Babies are always feeding; they do not conform to the eating schedules the rest of us do. Consequently, babies are always gassy. Most of the time, this is a wonderful event for babies. Some babies take great joy in passing gas, seeming downright happy to do so. But sometimes very gassy babies get upset, and in those situations parents see fussiness, crying, and even colic.
Infant gas has two sources: swallowed air and foods breaking down in the digestive system. Swallowed air can come from feeding, but that isn’t the only source. Crying also causes babies to swallow air. Of course, gassy babies tend to cry. And that could easily lead into a vicious cycle. So eliminating gassiness early can be very valuable (assuming that you enjoy sleeping at night).
Although babies are unable to tell you what is bothering them, you can infer that gas is part of the problem by observing the baby’s behavior. If the baby is constantly squirming and pulling up his legs, your newborn may be dealing with gas issues. Another (more obvious) sign is if your newborn calms down a bit after passing some gas.
Our bottle-fed newborn dealt with some gas troubles that upset her greatly. She screamed and cried for days. But eventually we did find some remedies that relieved her gas problems.
1. Fill up the Bottle Nipple
An easy way to lessen your baby’s gas is to ensure that the entire bottle nipple is full of milk when you feed your baby. If air enters the nipple, your baby will likely swallow it. And that will likely lead to more gas (and more fussiness). So when giving your baby the bottle, tilt it so the nipple remains full throughout entire feeding.
2. Work the Gas Out
Gas sometimes gets trapped in infants.That’s one of the big reasons for the fussiness; they just can’t get the painful gas out no matter how hard they try. A good, hands-on remedy for this to work the gas out for the baby.
My favorite way to work out gas is to place the baby on her back and move her legs and hips like she is riding a bicycle. Be careful though because this may also cause the baby to work out some poop!
Another way to work the gas out is with a gas relief massage. Place your baby on her back and gently move your hands down the curves of your baby’s tummy. Rubbing the tummy this way can relieve some trapped gas.
Last, you can work out gas by carrying baby face down with the baby’s tummy of your forearm. This is often called the football hold. During the football hold, gravity pulls the baby down onto the tummy, which helps work out some of the built-up gas.
3. Burp the Baby Frequently
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Burping your baby mid-way through a feeding can make a big difference, as can burping after. If your baby is gassy, burp frequently to relieve some of the distress before it ever starts.
There are multiple ways to burp your infant:
Chin on Shoulder
Place your child on your chest, with the infant's chin resting on your shoulder. Then firmly (but gently) pat your infant's back until the burp comes out. You can also rub the infant's back to help work out the burp.
Tummy on Shoulder
Another effective shoulder position for burping is placing the baby's tummy on your shoulder. You can then rub your baby's back or gently bounce the baby. As you do this, your shoulder will gently force out a burp.
Sitting on lap
Sit your baby on your lap, with a hand on your baby's chest (not throat) to support your baby's body. Your infant should be facing away from you in this burp position. Once your baby is in position, lean her forward and gently pat her back.
If you are attempting the "sitting on lap" position, be sure to place a burp cloth in front of the baby to catch any spit-up. We unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way in our house.
4. Stir Formula Instead of Shaking
If you are using formula, try stirring it instead of shaking the bottle. Shaking the bottle can cause air bubbles to mix in with the formula. And if your baby consumes those air bubbles, you are looking at more gas. Another similar solution is to let the formula settle for a bit before giving it to baby, so the trapped air can escape.
5. Gas Drops
Many parents swear by gas drops, and they have a good reason to. We did a full review of all four different types of gas drops, linking to numerous scientific studies to show which were effective and why. The full review can be found here, but the short version is that probiotic drops, more than any other gas drops, have been shown to reduce overall gassiness in babies.
6. Ensure the baby has a good seal around the nipple
Sometimes babies suck in air through the sides of their mouths while feeding. And of course, some of this air usually gets swallowed. To avoid this, ensure that your baby makes a tight seal around the bottle nipple with no room for air to come in. This will make feeding less messy and help your baby with the gas issues!
7. Use Vented Bottles
Vented bottles are absolutely wonderful. As the baby feeds with vented bottles, air is channeled from the nipple collar through the vent system to the back of the bottle. Thus, the baby never ingests the air bubbles, and infant gas is eliminated before it ever reaches your baby’s tummy. We highly recommend Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Bottles (full review here); Dr. Brown’s bottles are the only ones we use with our daughter.
Bonus Method: Tummy Time
Place the baby on her tummy for a few minutes. This helps the baby develop neck and core strength, and it also helps push out trapped gas. So put your baby on her tummy! It’s good for everyone.