Listening to an infant suffer through gas pains can be tough for just about anyone. But for the new parents who are already overtired, stressed out, and frustrated, it can be especially difficult. That said, if your baby is suffering, don’t despair. There are plenty of things that you can do to give your baby (and you) some relief.
First, you need to identify that the baby is indeed suffering from gas pains. All babies cry to a certain extent because it is their primary means of communication. But the cry associated with gas pains is different from a tired, hungry, or bored cry. A gas pain cry will be sharper and more frantic sounding. You may also see the baby pulling up his or her legs in discomfort.
Gas pains are due in part to an immature digestive system. As the baby processes the nutrients from breastmilk or formula, gas bubbles may form and get trapped in the stomach or intestines. Air bubbles can also be caused by swallowing air while nursing or drinking from a bottle, or even from excessive crying. When those bubbles get stuck, they can cause painful pressure in their tummies.
If your infant is suffering from gas pains, the first thing you can do is try to eliminate some of the gassiness from the breastmilk or formula they consume. If you are breastfeeding, you may want to eliminate dairy, soy, and peanut products from your diet and then gradually re-introduce those products to see how the baby reacts. Also try to stay away from beans and gassier vegetables like cabbage or broccoli,and minimize your caffeine intake. If you are formula-feeding, you may need to experiment with different brands or types of formula.
You should also make sure that you are burping your baby regularly while he or she is feeding. If your baby is drinking from a bottle, make sure that the nipple is the right size so that the baby is not taking in too much air. Nursing mothers should also make sure that the baby spends enough time on each breast so that the baby gets through the foremilk –which is high in lactose and can cause gassiness – and gets to the rich hindmilk.
Even with all of these things taken into account, some babies will still have a hard time with gas. The good news is, there are many different remedies for helping your baby through the discomfort. Here are some places to start:
“Bicycle” their legs: Lie the baby on his or her back and move their legs in a bicycling motion. This puts a little pressure on their stomach that may move the gas through.
Make time for tummy time: Give them regular periods of adult-supervised time on their tummies, which is good for their head and neck development and will also help move gas bubbles.
Carry them around: Carry the baby either in the “football hold” (hold them lying down on your forearm, with their face cradled in your hand, legs straddling your elbow) or upright in a baby carrier or sling. This will put enough gentle pressure on their tummies to keep the gas moving.
Try infant massage: Lie the baby down on his or her back and massage their tummy with your fingertips, rubbing in small, gentle, clockwise circles beneath their ribcage and down to their diaper area.
Use a gas aid: With your doctor’s approval, try gas aids such as simethicone (sold as Mylicon) to break up the gas bubbles; or gripe water, a natural homeopathic remedy with herbs to aid digestion.
Of course if your baby is still struggling, seek advice from your doctor. If you are worn out from caring for a fussy infant, find someone who can give you a short break. And remember, above all, that this is just a brief phase that will pass as their digestive system matures. Soon the crying will become a distant memory that will be replaced by smiles and happy cooing.