Trying to comfort a gassy baby can be stressful and nerve-wracking. Many babies, especially those under six months of age, struggle with gas issues. Gas can make a baby uncomfortable and irritable, and result in prolonged crying. This is tough on both the baby and his caregiver.
A newborn baby’s digestive system hasn’t had a chance to fully develop and mature, which may be one reason for gas issues. Gas troubles in newborns seem to peak at about six to eight weeks of age. Most babies are no longer suffering from gas, or at least show signs of significant improvement, by the age of six months. Discomfort in gassy babies is more common at night.
A number of theories exist as to what causes a gassy baby. The problem seems to be equally prevalent in both breast-fed and bottle-fed infants. Excess gas may be caused by the swallowing of air while feeding. Especially when feeding vigorously, infants can gulp air with milk as they are eating. Because their systems are still developing, the air becomes trapped and builds up, causing discomfort.
Allowing a baby to suck on an empty bottle or pacifier can result in the swallowing of excess air. Some types of bottles seem more likely to conduct air into the baby’s stomach. If your bottle-fed baby is struggling with gas issues, you might try a bottle with a curved neck, or try switching formulas to see if a possible allergy is contributing to the problem. A different type of formula may be easier for your baby to digest, thus reducing gas buildup. Ironically, prolonged crying can result in a baby ingesting air, which presents an additional challenge.
Frequent burping of a gassy baby during a feeding can help the situation. Allowing a gassy baby to expel gas bubbles at regular intervals while eating may prevent the buildup of air that causes him discomfort. Tight swaddling can also help a gassy baby feel more comfortable.
Another technique that may help a gassy baby is the manipulating of the baby’s legs to help him pass the gas. Repeating the motion of gently bending the baby’s legs to bring his knees to his chest a few times can move a gas bubble along and help the baby expel it. Massaging of the baby’s stomach is also thought to help break up gas so the baby can pass it.