Many parents are familiar with gassy babies. Particularly babies who are between newborn age to 3-4 months old, depending on gestational age, are prone to periods of gas cramps due to an immature digestive tract. Babies can also become gassy from swallowing air during feedings, and having sensitivities caused by the breastfeeding mother's diet or digesting certain types of formula.
Although it can be hard to decipher if your babe is feeling gassy, there are a few indicators such as your baby being squirmy, going red in the face, pulling her legs up to her chest, having a hard time eating or sleeping, and having crying or fussiness periods where nothing else seems to work to help soothe.
Infants have an arduous time passing gas bubbles in their digestive tracts independently, as they are often stationary causing trapped air to create cramps. Since young babies are often held, swaddled, or in a sitting position such as a baby swing, they don't get a chance to move their bodies and legs to help relieve the trapped air, like adults do when we move around to let gas escape.
An easy trick to help the gas come out is by bicycling her legs. By laying her on her back and gently cycling her legs in a circular motion closely to her belly, it will help push out any air causing the cramps.
Tummy time is so important, yet some parents feel a bit of apprehension putting their young infant on their belly. Most young babies aren't particularly fond of being on their bellies, however, tummy time helps develop neck muscles plus promotes motor skills needed for rolling over, sitting up, and crawling. Tummy time also helps reduce flat spots on the back of their head. According to the Mayo Clinic, positional plagiocephaly can be caused by a baby's head being left in the same position for too long, causing the skull bones to move in a way that creates a flat spot.
Although it is recommended to always supervise a baby while on tummy time, and not to let your baby sleep on his belly to reduce the risk of SIDS, this can be a great trick to help push out those gas bubbles. The gentle pressure on his belly from lying on the floor helps the trapped air come out. However, it's recommended to wait 20-30 minutes after feeding to do tummy time, to reduce spit-up.
It's inevitable that your baby might swallow air while breast or bottle-feeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics claim factors such as whether the baby was properly latched, if she was crying prior to eating, how fast she drank, or the nipple or position of the bottle can all be ways your baby unintentionally swallowed air.
Many parents know that burping your baby, regardless if she is breast or bottle-fed, is important to do throughout feedings. However, if your baby is prone to getting gas cramps, it can be helpful to increase the amount and frequency she should be burped. If you notice she has swallowed air, keeping her upright while she is digesting the milk can push the air down and out.
There have been numerous studies conducted on the benefits of baby massages. A study conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration of Developmental, Psychosocial, and Learning Problems Group concluded that infant massages within the first 6 months of a baby's life show an improved mother-infant interaction, increase the quality of sleep and relaxation, reduced the crying and has a beneficial impact on controlling stress hormones. The results showed a significant impact on babies' immune systems, reducing the number of illnesses during the study period.
However, studies also show baby abdominal massages may prevent gastric residual volume excess and abdominal distension, particularly in preterm infants who need feeding tubes. That is why baby massages are helpful to improve digestion and can prevent or soothe gas, colic, and constipation.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, produced by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Well-start International, strongly advocates the importance of skin-to-skin for babies especially shortly after birth. In fact, a study shows that not only does skin-to-skin release oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and decreases cortisol levels (stress hormone) in the parent and infant, but the overall mental and physiological outcome for both can improve drastically.
However, skin-t0-skin can also help soothe your baby during painful gas cramps. Snuggling on Mom or Dad's chest can not only help him feel calmer, but the gentle and warm pressure on his belly can make the trapped air pass a little easier.
Another great trick to help soothe a gassy baby is to give your babe a nice warm bath. Warm water can help reduce stomach bloating, excess wind, or constipation because it helps reduce stress levels and help promote relaxation.
In fact, the heat from the water provides relief to the sore abdomen which can help the GI tract to function more effectively. However, it's important to never leave your baby unattended around or in water and to ensure the water isn't too hot, to prevent burns and injuries.
Babywearing is great for babies' emotional, mental, and physiological development. Babies who are carried in close proximity to their parent are generally happier, cry less, and have enhanced auditory and visual alertness. Particularly during the final gestational period (4th trimester), baby-wearing extends the comforts of the womb even after the baby has been born.
Therefore, baby-wearing is a safe and recommended trick to help soothe a gassy baby. With your babe positioned upright in a baby wrap or sling, feeling calmed from being in close proximity to Mom or Dad, the rhythmic sway reminding him of the comforts of the womb, and the heat and pressure on his GI tract to soothe his belly, baby-wearing is a natural way of getting those gas bubbles to come out.
Another effective and popular trick used for decades to help soothe a gassy baby is to hold him in a "football hold." How this is done is by laying the baby belly down on your forearm, and his legs straddling your elbow or wrist (whatever feels most safe and comfortable).
This helps provide gentle pressure on his belly and provides comfort by the swaying of the parent's movement. Babies also enjoy being in a 'football' hold because it provides a diverse perspective of the world, compared to always looking toward the ceiling or the face of whoever is carrying him.
Consider how sensitive you feel toward stimulus (such as loud noises, lights, and annoying distractions) when you are feeling unwell or in pain? Although adults are better at sensorily processing stressful stimulus when we are sick, babies have a harder time calming down when there is a lot going on around them.
If your baby is feeling really crampy because of gas, sometimes bringing her into a quiet environment, can help her feel a bit more capable of coping with the discomfort. Babies don't understand why all of a sudden their belly is hurting, so removing them from the distraction of a stressful stimulus, and providing that reassuring close comfort can be advantageous to calming her down.
Despite gas being a common complaint for babies 0-4 months of age, due to their immature digestive tracts, it's still wise to get your concerns checked out by a pediatrician or family doctor to be sure.
If your baby seems unhappy most of the time, it can be caused by something beyond newborn gassiness. 1 in 5 babies develop colic, which can be caused by an immature nervous system, causing babies to cry and scream uncontrollably, and pass painful gas causing their bellies to become enlarged or distended. Other illnesses such as GER & GERD, and dietary intolerances can also cause these painful and uncomfortable symptoms for your little one.