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Gas is simply air in the stomach or intestines, but for some babies, it can be painful.
- Gas is normal for babies and usually goes away on its own.
- Babies may become gassy after they swallow air while crying or during feedings.
- Home remedies such as moving their legs and raising their head may help soothe a gassy baby.
When a baby has gas, tiny bubbles develop in their stomach or intestines, sometimes causing pressure and stomach pain.
Many gassy babies are not bothered by gas, but some become restless and cannot sleep until they have passed their gas. Others cry for hours.
A handful of simple home remedies can usually soothe a baby and relieve their gas pains. In most cases, infant gas is nothing to worry about.
However, discussing gas with a pediatrician can offer reassurance and help a parent or caregiver determine why the baby has gas.
In this article, we look at the causes of gas in babies, its symptoms, and how to help relieve the trapped gas.
Almost all babies get gas. Gas happens when air gets into the digestive tract, such as when a baby sucks on a bottle and swallows air. Gas does not usually mean anything is wrong.
Reasons a baby may become gassy include:
Babies can swallow air if they latch onto the breast incorrectly, or if they nurse or drink from a bottle in certain positions. They can even swallow air just from babbling a lot.
Babies tend to swallow air when they cry. If this causes them to have gas, they may pass it after crying.
It can be hard for someone to tell if gas is causing the baby to cry or if crying is causing their gas. Either way, it is important for a caregiver to try to promptly tend to a crying baby’s needs and soothe them in the best way possible.
Minor digestive problems
Babies may get gas when they are constipated.
Less commonly, gas may signal a gastrointestinal condition, such as acid reflux. A person can talk with a pediatrician about their baby’s gas, especially if the gas happens a lot or is severe.
An immature digestive tract
Babies’ bodies are learning how to digest food, so they tend to get more gas than adults.
Sometimes a virus causes stomach problems, such as:
In older infants who eat solids, new foods may cause gas. For some infants, frequent gas may be a sign of a food sensitivity.
Simple home remedies can help soothe a baby and possibly help gas bubbles move more quickly out of the body.
Positioning the baby so that their head is above their stomach can help.
These other methods may help relieve gas in a baby:
Moving their legs in a circle
A person can lay the baby flat on their back and lift their legs with their knees bent. Moving the legs in a bicycling motion may help the baby relieve trapped gas.
Raising their head
Elevating the baby’s head above their stomach may relieve gas, as well as holding them in an upright position for burping.
Going for a car ride
If the baby likes riding in the car, it can help to go for a ride. The gentle rocking may ease pain and calm the baby.
Swaddling newborns and young babies can help with gas. However, not all babies enjoy this.
Cradling them facedown
A person can try cradling the baby in their arms, but facedown instead of faceup. It is important to support the baby’s head and elevate it slightly, making sure nothing covers the baby’s face or nose.
Massaging their belly
Gently rubbing the baby’s stomach may relieve gas. A person can try pressing down in gentle clockwise or counterclockwise motions, letting the baby’s reactions guide the pressure.
A person can burp the baby by rubbing or gently patting their back.
Older infants might cry more from pain when they are bored. A person can try to distract the baby from the pain of gas by:
- offering toys
- using interactive play
Babies can benefit from tummy time while they are awake and supervised. Tummy time involves placing them on their tummy and letting them move around.
This can free trapped gas. It also strengthens their upper body muscles and encourages them to elevate their head.
Giving gas drops
Research suggests that a probiotic supplement may help babies with colic by balancing their intestinal microorganisms. A 2019 review found that daily crying time was reduced in babies who were given a probiotic.
However, researchers have not established the safety of probiotic supplements for infants, and there is no evidence to suggest appropriate infant dosing or which probiotic may work best.
If home remedies do not work and a baby’s gas is very bad, a person should talk with a pediatrician before giving a baby a probiotic.
According to the Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center, the most common symptoms of gas in a baby include:
- getting red in the face while crying
- frequent squirming
- pulling their legs up to their chest
- not sleeping or eating well
- appearing to be unhappy
Gas is not a medical condition. For most babies, it is a temporary but sometimes painful symptom.
If the gas is severe or there are other symptoms, a pediatrician may recommend testing to determine the cause.
Doctors may use the following methods to diagnose the cause of gas accompanied by other symptoms:
- asking the caregivers to keep a food log for the baby and, if the baby is breastfed, for the mother
- examining the baby to look for signs of illness or another problem
- examining the baby’s stool, usually by asking for a dirty diaper
If the doctor suspects a serious problem, they might order imaging studies of the baby’s digestive tract to help rule out more serious conditions.
How does a baby’s diet affect gas?
Breast milk is the biological standard of food for babies, and it is usually the healthiest choice when possible. There is no need to stop breastfeeding because a baby has gas.
Infant formula may also cause gas. Mixing up infant formula can cause air bubbles to appear in a baby’s food, increasing the risk of gas. Try a premixed liquid formula instead, or give the formula a few minutes to settle before feeding the baby.
Some babies may be sensitive to formula ingredients, such as soy or lactose. However, lactose intolerance is very rare in infants and is often temporary. Babies born prematurely may have developmental lactase deficiency, a condition that lasts for only a short time.
A 2015 study of almost 300 infants found that lactose-free milk-based or soy-based formulas did not alleviate infants’ fussiness or crying.
A person should talk with a pediatrician before changing their baby’s formula.
When a baby starts eating solids, keeping a food log can help with identifying food sensitivities that trigger gas.
There is no need to see a doctor for minor gas, although it is important to discuss all symptoms during the baby’s next checkup.
A baby’s gas will usually clear up on its own. However, the parent or caregiver should contact a pediatrician if the baby is dealing with any of the following:
- blood in their stool
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
Some strategies that may help prevent gas include:
- Changing the feeding position: Try changing the baby’s position while they eat to ensure their head is slightly above their belly.
- Improving latch: Sometimes a weak latch causes a baby to swallow too much air. A person can talk with a lactation consultant if breastfeeding is painful, the baby seems frustrated, or the baby frequently unlatches from the breast. Going to a La Leche League meeting can also help.
- Slowing down feeding: Slowing down the rate at which formula-fed babies eat may help. Some babies drink bottles very quickly, causing them to swallow air. Try using a slow-flow nipple. People can find various brands online.
- Trying different bottles: Some babies get less gas when using different-shaped bottles, such as curved bottles. Regardless of the type of bottle, it is important to hold it up enough so that the base of the bottle is full of milk rather than air.
- Burping the baby more often: A person can try taking a break in the middle of each feed to burp the baby. Burp the baby after each meal, too.
Many people who breastfeed may worry that their diet is the culprit. However, there is
Breastfeeding can cause gas in a baby if air enters the baby’s mouth due to the following:
- a loose latch on the nipple
Occasionally, recurrent gas can lead to colic, which is intense crying that lasts longer than 3 hours a day for over 3 days a week.
However, although a colicky baby may be gassy, it is not the only cause.
It is not always known what causes colic in a baby, but some additional causes include:
- difficulty with digestion
- an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk
Unlike gas, which can occur at any time, colic usually starts during the baby’s first weeks and disappears when the baby is aged 3–4 months.
Though many babies do not seem bothered by their gas, for others, gas can be frustrating and upsetting to both the baby and their caregivers.
When a baby does not sleep well, the frequent crying can be especially exhausting and overwhelming. However, gas is a normal part of babyhood that usually goes away on its own.
The days of problematic gas will likely soon be history as the baby grows, develops, and turns into a toddler. In the meantime, gentle management and a few home remedies can make stomach pain more manageable for babies and caregivers.