When your baby swallows air or when they eat and the food begins to digest, gas is produced and accumulates in the gut. Some babies pass the gas very easily, either by burping or flatulence. Others seem to struggle and become uncomfortable, which they may indicate through signs like squirming, wiggling, pulling up their legs, and behaving in a fussy way.
Gas isn’t unique to babies, of course, but their immature nervous systems and the fact that they spend most of their time lying on their backs make it more difficult to handle. Adults manage gas by walking around or even taking an over-the-counter medication. Babies, on the other hand, rely on their caretakers to identify that they are having gas-related issues and to help them solve it (or prevent it in the first place).
Facts about infant gas
Babies tend to take in a lot of extra air through their mouths during activities such as feeding, sucking on a pacifier, or crying. As a result, they can pass gas between 13 and 21 times per day, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
While gas is a normal part of being a baby, some babies’ gas can be food related, for example:
- After breastfeeding. Sometimes babies have a hard time digesting the proteins and substances in breast milk that come from your diet. Common gas sources could include cow’s milk products and caffeinated beverages.
- After formula feeding. Your baby may not be able to break down a particular substance in formula. For example, babies who have difficulty digesting cow’s milk protein in formula can become overly gassy. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about what you are noticing to determine if an alternative formula would be a better option.
- After getting fruit juices. Some parents will give infants fruit juices that have sugar alcohols (you’ll see ingredients that end in –ols on a food label). These are often tough for babies to digest. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends staying away from all fruit juice during the first year of life.
What you can do
You can prevent baby gas discomfort as much as possible by helping your baby get rid of air before it travels too far down the digestive tract by burping. The Nemours Foundation recommends burping your baby after every 2-3 ounces of formula or when you switch breasts during breastfeeding. If your baby seems especially gassy, you may need to increase the amount of burping time. And don’t forget to always encourage your baby to burp at the end of a feeding.
Other ways to relieve infant gas include:
- Place your baby on his or her back and move the legs as if he or she is riding a bicycle to release gas.
- Place your baby in a warm bath.
- Place your baby on all fours (or as close as possible) and massage his or her tummy.
- Ensure your baby’s mouth has a good seal on a bottle or nipple to prevent too much air from getting in.
- Tilt the bottle to at least a 30-degree angle so too much air isn’t introduced.
If these don’t relieve your baby’s gas, talk to your pediatrician about gas-relieving medicines, such as simethicone drops or glycerin suppositories.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, April 2019
- Sometimes gas can be food-related, because some babies have a hard time digesting after feedings.
- Babies take in a lot of extra air through things like feeding, sucking on the pacifier, or crying.
- Try to relieve your gassy baby with a warm bath or an infant massage.