All babies (and all humans!) experience gas, the normal byproduct of digestion. For babies, gas frequently becomes trapped in baby’s tummy creating a painful sensation because in addition to digestion, babies are also taking in and swallowing air through their normal activities like crying, sucking a pacifier or nursing or drinking a bottle. This is normal and common, but there are ways to try to minimize gas pains before they start, and treat them after they begin:
1. Frequent burping while feeding: a burp after every ounce is considered frequent. Here's a video of what we mean.
2. Giving baby the breast or bottle at the earliest signs of hunger and before they are crying and fussing for milk. This is important for 3 reasons:
- Waiting until baby is crying out of hunger means they are swallowing air from crying and breathing quickly.
- Feeding a crying baby means they will likely be sucking furiously which causes them to swallow air in addition to milk.
- Feeding a baby in this advanced state of hunger means that baby will not want to take breaks to burp…leading to air getting trapped and not being able to be released.
3. Ensure baby is in a semi-reclined position, with the head higher than the belly: This way gravity takes milk to the bottom of the stomach, encouraging air to rise to the top of the belly for easier burping.
4. Bottle Feed on the Slowest Flow Nipple appropriate for baby's age: Bottle nipples are typically sized from 1-4, with size 1 having the smallest hole, therefore being the slowest to expel liquid. This can make it easier for baby to manage the flow of milk/formula. Older babies may become frustrated with the slower flow nipple as they get bigger, indicating it's time to move on to the next size.
5. Be sure the bottle nipple is full when feeding: When bottle feeding, ensure that no air is trapped between the nipple and the flow of milk/formula. Be sure to hold the bottle so that baby is only taking in liquid and not air.
Even when we follow all of these feeding "best practices," babies and their tiny tummies will still experience gas. When that happens you can try soothing baby by laying him on his back and doing gentle bicycle kicks or holding baby facing outward with your hand putting gentle pressure on the belly. Gas is also reported to be soothed by over the counter gripe water or probiotics, and you and your pediatrician can decide which product to try.