All babies (and all humans!) experience gas, the normal byproduct of digestion. For babies, gas frequently becomes trapped in their 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, nursing or drinking a bottle. This is a normal and common. And while we can never totally eliminate air getting trapped in their little bodies, we can try to minimize it with these 5 ways to help prevent gas in babies.
5 Ways to Help Prevent Gas in Babies
1 Frequent burping while feeding: A burp after every ounce is considered frequent. In the over 12 years Let Mommy Sleep nurses and night nannies have been in family homes, we frequently counsel new parents to give babies “slow, patient, feeds.” It’s not uncommon for feeding or even 2 to 3 ounces to take 45 minutes or more.
2 Giving baby the breast or bottle at the earliest signs of hunger. This is important for 3 reasons:
- Waiting until baby is crying out of hunger means they are swallowing air from crying.
- Feeding a crying baby means they will likely be sucking furiously which also 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: Bottle nipples are typically sized from 1-4, with size 1 having the smallest hole and therefore the slowest to expel liquid. This can make it easier for baby to manage the flow of milk/formula.
5 Be sure the bottle nipple is full when feeding: Ensure 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.
What about Paced Feeding?
Paced feeding is often recommended for bottle fed babies or babies who nurse as well as bottle feed. This means the bottle is held horizontally so baby can better control the flow of milk through the nipple and has to actively suck as they would at the breast. However, for healthy, full term infants the AAP recommends responsive feeding which is simply defined the parent or caregiver “understand, recognize, and respond to your baby’s hunger or fullness cues.”
Veteran RN and IBCLC B. Jody Segrave-Daly, further explains on FedisBest.com that paced feeding is a technique used for “medically complex and premature babies whose suck, swallow, and breathe (SSB) reflex is not coordinated or matured, which is essential to bottle-feed without aspirating milk into the lungs.” In other words, full term, healthy babies already have a developed SSB and can stop and start sucking as needed; they do not need to have the pacing done for them.
I did everything right and my baby still has gas!
You fed slowly, allowed for lots of time to burp and responded to baby’s early feeding cues. But yes, gas will still happen sometimes. Here are 3 techniques to help your baby release painful gas:
- Tummy Rubs and Bicycle Kicks – Rub baby’s tummy in a clockwise circle. The intestines work in a clockwise direction, so that is the best direction in which to rub. You can also help baby do bicycle kicks by laying them on their back and pedaling their legs with your hands.
- Increase Tummy Time – While tummy time may not be comfortable at the moment baby is experiencing gas, allowing your baby to move throughout the day can move gas along before it becomes trapped and painful.
- Over the Counter Remedies – There’s not a lot of data on the effectiveness of drops, probiotics or gripe water, but these come under the “might as well use them because they can’t hurt!” category.
Do you need in-home support or have questions about infant care? Our team of night nurses (RN) and nannies is always here for you.