When babies eat, whether they're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, they can swallow air, which can cause gas. This air can build up in the baby's stomach and cause discomfort. While there are steps you can take to minimize this, some air intake is inevitable and normal. The good news is that certain breastfeeding positions and tactics can help minimize gas issues in your baby.
If you are not sure whether your baby actually has gas, please read more about the signs of gassiness.
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Optimal Breastfeeding Positions to Reduce Gas
Certain positions can help your baby latch correctly and reduce the amount of air they swallow. Here are some optimal breastfeeding positions for reducing gas:
The Laid-Back Breastfeeding Position
The Laid-Back breastfeeding position, also known as the Biological Nurturing position, has its roots deep in human history but has been reintroduced into contemporary society by midwife Suzanne Colson, Ph.D.
In many hospitals, mothers are still commonly taught to sit up straight and use a cradle hold to breastfeed their infants. However, the Laid-Back position offers a more natural and comfortable way to nurture your newborn.
This position, alternatively referred to as the reclining breastfeeding position, promotes more extensive skin-to-skin contact since your baby's entire front will be pressed against yours. It also leaves your hands free to hug your newborn.
Benefits of the Biological Nurturing Position
- The great thing about this position is that it's super easy - you don't have to stick to any rules.
- Full body support for both you and your baby
- Flexibility to adjust your baby's position for comfort
- Gravity assists by pressing your newborn's head against your breast
- Maximum skin-to-skin contact
- It fosters a feeling of security for your baby, mirroring kangaroo care
- One or both hands are free to soothe your baby
- It allows you to relax or sleep while nursing
- The position reduces the likelihood of sore, painful nipples
- It's beneficial for mothers with fast milk let-down to ensure the baby's airway remains open
- The position can help relieve excess gas in your baby, resulting in a happier, less gassy baby
- It can count as 'tummy time' for your baby
The Lying Down Position
The side-lying position is not just a comfortable position for nursing mothers but also an excellent position to help reduce gas. You and your baby both lie on your sides, facing each other. Your baby's nose should be in line with your nipple. Keep your baby close so that your bodies form a V shape. This position allows your baby to control the milk flow more easily, reducing the chances of swallowing air.
Nursing while lying down is especially beneficial during nighttime feedings. It allows you to rest while nursing and is particularly helpful if you've had a c-section. It's important to ensure that your baby has a good latch and is not swallowing excess air in this position.
The Upright Position
For older babies, the upright or straddle breastfeeding position is a great way to prevent excess gas intake. Hold your baby upright against your chest, supporting their back with your arm. This position is especially helpful if you have a forceful milk let-down.
What Additional Things Can Cause Gas?
- Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, if a baby feeds too quickly or is very hungry, they may gulp down milk along with air, leading to increased gas.
- Babies swallow air when they cry. If a baby is very upset and crying before feeding, they may swallow more air.
- If a baby's feeding is frequently interrupted, they can end up swallowing air as they start and stop their sucking.
- Some infants are simply more prone to experiencing gas. A certain amount of gas in babies is normal and often a result of their maturing digestive system.
Other Ways to Reduce Gas in Your Baby
In addition to these breastfeeding positions, there are several other tactics you can utilize to minimize gas in your baby:
- Burp Your Baby Frequently: Burping your baby regularly during and after feedings can help release any trapped air in their stomach.
- Check Your Latch: A poor latch can make your baby swallow more air. An improper latch is often characterized by a clicking or smacking sound during feeding.
- Use Probiotics: Talk to your pediatrician about adding probiotics to your baby's diet. Probiotics can help improve digestion and reduce gas.
- Massage: Regularly massaging your baby's tummy can help relieve gas pains.
- Movement and Upright Position: Baby carriers or slings generally keep your baby in an upright position. This posture is beneficial because gravity helps prevent the buildup of gas in your baby's stomach. This position also encourages burping, which can relieve gas. Also, the gentle pressure of the baby's belly against the parent's body can be comforting and help move along gas bubbles. The natural movements you make while wearing a sling or carrier—walking, rocking, or even just shifting your weight from side to side—can help to relieve gas pain and move gas bubbles through the digestive tract.
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Most babies begin to experience less gas and have fewer issues with digestion as they grow older, often around the age of four to six months, when they start to sit up on their own.
As always, if other concerning symptoms accompany your baby's gas or if they are excessively fussy, it's a good idea to consult your pediatrician or healthcare provider for guidance. They may suggest additional methods to alleviate discomfort or identify if there is another underlying issue causing excessive gas.
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