Gassy Babies by Brittney Kirton

Posted on July 5th, 2013

Gassy Babies

Gassy Babies

Today’s blog post is all about gas – well, gas in infants to be specific. Most parents have questions or concerns surrounding their baby’s digestive comfort. Infants, like adults, will have gas – there is no way around it. Some babies will have more than others and most of the time it doesn’t bother them. However, sometimes babies will have excess gas in the intestinal tract and it can be quite painful. If your baby is dealing with excessive gas, below are some potential causes and treatments to help with your infant’s gas.

Potential Causes

One of the most common reasons for the presence of gassiness in infants is from swallowing air. Crying causes the baby to swallow air. The more crying a baby does, the more air they swallow, the gassier they become, the more they cry from discomfort of gas – it’s a vicious circle. Crying is the last form of communication from your baby. Learn the infants feeding cues, signs they need to be changed or just looking for some extra cuddles.

Infants can also swallow air if the breastfeeding latch is improper (listen for clicking noises or dimpling in the cheeks as possible signs the latch should be improved). Another breastfeeding challenge that could cause gas in infants is strong milk ejection reflex (MER) as an infant will sometimes pull off the breast coughing, gasping, or sputtering. If you have a strong milk ejection reflex, try letting down into a cloth, bottle, or breastmilk storage container until your flow has reduced, and then relatch your baby. Please consider contacting a qualified lactation consultant if you are having difficulties with latching or any other breastfeeding challenges.

Infants feeding from bottles often swallow air. If your gassy baby is being bottle-fed, during their feed, I recommend the following: keep them propped up at a 45 degree angle, ensure your baby is latching to the wide base of the bottle’s nipple, allow for frequent breaks to burp your baby, and consider using collapsible bottle bags. There are now many bottles on the market that claim to reduce the amount of air an infant will swallow – unfortunately, I have not seen studies to prove or disprove these claims. If you have had great experience with one of these gas-reducing bottles, please consider leaving a comment below. Like bottle-fed infants, babies that frequently use pacifiers tend to swallow more air – limit pacifier use.

Overfeeding can lead to increased gas in the infant’s intestine. In the first 3 months of an infant’s life, not much lactase (enzyme to break down lactose) is produced. Overfeeding allows for extra lactose in the gastrointestinal tract that cannot be properly digested, resulting in gas. Offering smaller volumes of breastmilk or breastmilk substitute more frequently can help reduce this issue.

Dr. Jack Newman has written that burping is a ‘useless rite’ and will not relieve gas in the intestine of the infant as the gas is formed in the intestine. If Dr. Newman is right, then how do we help ease the discomfort of the gas? Some people believe that mother’s diet affects the breastmilk and in turn affects the baby. With the exception of cow’s milk (I’ll explain in a moment), there is no scientific proof that certain foods you eat will cause gas in your baby because gas is a localized reaction in the GI tract and foods that mother’s eat does not alter breastmilk enough to pass gas forming substances into a baby’s GI tract. Some women still feel better removing gas forming foods from their diet while nursing and if nothing else has worked, why not give it a try? The foods thought to increase gas production in babies are: Dairy, wheat, corn, peanuts, hot or strong flavored spices, broccoli, onions, brussel sprouts, green peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, and beans.

Dairy is a food group that is known to cause digestive issues in breastfed infants because of beta-lactoglobulin is transferred through breastmilk and can cause upset as if the baby had injected it directly. Other substances are passed through breastmilk (alcohol, caffeine, medicines etc) and can affect the baby in various ways, but that’s a lengthy discussion for another blog post.

Treatment Options

Try different positions and holds for the baby. Hold baby so they are bent at the waist at 90 degrees. Their torso can be held against yours with their legs bent outwards on your arms or their torso can be held in your arms with their legs pressed against your torso. Another hold to try is laying your baby stomach down along your forearm and tucked into your body.

Active ways to help your baby pass the gas include what is often called ‘the gas pump’ – lay your baby on their back, grab their calves and gently pump legs knees to belly occasionally changing to bicycle legs. For older babies try laying him/her belly down on a cushion and gently press and rub their back. Instead of a cushion you can also use a beach ball or small yoga ball and gently roll a well supported baby back and forth. Massaging the belly of the baby can also enable them to pass gas. Try the ‘I love you’ stoke (ILU) along their belly. With gentle circular pressure, stroke moving gas down the descending colon (I), then massage across the transverse colon then down the descending colon (upside down L), then massage along the ascending colon, across the transverse colon, and down the descending colon (U).

Infant probiotics help ease gas by colonizing the colon with beneficial bacteria that aids digestion. Probiotics are found naturally in the gut of healthy individuals, however infants are born without with this beneficial bacteria and spend the first few months colonizing this flora the gut. Infant probiotics can be purchased at health food stores and natural health clinics.

Gripe water used to be commonly administered to help with excess gas. The concern with gripe water is that not all ingredients need to be listed on the bottle, and are often held in secret. Common ingredients include: sugar or fructose, ginger, fennel, peppermint, alcohol, sodium bicarbonate (which can be harmful to infants), chamomile, and vegetable charcoal.

Simethicone drops (oval) break up gas bubbles in the infants upper GI tract, but aren’t proven to work in the lower GI tract (intestines). It is a common anti-foaming medication and is also found in shampoo. Simethicone drops are made by combining Polydimethylsiloxane and silica gel. When reviewing WebMD, it lists no recorded side effects.

A few companies manufacture a product made of vegetable carbon, homeopathic remedy, and herbs such as chamomile, peppermint, ginger, lemon balm, and more. They claim to use no alcohol, sugar, simethicone, and artificial colors and flavors. They can be purchased online. Please proceed with caution when using products containing vegetable carbon – the baby’s stool will be black and the carbon will stain clothing.

Some parents report success relieving gas with herbal tea; chamomile and fennel are most commonly used. Typically, no more than a few teaspoons of tea is used, however I again caution giving any ingestible remedy to your infant that has not been discussed with your infant’s primary health care practitioner.

If you have any questions or would like to book a consult, please send me a message.

Brittney Kirton, IBCLC, RHN, Vancouver, BC

About Brittney Kirton IBCLC, RHN

About Life Stages Feeding

I had two passions growing up: health and wellness, and working with children. In 2007, I started studies at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. CSNN helped me develop a wide base knowledge on many dietary issues though my interest and experience lies in working with pre and post natal clients, infant and childhood nutrition, and those suffering from allergic, inflammatory, and digestive conditions.

While I enjoyed clinical practice as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, I missed working closely with children, especially infants. In 2008 I was introduced to a Postpartum Doula and was intrigued by the support they offered and knew I wanted to combine practices. In order to support new mothers further, I enrolled in The Breastfeeding Course for Healthcare Practitioners offered at Douglas College. This program inspired me to take her studies in Breastfeeding further. Six months later, I relocated to the United States to attend the University of California San Diego Lactation Consultant Program. I completed my studies and received the designation of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2011.

I strive to provide my clients with current, fact-based feeding and nutrition advice for each and every Life Stage.

Brittney Kirton IBCLC, RHN


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What is a Lactation Consultant?
TThe International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) credential identifies a knowledgeable and experienced member of the maternal-child health team who has specialized skills in breastfeeding management and care.

IBCLCs have passed a rigorous examination that demonstrates the ability to provide knowledgeable, comprehensive lactation and breastfeeding care. Attainment of the IBCLC credential signifies that the practitioner has demonstrated knowledge to:

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International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners

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Placentophagy and Placenta Encapsulation

by Debra Woods

Placentophagy is the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after birth.

Placenta Encapsulation is the process of preparing placenta into capsules for ingestion.

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