use a heating pack on your baby’s tummy to relieve gas pain.
  • Moving your child’s legs in a bicycling motion is another technique.
  • Try the Cuddle Cure to calm your baby by Dr. Harvey. Watch the video here.
  • A warm bath can help the gasses escape.
  • Keeping your baby upright for half an hour after feedings may also help.
  • Respond quickly to your baby's feeding cues.

Will Zantac Help Baby with Gas?

Zantac is a mild medication primarily 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 it will probably make the gassiness worse! Alternative natural home remedies to treat acid reflux and gas are discussed on this page. Consider trying them out before using any medications.


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Tracy Behr

Mom of two, breastfeeding helper, and lover of all things natural! Studying a breastfeeding counselor course via Childbirth int. & plant-based nutrition via the Nutrition Inst.

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