Gas is fine. Crying is manageable. But when babies cry because of gas, it is berserk. No matter what parenting trick you bring out of your hat, it doesn’t seem to calm them up for more than a couple of minutes. You feel frustrated and worried at the same time because you don’t understand exactly what’s wrong and how you can fix it.
Every Baby is a Gassy Baby
Babies are born with an immature digestive system which needs time for it to mature. On top of it, babies feed round the clock keeping the digestive system working at all times. As the bowels constantly work along too, the gas is produced constantly too. Gas is also common for babies aged 6 months to a year when they are trying different food groups for the first time.
Apart from that infants swallow plenty of air while feeding or crying or sucking on a pacifier. Certain foods like multivitamin drops or fruit juices may make a baby gassy too.
As the babies grow up into toddlers, their digestive system will get better and they will start dealing with gas just like adults do.
Gas May or May Not be a Problem
Normally, gas is alright for the baby; as long as the baby can pass gas without too much fuss, there isn’t much to worry about.
It is when the baby seems inconsolable, uncomfortable and fussy for no obvious reason, the gas is giving her a hard time. You might even notice that baby’s tummy is hard to touch at such times.
The rule of the thumb is, if the baby fusses only for a short span while passing the gas and then is happy for the rest of the time, understand that it is natural and completely normal. However, if the baby looks in extreme discomfort while passing gas (or because of not passing gas) and seems uncomfortable at other times as well, it is the time that you should go ahead and consult your paediatrician about it.
Feeding Makes a Whole Lot of Difference
Babies tend to suck a lot of air during their feeding cycles and therefore better understanding of how that happens can make a great deal of difference in helping them cope with gas better.
Breastfed or bottle-fed, babies should always have to reach ‘uphill’ to feed. That means that that baby should be slightly upright, with her head higher than her stomach, while feeding. This position uses gravity to keep the milk down in the bottom of her stomach and lets the air stay on top of her making it easier for the child to burp later. Mother can prop up the baby’s head using a pillow or two.
When the milk is let down quicker from the breast or the bottle, babies tend to try to suck it up quickly as well, again making them prone to gulp a lot of air. The milk flow should be of the speed that the baby can feed comfortably in without rushing. So while bottle feeding, if you observe that your baby is sucking too quickly, change the nipple to a slower-flow nipple. While breastfeeding, if the milk is gushing out too quickly, drain the initial rush a bit and then offer your breast to the baby.
There are a couple of extra pointers for bottle-fed babies. Make sure that you prepare the formula by stirring the milk and not shaking. This is because shaking incorporates the milk with air bubbles which might be later passed to the baby. Also, while feeding, tip the bottle up slightly to make sure that the nipple is filled with just milk and has no air in it.
A good post feeding routine is to prop the baby on a pillow at about 30 degrees for around 10 minutes. This will also help the milk to settle down in her stomach making burping easier.
Burping Does Work and so Does Massage
Burping works quite effectively in getting rid of the regular air intake of the child. There is no need to get overenthusiastic about it, burping twice – once mid-feeding and once after feeding is more than enough.
Whenever your baby is showing signs of discomfort, try gently massaging the baby. Massaging works wonder for soothing a baby and it has also got a purpose to serve in gassy situations. You can gently massage the baby’s stomach in downward strokes. Or while baby lying on her back, you can hold her feet and move them in bicycle kicks. Letting the child stay in tummy time for a bit can also help the gas to escape easier. Just make sure that you always have a careful eye while the baby does tummy time.
Last Resort - Paediatrician
If nothing of above works and your baby continues to suffer from gas pain for a couple of straight days, consult her paediatrician right away. The paediatrician is at the best position to check the severity of the situation and might advise you a remedy accordingly.