Gas in babies is a common concern that many parents face. It’s something that can lead to discomfort for both the baby and the parents. Know that gas is entirely normal in babies and usually goes away on its own. Today, we'll look at why babies usually get gas, common signs of gassiness, and effective remedies to provide relief to your little one.
Why Do Babies Get Gas?
There are several reasons why babies experience gas:
1) Introduction of solid foods: As your baby starts eating solid foods, certain types of food, like fiber-rich options, can be more challenging for their immature digestive system to break down. This may lead to gas production.
2) Swallowing air: Sometimes, babies swallow excessive air while crying or nursing, leading to discomfort from trapped air.
3) Developing digestive system: Infants have digestive systems that are still maturing, making them more sensitive to gas, which is a natural byproduct of food digestion.
4) Protein intolerance: Some babies may have trouble digesting the protein in formula or breast milk, leading to gas and discomfort.
How Babies Behave When They Have Gas
Here are common signs that your baby may be experiencing gas:
But, how can you determine if gas is causing your baby's exhibited behaviors or signs?
Look for two key indicators:
Burping: If you're able to get your baby to burp, it can help release trapped gas and provide relief. Burping is a good sign that gas might be the cause of their discomfort.
Bicycling exercise: Gently lift your baby's legs and move them in a cycling motion. If this exercise helps them release some gas and brings about a sense of calm or reduces their discomfort, then you can be more certain that gas is the culprit behind their behaviors.
Is Your Baby's Gassiness Linked to Diet?
While gas is normal, some foods may increase gassiness in babies:
1) Beans, lentils, and pulses: They contain fibers that the body struggles to digest, leading to gas production. Soaking or sprouting beans (rajma, chana), lentils (toor dal), and pulses (moong, matki) overnight can help reduce the production of gas.
2) Whole grains: Foods like wheat and oats contain fiber, raffinose, and starch that bacteria in the large intestine break down, resulting in gas. Examples of whole grains are dalia, bajra, jowar, and ragi.
3) Certain veggies and fruits: Veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, as well as fruits like apples and prunes, may cause more gas due to their complex fibers.
4) Dairy products: Lactose in dairy can cause gas. If your baby continues to experience gas or digestive discomfort after consuming lactose-containing food, it could be a symptom of lactose intolerance and it’s best to consult with your doctor about it.
5) Onions and garlic: Certain fibers in these foods may require more effort for the body to break down, leading to gas.
So, Should You Eliminate These Foods?
It’s not advisable to cut out these foods completely unless your doctor recommends it. Babies need nutrient- and fiber-rich foods for their healthy development. If you eliminate fiber-rich foods from their diet, it could end up leading to constipation, which is a larger concern than gassiness. Also, there is no guarantee that eliminating one or more of these foods will entirely relieve your baby of gas.
Remedies to Tackle Gas in Babies
1) Slow introduction of gassy foods: Gradually introduce high-fiber foods to help the baby's digestive system adjust. You can also add small amounts of vinegar or lemon juice to meals to aid your baby’s digestion.
2) Bicycle exercise: Gently move your baby's legs in a cycling motion to help release trapped gas. This exercise can be done a few times a day, especially during diaper change, to relieve any sort of discomfort. If your child has just had a meal, wait for 30-45 minutes before trying this exercise. You may notice your baby passing gas during this exercise, which is a great sign!
3) Gentle massages: Massages can help soothe the baby as well as relax their abdominal muscles. Perform the "I Love You" tummy massage in a clockwise direction to relieve discomfort and encourage gas release.
You can also place them across your knees (tummy down) and gently rub their back. This can help release excess pressure and provide relief from gas. Again, any sort of massage or exercise should be performed on your baby 30-45 minutes after they have eaten a meal.
4) More tummy time: If babies have more opportunities to spend time on their tummy (instead of being carried around or lying on their back), it will help place more pressure on their bellies, and this could enable them to release gas easily. Remember, tummy time should be given after ½ to 1 hour of feeding, and not before or they may spit up the food or feed they just consumed.
5) Warm compress: Place a warm towel (make sure the temperature is suitable for your little one) on your baby's tummy to soothe discomfort.
6) Probiotics: Consider adding good bugs or probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or curd to your baby's diet, which has been shown to benefit in cases of diarrhea, colic, or gas. You can speak to your doctor about probiotic supplements if needed.
7) Anti-gas drops: There’s mixed research about the effectiveness of anti-gas drops commonly available at chemists. If you find that your baby is in excessive pain or discomfort, speak to your doctor about anti-gas drops.
TIP: Some anti-gas drops may contain sodium benzoate or benzoic acid in larger quantities, which can be harmful. Trust your doctor’s recommendation.
8) Gripe water or herbal supplements: While gripe water has been a common form of treating digestive issues in babies in India, the evidence of its effectiveness is not sufficient. It’s best to speak to your doctor before you choose to use gripe water or any over-the-counter medications, to ensure they’re safe and recommended for your baby. Any medication may also worsen your baby’s symptoms, so it’s best to not self-medicate.
Something to Remember
Some babies, like adults, may experience more gas at night. This is because gas accumulation is influenced by gas motility and positioning. As our bodies rest, our digestion slows down, leading to increased gas buildup towards the end of the day.
When babies are swaddled at night, it restricts their movements and hinders the release of gas. Consequently, babies may become more cranky in the evening when you attempt to swaddle them.
When Is Gas Concerning?
1) If your baby has lengthy periods of uncontrollable crying (over 2-3 hours) and you’re not able to soothe or help them
2) If they have bouts of gas thrice a week or more
3) If you observe blood in their stools
4) If you observe they have poor weight gain
5) If they have frequent vomiting (the vomit is green or black in color)
6) If they have fever or any other signs of illness
If your baby has any of these symptoms alongside the gas, please reach out to your doctor immediately.
Remember, gassiness is a natural part of the digestive process, and most babies outgrow it with time. Focus on a balanced diet for your baby and cherish every moment of their growth and development. Should you have any concerns about your baby's gassiness or discomfort, your doctor is always the best person to turn to for guidance and reassurance.